BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | OCTOBER 01, 2009 7:20 AM
It’s common operating procedure in wrestling for grapplers to hold wrestle-offs in hopes of moving up the ranks within the team.
Iowa men’s tennis coach Steve Houghton employs this same tactic throughout the fall portion of the Hawkeyes’ schedule.
The challenge matches are a way for the coach to figure out the composition of his team, making it easier to decide what spot each player will compete at in upcoming meets.
“We have played two challenges so far,” Houghton said. “I have been able to get an idea of what I have on the team but nothing will be for sure yet.”
After beating up on each other for the past few weeks, the Hawkeyes will finally turn their sights to the opposition by splitting for the weekend.
Four representatives — sophomores Will Vasos and Marc Bruche and seniors Nikita Zotov and Tommy McGeorge — will travel to the All-American Tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
“It’s going to be some of the overall best talent in the nation,” Houghton said. “If you’ve won one match or two, you’re doing well for yourself.”
Last year, Big Ten singles champion and then-senior Christian Bierich won two matches over nationally ranked opponents before getting knocked out in the third round.
Because of the lack of challenge matches to date, the coach, who has more intrasquad matchups planned for the coming weeks, has instead looked to the team’s other weekend tournament as a chance to get a feel for those on his roster.
Evantson, Ill., is the destination for the rest of the team. With the challenges taking on lesser importance, the tournament serves as a chance for some youngsters to prove themselves.
“This is just a chance to see where we’re at, see where everyone stands in the lineup,” sophomore Tom Mroziewicz said.
One Hawkeye who is headed to Northwestern, senior Reinoud Haal, missed a chance at participating in the All-American tournament because he is still conditioning himself after undergoing foot surgery in the summer.
He will likely compete in one of the top flights this weekend.
All of the Iowa players will play several matches in the tournament, a treat for the coaching staff, which embraces the chance to see the younger players compete — some for the first time.
For freshmen Garret Dunn and Connor Gilmore, this will be a chance to get a feel for the college game when they are tossed into their first test.
“I was telling my guys to be sure to take advantage of the matches this weekend,” Houghton said. “Some stuff will show up, good and bad — you can only tell once the balls start flying.”