Before I get to what I intended to write about today, let’s take a moment to appreciate Iowa wrestler Cory Clark, who won an NCAA national championship Saturday night at 133 pounds.
We’ve known much of the season that he’s been hurt. After his win, he finally let on how hurt.
Clark is finally talking about his injuries. Torn ligaments in his wrists and shoulder taken out of his socket.
— Courtney Baumann (@cbomb12) March 19, 2017
Let that sink in.
Basically, this is how Cory Clark wrestled his senior season:
High-level athletes bring high-level athleticism to their sport. Obviously. But occasionally athletes bestow fans with a level of mental and physical effort so great that they should forever be inscribed on our collective psyche. For example:
* Terrell Owens played Super Bowl XXXIX on a broken leg and caught nine passes for 122 yards.
* In 1964 the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Bob Baun broke his ankle during the Stanley Cup Finals. He returned in overtime of the same game and scored the winning goal.
Clark earned more than a national championship Saturday night. He joined a short list of Hawkeye immortals.
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Poor Nebraska football fans. They just don’t seem to get that their football team isn’t special anymore. Sure, the Huskers have the potential to occasionally put together a great season, but at this point they’re part of the pack in the Big Ten’s less-dominant division.
Same goes for Indiana basketball fans. They have a coaching vacancy now that Tom Crean has been fired. And isn’t it just adorable to watch them think their program could actually attract someone like Celtics coach Brad Stevens. The only time anyone refers to the Hoosiers as an “elite basketball program” anymore is in the past tense.
Fans of the other 12 Big Ten schools might get a kick out of teasing Nebraska football and Indiana hoops supporters.
But let’s be honest, Iowa fans: Can’t the same be said about those of us who think Hawkeye wrestling deserves to appear in the same paragraph as Penn State, much less the same arena?
The Nittany Lions won their sixth NCAA team title in seven years Saturday. Five Penn State wrestlers – all of whom are supposed to be back next season – won individual national titles.
Penn State crushed the Big Ten the way Iowa used to. The Hawkeyes finished fourth, which is an admirable accomplishment, but for a program with Iowa’s reputation, it disappoints many.
Unless, of course, Iowa fans can do what Nebraska football and Indiana basketball fans cannot: Gracefully accept that times change, empires rise and fall. Expectations shift.
Or, we can look at what happened from 2001-2007, seven consecutive seasons in which Iowa didn’t win wrestling’s collegiate national title, only to rebound and win three straight from 2008-2010.
I’m not ready to give up on Iowa wrestling. I’m not ready to lower my expectations. I am, however, ready to stop laughing at Nebraska and Indiana, because I finally get what they’re going through. Like Hawkeye wrestling fans they long to recapture the good old days, to relive just how golly-gee-whiz-great it was to be King of the Mountain.
Way back when.
Iowa’s women’s basketball team beat South Dakota on Saturday in the second round of the Women’s NIT behind one of the greatest individual performances in the program’s history.
Sophomore Megan Gustafson scored 33 points – here’s where it gets good – on 15-of-16 shooting. She also had 13 rebounds and two blocked shots.
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The Hawkeyes next play in the round of 16 against the winner of Colorado and South Dakota State, which play this afternoon.
Let’s play “Would You Rather?”
If you could only pick one, would you rather Iowa’s men’s basketball team win the NIT championship, or would you rather Peter Jok take the Big Ten’s single-season free-throw record from former Indiana guard and Iowa coach Steve Alford?
Land of 10’s Bobby La Gesse writes that Jok needs to sink his next 10 free-throw attempts to erase Alford from the record books. Alford, of course, became infamous during his time in Iowa City for his forgiving attitude toward rape.
But a basketball record is nothing compared with the tragedy of sexual assault, so let’s not pretend that Jok taking Alford’s record would somehow “serve Alford right.” Nothing will ever erase the horrors of Alford’s supposed leadership.
The reason to cheer for Jok – the only reason – is Peter Jok. He’s been a great Hawkeye, and it would mean a lot to him and to Hawkeye fans if he sets the record.
OK, so back to the question. If you could only pick one, would you rather Iowa win the NIT or Jok break the record?
An NIT title would be fun, but it’s not the NCAA Tournament. I think I’d vote for Jok.
* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.