Category Archives: Sports

Men’s tennis recruits far and wide

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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At least once a year Iowa men’s tennis assistant coach Steve Nash finds himself in a foreign country, trying to order off strange menus at restaurants and remembering to stay on the left side of the road.

It’s all in the hope of finding his next prized recruit.

With 12 players on the men’s tennis team, four others from Canada, Russia, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Some might wonder how a third of Iowa’s tennis team could come from such distances. But the Hawkeyes have a history of recruiting successfully overseas, using a system head coach Steve Houghton has perfected in 29 years.His expanded view creates a larger talent pool.

Word of mouth helps. For years, the team had a string of Swedes, a run that ended last year with Christian Bierich.

“We’ve had enough international kids … that a lot of the time I’ll just ask someone who is from somewhere near them,” Houghton said.

Sophomore Marc Bruche, of Hoelsbrunn, Germany, followed a similar path to Iowa.

After finishing up a tour of duty in the German military, Bruche, a top-ranked player during his high school days, was spurred by a friend to pick up his racket and head for Baylor University in Waco, Texas. On a recommendation from that coach, he arrived in Iowa City this year.

“What really was a big thing for me was what I heard about coach [Steve] Houghton,” Bruche said. “He has a very good reputation.”

That statement of good character can also help persuade parents to send their 18-year-old son halfway across the world.

“We just try to be as honest as possible with these kids,” Nash said.

While in Europe, Nash’s job is to see prospects play and make the initial face-to-face contact with the potential future Hawkeyes.

With a budget allowing for two trips a year, a coach will visit four to five players in days, venturing quickly from one country to another.

While overseas, Nash will watch prospects play, often in a tournament or exhibition setting before sitting down with the player and his family to discuss what the Hawkeyes have to offer.

What everything comes down to is making the recruit realize what Houghton calls the “Iowa way” of doing things.

“At Iowa, I believe in what we do. We’re not going to take a scholarship away for lack of talent once you are on campus,” Houghton said.

Meanwhile, though, some have questioned whether scholarships from state-sponsored universities should go to foreign-born students. Many schools in the talent-rich South often spurn home-grown athletes in favor of those overseas.

Houghton, though, noted the benefits of having a diverse squad and combated the argument by pointing to the nation’s immigrant foundation.

This commitment to the student-athlete is something the coach described as a general characteristic of the Big Ten, which sometimes puts the conference on an uneven playing field — but for good reason.

As much a Houghton tries to stay humble when referring to himself as being a catalyst for many foreign athletes who want to play tennis at Iowa, it’s apparent he prefers to do things a particular way. He emphasizes values and morals in the recruiting process.

A longtime fan

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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On a fall day in 1926, Clifford Huff and some neighborhood boys ventured to City Field, located roughly where the Main Library parking lot now sits, to watch a football game between Iowa and Minnesota.

With security scarce, Huff finagled his way in and witnessed his first Hawkeye game at the age of 9, one that began a lifelong love story that continues today.

That was two years before what is now known as Kinnick Stadium was erected. Since that day, he has been to just about every home Iowa football game.

Characterized as being the “most positive guy I have ever met” by his nephew and UI alum Steve Mashek, Huff has spent Saturday afternoons sitting on the seats of Kinnick Stadium for the past 80 years in both joy and sorrow.

The journey wasn’t easy, though. Tickets were often hard to come by, and there were times he had to scrape up the money to see his beloved Hawkeyes.

Throughout his elementary- and high-school days, he got in via the Knothole Club, which at that time, allowed students to attend games for a quarter.

After graduating from City High in 1936, Huff still managed to see most every game through the club.

But because of the Great Depression, he bypassed attending the UI and instead found a job with the Works Project Administration, a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, working in Schaeffer Hall, administering surveys among other odd jobs.

Between 1938 and 1940, Huff saw a bit more black then gold. Money was tight after graduation, and he saw only a couple games a season.

The horns and drums of the student band kept drawing him back, though. Despite his lack of income, he still dove headfirst into the Hawkeye spirit oozing from the stadium on Saturdays in the fall.

He managed to stay connected to this spirit in other ways, too.

While walking to work, Huff sometimes came across a familiar character who accompanied him on his short trip — Nile Kinnick. The two waited for one another, chatting on their way to the day’s activities.

“I knew he was a football player,” Huff said. “But I never thought of how he’d go down in history.”

When talking about the gridiron hero, Huff’s seemingly permanent smile suddenly began to fade.

“He could have been president if he hadn’t been killed in World War II,” Huff said.

After 1941, the largely self-taught engineer began his streak of attending every home Hawkeye football game. Three years later, he bought season tickets to guarantee his seat, and he has souvenirs to prove it.

