It’s Magic Time. My favorite part of Iowa Wrestling coaching. I came up with the phrase Magic Time years ago to describe the specific type of Iowa Wrestling practices that you will see this time of year.
To start with, the hard work is done by this time of year. The base level of conditioning, strength training, mindset, everything is ready to go this time of year. Now it is about getting into peak shape with some finishing touches to conditioning with short and intense goes, getting peaked mentally and physically, and feeling strong. Now it is also about tightening things up technically.
I want to go back to Sunday for the Oklahoma State meet. For starters, I believe the results at Oklahoma State may have been a blessing in disguise. Nothing improves the hearing of a wrestler like a loss. Sometimes it takes a loss to make adjustments, learn, and evolve. Now is the time for that. It is better to learn, make adjustments and evolve now before it is to late.
I did not see a single thing in any of those matches Sunday that is not fixable. Again everything I saw was fixable and yes, there is plenty of time for the “Fixable” part to be included in any of the Iowa wrestler’s arsenal. It is during these one-on-one sessions that I call Magic Time that the technique and strategies are honed on the Iowa wrestler like putting a fine edge on a Samurai sword.
When you walk into the Iowa Wrestling room during these coaching sessions, you first realize how quiet it is. The room is empty except for on the center mat there will be a varsity Iowa wrestler competing in hard wrestling with a teammate. The Iowa Wrestling coaches will be nearby critiquing what the varsity wrestler is doing.
They will go through situations like :09 to go in a match and you need a takedown, how to score a takedown or escape on the edge of the mat or with time running out, or how to get quick back points. This is where Iowa wrestlers make huge strides in their technique like finishing shots cleanly or getting out from underneath in a specific period of time. How to deal with an opponent that is stalling and/or playing the edge of the mat. The coaches really break things down and I am always reminded of how little I really know about technique at that level. We are talking details to an impressive level.
Why do I call these coaching sessions Magic Time? Because the improvement that I have seen Iowa wrestlers make over the years leading up to Big Tens and Nationals is so dramatic that it appears to be magic to me. Even after seeing this process played out for over 30 years, I have no doubt that I will be shaking my head in amazement at the improvement in technique that I will see out of members of the Iowa Wrestling team at Big Tens and Nationals this year.
It has been a mainstay in Iowa Wrestling to avenge an earlier loss in the year at Nationals. With so much of the competition in the country being right in the Big Ten, you can bet that these coaching sessions preparing for Big Tens and Nationals will lead to an Iowa wrestler avenging an earlier loss..
There will be one-on-one sessions leading up to Big Tens. After Big Tens, there will be another round of these sessions where the staff will have evaluated what they saw at Big Tens and make additional adjustments to prepare for Nationals.
I have seen quite a few different combinations of coaching staffs at Iowa over the years at these one-on-one sessions, but they are all similar. The attention to detail, knowing the competition, and knowing their own wrestler is at an elite level.
One of the best examples over the years of what I consider Magic Time, Jesse Whitmer in 1997 comes to mind. From being the 6th seed at Nationals, fans like me really did not know what to expect. Whitmer was paired up with Iowa Wrestling Assistant Coach Terry Brands in the one-on-one sessions, who had won a World title in 1993 and 1995. Whitmer could not move Terry Brands and would get nothing in the form of scoring points. It must have worked because Whitmer won a national title that year.
I do not believe there was a wrestling fan out there that thought Iowa would lead the country in bonus points at the 2018 NCAA Championships, but they did. The Hawks came out scoring pins and major decisions at Nationals like I had not seen them do all year long. That is because Iowa peaked at the right time last year. I have to think these one-on-one sessions were a part of that formula.
As complex as wrestling is at the elite level of Division I, I like to keep it simple. To me it comes down to who can finish a shot for a takedown, who can fight off a takedown for no points, and who can get out from underneath. Those three things can sum up the winner of a wrestling match really at any level. You can bet that these three phases of the sport will be worked on. It is also in these three areas that I have seen the biggest improvement in an Iowa wrestler in the few weeks leading up to Big Tens and Nationals.
One more time, there isn’t a single thing that I saw Sunday that is not fixable in time for the Big Tens on March 9-10 and at the NCAA National Championships on March 21-23 . This is the time of year to fix and fine tune the problems in the practice room and to then go out in competition at Big Tens and Nationals and kick some ass.
I am not being optimistic, just honest. History from years of being around Iowa Wrestling has taught me that. I really like what I am seeing out of Iowa Wrestling right now and I plan on being entertained by the Hawks performance at Big Tens and Nationals.
Let’s get ‘em in the middle.
It is great to be an Iowa Wrestling fan.