I have had this blog in mind for about two months for this time between the last dual and Big Tens. The timing could not be any better. I got the title of this blog from what Royce Alger has been telling me for years:
“You have to have peaks and valleys. Flatlining is hell. You never want to flatline. Without the valleys, there are no peaks.”
Royce is talking about the ups and downs of a wrestling career and season for the individual and the team. He told me many times that to flatline with no peaks and valleys would make you stagnant and get worse. The rough times were needed to make you better.
In my book: “Domination: An Inside Look at Iowa Wrestling” I had a chapter called: Darkest before dawn. I go through how Iowa Wrestling legends went through hell to become champions and legends. I talked about the lowest time of champion wrestler’s career and how it propelled them to the championship status that they eventually achieved.
The same can be said about a team as well. There were always down times for a team at some point during the season. Iowa has had some very dominate teams and individuals that may not have seemed to struggle from the outside, but I assure you there was plenty of struggle. Ask any Iowa wrestler that was a national champion as an individual or as a team member if there was ever struggle in their career. Good luck finding one that did not struggle at some time in their career.
I got some great stories from Dan Gable when I interviewed him for my book Domination. We were sitting in his office on the 3rd floor of Carver when he worked in Athletic Administration. I flat out asked Gable is he ever liked losing because it was motivation. Gable smirked, finished off a can of Mountain Dew, and told me some great stories.
“Conner, you never want to lose. However, there are times when you can use a loss to really motivate and propel not only an individual, but an entire program.”
I have heard the story about the Iowa State dual meet in 1986. Iowa was the clear #1 team in the country with an absolutely loaded team. That was back in the day when Iowa and Iowa State would have a dual meet in December and then two weeks before Big Tens to end the regular season. Iowa won the first dual meet over Iowa State in Carver in December, 25-9. The second meeting was the last meet of the season again in late February two weeks before Big Tens and on a Sunday in Ames. Iowa State won the dual meet, 19-16.
As you can imagine, Dan Gable was not happy. The story that I heard was indeed true. Gable had the driver pull the bus over west of Tiffin and made the team run to Carver, in the dark, and I believe it was raining. I have heard it was anywhere from 6-10 miles. Gable would not give me a specific answer when I asked how far the run was. His response was:
“Far enough to make a point.”
Gable went on to tell me how even if a wrestle won in a dual meet but the team lost, that could be enough of a grind to dig in and make that individual wrestler better even if they were ranked #1 in the country.
I thought of that after the Oklahoma State dual meet. Patricio Lugo, Kaleb Young, and Alex Marinelli all looked very good in the dual meet, but the team lost. That team loss will be an added grind to them even those three won.
I also had heard the story about Gable putting the team through a workout outside on the lawn in front of the dorms at Oklahoma State following a 24-6 dual meet loss in February of 1984. Iowa had breezed through the season up until that dual meet when they only won two of ten matches. I believe Jimmy Zalesky and Duane Golman are the only wrestlers that won.
Looking back, the only thing you remember about the 1984 and 1986 edition of Iowa Wrestling is that they won a team national title. The 1986 team responded to the loss at Iowa State by breaking the all-time mark for points scored in an NCAA National Tournament with 158 and margin of victory at 73.5 points. The 1984 Iowa team responded by winning another team title.
I am not saying that Iowa is going to roll into Pittsburgh and win a national team title. What I am saying is that we will see a much better Iowa team at Big Tens and Nationals because of what happened in Stillwater Sunday afternoon.
A quick and simple question:
Is Iowa Wrestling better as a team and individuals now than they were before the Oklahoma State dual meet?
Answer: Hell yes.
I have a theory in life that I have come up with that I refer to all of the time. Maybe daily.
Pain…is the most effective educator.
If something hurts, you will learn and hopefully get better from it. There is no doubt in my mind at all that the Iowa Wrestling program is better now than they were before the Oklahoma State dual meet because of the pain of not winning No doubt at all.
In closing to all of the Iowa Wrestling fans that are flipping out because Iowa lost a dual meet, relax and have some faith.
To those of you out there online cutting Iowa wrestlers down by making it personal as well as calling for the firing of Tom Brands, two things. Number one is thank you for the criticism that strengthened the Us vs Them mentality that has already made Iowa a stronger wrestling team. And my second point, in closing, piss off.
As a fan, the Big Tens can not get here fast enough
Let’s get ‘em in the middle.
It is great to be an Iowa Wrestling fan.