Since that first game in 1926, he has collected every Homecoming pin released. A few years back, he gave the collection — known to be one of the few complete sets in the world — to his nephew Mashek, who had it appraised at $10,000. Huff said he began his collection by simply looking on the ground.

“I used to hang around the stadium after games and find them on the ground, in the garbage, wherever I could locate one,” he said.

In 1969, he started buying two season tickets, one for him and one for his sweetheart at the time, Marie, whom he married in 1973.

Since then, the pair have made it to every game — except one.

“We go to every game, no matter what,” Marie Huff said. “Except one time when the snow on our street was piled so high we couldn’t get the car through.”

When asked if she thought it was ludicrous for the two of them to attend every game, a look of confusion washed over her face. The streak means more than just watching the players run around on the field. The team has become a part of their family.

As the two have gotten older, driving at night has become an issue. If it hadn’t been for Mashek’s niece, the eight-decade-long streak would have ended four weeks ago when Iowa played Michigan on Homecoming.

Marie Huff, although 15 years younger, has been the perfect companion for Huff, allowing him to enter his “zone” during the game.

“He doesn’t like interruption during the game,” she said.

When talking about this year’s edition of Iowa football, Huff quotes his favorite coach from all those years — the recently deceased Forest Evashevsky.

“He always said he’d rather be lucky than good,” Huff said.

That feeling transcends the generations. The way Iowa’s season has gone so far this year, the “lucky rather than good” sentiment truly hits home.

Traveling has become harder every year for the Cedar Rapids native, and he has recently adopted a cane to help him get around.

However, he always makes sure to tailgate. And this season’s Hawkeyes might just keep him around for one more year. The excitement has kept him on the edge of his seat all season.

For someone who never attended the university, Huff embodies all that Iowa athletics mean to the community. With no professional team near, it creates what Mashek calls, “a one of a kind situation.”

While this may be his last season, Huff keeps things in perspective.

“Growing up here, the university has always been a big part of my life,” he said with that familiar smile never leaving his face. “I may have a few years left, but this might be it for me.”

Men’s track and field team to hold intrasquad meet

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | DECEMBER 04, 2009 7:30 AM

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The Iowa men’s track and field team will begin its season with its annual intrasquad meet in the Recreation Building at 4 p.m. Dec. 6.

The meet is a cherished part of Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek’s season. It allows to see his team in a competitive setting before going against other squads.

The meet also provides student-athletes a manageable segue between fall training and winter competitions.

“You have practice on the one hand and competition on the other hand,” Wieczorek said. “This is kind of the middle ground where you can see those nerves, put the jerseys on, yet be competing against your teammates.”

The distance portion of the team that competed in the cross-country season during the fall will be held out of the weekend’s meet to allow the runners an extended break before competing once again.

While everyone on the team excites Wieczorek, the newcomers have truly gotten his blood racing.

Jeffrey Herron, a transfer from Texas-San Antonio, could have an immediate effect in his first year with the Hawkeyes. Having jumped a career-best 6-10 at his conference meet last year, he should bring bounce to his coach’s step in the coming months.

The new crop of freshmen includes Schaumburg, Ill., native Kyle Reid, a decathlete, Ethan Holmes, an Iowa state champion hurdler from Clinton, and Kevin Dibbern, a product of City High and one of the state’s best 400 runners.

Sunday’s meet will not only be for the youngsters, though. Seniors Adam Hairston, Paul Chaney Jr., and Ray Varner return to lead the Hawkeyes after stellar 2008 campaigns that ended in the semifinals of the NCAA national meet.

As a leader for younger members of the team, Hairston is far from worried about any possible trouble as the season gets underway.

“I think we’re pretty strong all around,” he said. “I think this is one of the best all-around teams we’ve had since I’ve been here — from the distances to the throws.

“We had a lot of regional qualifiers, and Ray and I qualified for nationals, so that’s something we can build off as a strength.”

The meet will also allow team members to shake off whatever dust, rust, or cobwebs that may have accumulated since the end of last season.

The team will officially open competition on Jan. 9, 2010, in a dual meet against Illinois in Champaign, Ill. The general feeling among the Hawkeyes is that January can’t come soon enough.

“I’m just looking forward to competing again,” Hairston said. “It’s been a while, since June. Just looking forward to getting back on the track in a competitive atmosphere and seeing where my fitness is at after the fall training.”

UISSC in 3-on-3 championship

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | DECEMBER 09, 2009 7:30 AM

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On a night when gusting winds and snow kept many home and warm, the consolation side of the men’s intramural pre-holiday 3-on-3 basketball tournament came to a heated finish Tuesday night at the Field House.

UISSC advanced to the semifinal game after defeating Team Esteban on Monday, earning the chance to battle Omelettes with a title trip prime for the taking.

