It’s been over 4 years since Brands won his last of 3 straight titles. Since then Iowa has finished 3rd-2011, 3rd-2012, 4th-2013 & 4th-2014. Not exactly a rising trend line. The Hawkeye Wrestling Club hasn’t produced a world championship medal in the last 4 years either.
Brand’s finishes are all very good for every school but Iowa and now Penn State. For the average college wrestling program/regional training center the current Brands record would even be celebrated. But this is Iowa, the longest they’ve gone without winning a championship since 1975 is 6 years.
It was during the late 90’s early 2000’s when then coach Jim Zalesky, who won 3 national championships from1998-2000, hit a slump and was asked to leave after a 4th place finish in 2004. Brands was then brought in from Virginia Tech where he was in the process of assembling some serious talent. Based on the history with Zalesky one has to think that he might have 2 years to win a NCAA championship and/or have some strong international showings with the HWC. Iowa has been ranked #1 in many preseason polls. Maybe Ramos will step up after his first world championship experience although he’s got a lot of tough internal competition just to get back on the team. Brent Metcalf just hasn’t been able to make it happen internationally. There have been moments of success causing expectation to rise but he hasn’t lived up to it.
I think that Brands is great for wrestling. He’s smart, energetic and knows all levels of the sport. His opinion on the national duels has been a great counter weight to some of the more aggressive team component proponents. The vote has just been put off. Was this Brand’s and Sanderson’s doing?
Does Brands consider the coming opening at Team USA? Coach Bruce Burnett is expected to step down and retire again some time before the end of the ear. If Brands doesn’t win and Iowa looks elsewhere (judging by the assumed Zalesky timeline of 6 years) virtually any school in the country would be lucky to have him. There is something to the change of location sometimes being a good thing. If Brands does leave the state of Iowa I think that we’ll witness his best work at his next location. Would he go to Minnesota when JRob retires? Maybe he follows the original Cael Sanderson model of Brands going to Virginia Tech and getting the strong mid Atlantic high school wrestling talent. Going somewhere with more high school talent to recruit would be appealing, ask Sanderson. It has been observed that Iowa high school wrestling is in a slump. Historically Iowa has been able to bring the best Iowa boys and some of the best from the rest of the country but it’s seemingly a hard sell these days.
Wild card idea, Brands going to a start up D1 program in California or the SEC? It sure would be great for the sport. Both those areas would be deep in recruiting and excitement as the lone program in the region.
No matter how the University of Iowa looks at Brands I’m not sure that they see him measuring up to their history. I’m generally not an Iowa guy, I’m a fan in concentric circles from State College to Lehigh outward. The further you get away from those places generally the less I root for you. There are exceptions, southern Oregon, Idaho and inland So. Cal all have places in my heart because I spent time there coaching. Brands has a place for me too, I think his intensity personifies wrestling. Wherever he goes, we’ll be rooting for him – but maybe not his team.