By Molly Irene Olmstead
Grant Gambrall walked onto Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s mat for the second time this season, a couple pounds heavier than normal
Gambrall entered the match with only a 1-0 lifetime record at 197 pounds, but defeated Northern Iowa’s Taylor Kettman 7-3.
The returning all-American and third-place NCAA finisher last year at 184 pounds moved up a weight class and is projected to stay there this season.
Gambrall found himself weighing over 200 pounds for the first time in his life as he battled an injury in the offseason that kept him out of workouts. But because the Hawkeyes are still looking for their ideal lineup and have some shakiness in the 197 spot, Gambrall found himself falling comfortably into place at the heavier class.
“I’m not sure that we have seen our best lineup,” head coach Tom Brands said. “You can puzzle-piece in there what we’ve seen this year, and I still don’t know … But I think we’re getting closer.”
Gambrall said he hasn’t quite claimed the title as the Hawkeyes’ 197-pound man, though.
“I don’t know if I’ve filled the hole yet,” Gambrall said. “The expectation is to go out and dominate and put points on the board. Winning by four isn’t the expectation.”
The junior said he still isn’t satisfied with his fitness, and that he has more work to do in terms of conditioning.
Gambrall struggled in the beginning of his match against Kettman, scoring only one takedown in the first period and adding nothing to it in the second. He allowed Kettman to rack up an escape in both the first and second and entered the third period tied, 2-2.
But despite looking sluggish at first, the Iowa City native managed an escape and two takedowns in the final two minutes to claim the 7-3 decision.
Gambrall said the work he’s been doing in practice has added to his mental toughness.
“Even when maybe you haven’t been working out as hard as you’d like to [or] for as long as you’d like to, you still get that mental aspect when you’re wrestling for the Hawks,” he said. “You’re wrestling and battling in that room every day, and being able to push through things when it’s not feeling the best.
“It’s not about how you feel, it’s about taking care of business.”
Brands said he defends Gambrall’s fitness level at the moment because his wrestler has been out of the practice room for “a long, long time,” and because the junior now wholeheartedly embraces training.
Gambrall’s teammate and classmate Matt McDonough also said he doesn’t worry about the new 197-pounder’s prospects about getting back into shape.
“He’s doing everything he can; he’s got coaches helping him and he’s also self-driven,” McDonough said. “There’s always more to give, and I think he knows that … That’s the key everyday — you know you can do more, and each and every day, you’re building to get to that next level.”