Because of inclement weather, officials closed the Field House early Tuesday evening, but just enough time was left to get the last few scheduled intramural games in before the championships.

The foursome of Nick Kron, Reed McManigal, Caleb Recker, and Clark Anderson proved too much for the Omlettes. The UISSC quartet combined for an offensive fury through the first half of the contest, mixing their long-range game with an array of acrobatic drives to the basket for a 15-10 win.

The squad then took the third and final matchup, 15-8, to move on following a close second contest.

“We try to drive first,” UISSC player Kron said. “We just try to find who is open. There’s no one who really takes over.”

The Omelettes took the show early, flashing an impressive 3-point game while employing quick first steps on the dribble to set up drives to the hoop.

The UISSC and Omlettes split the first two games of the best-of-three program.

Fatigue was anticipated to be a large factor in the final game of the series. UISSC players prepared themselves by substituting after every two points.

The fresh legs made all the difference, and UISSC earned the majority of its points off turnovers and hustle plays when Omelettes players began to falter.

“We were getting pretty tired toward the end there,” Anderson said. “Playing two games before didn’t help either, but the way we did subs helped.”

The UISSC defense also was crucial. McManigal served as a catalyst for UISSC, racking up several steals throughout the three games played.

“It’s all about finding the things that the other guys don’t want to do,” he said.

The pre-holiday 3-on-3 tournament is scheduled to conclude tonight in the Field House, when

UISSC will take on Blue Chips for the tournament championship.

UISSC players said they are ready to get back to action in the final round after previously falling out of the winner’s bracket and making a successful run while continuously facing elimination.

“We’re just trying to do the little things right,” McManigal said.

Point/Counterpoint: Should fans have stormed the field last weekend?

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY DI SPORTS STAFF | OCTOBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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YES

Why wouldn’t fans rush the field after an exhilarating win like the one this past weekend?

At home, facing one of the toughest teams in the Big Ten, there is no reason to fault those who let their excitement spill over the barriers and onto the playing surface to celebrate with the boys who brought them victory.

Every week, there is another professional football player who orchestrates a perfect ensemble of two-steps after getting his one tackle for a year on special teams. This is looked upon as a reason to celebrate, so why not let the fans join in on the fun?

Last year, the Hawkeyes beat Wisconsin behind an amazing running effort by Shonn Greene, and again the fans couldn’t hold themselves back — me being one of them.

I’ll admit I rushed the field for that game, a game that had little significance over the season. It was all in good fun, and it was a memory I, as well as most everyone else that was out there, will have forever.

Gone are the days of taking down the goal posts after big wins. Storming the field has become the last outlet for fans to celebrate with the team. With such a divide these days between fan and athlete, even at the college level, it is comforting to know that anyone can run out after a big win and throw his arm around Ricky Stanzi or Adrian Clayborn and bask in the thrill of victory.

Now, to justify the rush of the field after the Michigan game. With only Northwestern, Indiana, and Minnesota coming through Iowa City the next few weeks, this was the students’ last chance to throw caution to the wind and feel that brand-new turf beneath their frozen toes.

So what if so-called powerhouses such as USC and Ohio State don’t rush the field after a big win? In my eyes, it just shows how jaded those teams are by their level of success.

Iowa is known nationwide for understanding how to have a good time, and rushing the field is just an extension of that spirit.

— by Jake Krzeczowski

Point/Counterpoint: Should James Vandenberg be criticized for his play against Northwestern?

Original Found Here (Daily Iowan)
BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 10, 2009 7:20 AM

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YES

Hawkeye backup quarterback James Vandenberg receives preferential treatment among students on campus because of his “ability” to throw a football.

But with all the amenities afforded to football players at the university, a performance like the one Vandenberg turned in on Nov. 6 gives plenty of reason to criticize the redshirt freshman.

An interception on his first throw followed by a series of worm-burners that failed to reach even his receivers shoelaces on a fly was an absolute joke.

There is something to say about the pressure on a backup to keep a 9-0 team undefeated, but isn’t that why he’s in Iowa City in the first place?

On a team where roles are followed very closely, Vandenberg seemed to have forgotten his against a Northwestern team that was blowout-bound in the second quarter.

If he were a poor walk-on thrown to the lions, or Wildcats in this case, it would be hard to be critical.

But the fact remains he is a Kirk Ferentz investment, one meant to help the team win games, and on Nov. 6, he failed to do that.

Sure, he was one of the most prolific passers in Iowa high-school football history, but the display against the Wildcats looked more like the part of a bad intramural football player on the Hawkeye Recreational Fields than a Division-I quarterback playing in front of 70,000-plus fans .

The Hawkeyes don’t need another Jake Christensen. They just need Ricky Stanzi back.

— by Jake Krzeczowski