Ethen Lofthouse was competing four weeks ago for a spot in Iowa’s wrestling lineup.
He’ll compete this morning for a spot in the NCAA semifinals.
Iowa’s junior 184-pounder — who needed a wrestle-off win against teammate Grant Gambrall to preserve his job after going through a mid-season slump — advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships Thursday night with a 3-2 victory against Minnesota’s fifth-seeded Kevin Steinhaus.
Lofthouse credited positive thoughts and a relaxed state of mind for his recent resurgence, which also includes a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships.
“Before the match even starts, in my head I’ve already won,” Lofthouse said. “Then the crowd gets behind you and it makes you feel good.”
Lofthouse lost five times during an eight-bout stretch at the end of the regular season. He avenged one of those defeats Thursday night with the win against Steinhaus. He’ll have a shot at another in the quarterfinals when he takes on defending NCAA champion Steve Bosak of Cornell.
“His back was against the wall,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “He changed some things. It’s not something that I’m going to sit here (and act like) a genius. I’m not a genius to tell you what changed. He’s become more of a complete wrestler, just tougher.”
Lofthouse’s performance was one of the highlights for the Hawkeyes on the tournament’s first day. Tony Ramos registered a pair of pins at 133 pounds and Matt McDonough (125), Mark Ballweg (141), Derek St. John (157) and Mike Evans (174) also reached the quarterfinals.
“It’s about coming out ready to wrestle and rising to the occasion,” McDonough said. “Each day, each match there’s more emphasis on it. It’s more intense.”