Hawkeye treks familiar ground
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No matter the period, no matter the match, no matter the date on the calendar, if you wrestle at the University of Iowa, you compete with your greatest effort.
That's the message Luke Lofthouse carries into his first season as Iowa's strength and conditioning coach. If it sounds similar to Iowa's philosophy of "anyone, anytime, anywhere," it's because Lofthouse has spent the better part of the last nine years weaving his body and mind into the fabric of Iowa wrestling.
The cliff notes go like this: Lofthouse joined the team in 2004, took a two-year hiatus to complete a Mormon mission to Africa, returned to the program in 2007, earned All-America honors in 2011, joined the Hawkeye Wrestling Club the same year, and was named interim strength and conditioning coach in 2012.
It was a fluid path through the program, and Lofthouse says it has helped prepare him for life in the Iowa wrestling "front office."
"I've been around for a while so I kind of understood what to expect," says Lofthouse. "I didn't have a specific expectation, but I knew it would be fun, exciting, and high energy, and it has been."
The training never stops for Hawkeye wrestlers, but there are benchmarks on the calendar, and the next one is rapidly approaching. On Oct. 10, wrestlers report to camp and begin training with coach-directed activity.
"Your development is every day," says Lofthouse, "whether the coaches can put you through it or not. But it is a phase. School starts, and you're wrestling. Then you start conditioning, and that's always fun. Then you start the wrestling practice where you can officially start the coach-directed activity. Then you start preparing for wrestle-offs. I think this time period is really exciting, but it just continues to build up to where you really start competing and put all of your effort out there in front of someone."
Iowa opens camp Wednesday with six returning All-Americans. The Hawkeyes have 36 wrestlers on the roster, and head coach Tom Brands wants every one of them training and believing they can win a national title, something he has seen come to fruition seven times since returning to campus.
Lofthouse says part of his responsibility as strength and conditioning coach is to help develop that championship potential in the weight room.
"My responsibility is to help these guys grow and develop in the weight room, but not just strength-wise," says Lofthouse. "Develop their conditioning and help them develop and understand the mentality that they're going to go out there and give their greatest effort no matter the situation."
Exactly one month after the Oct. 10 regrouping, the Hawkeyes host the wrestle-offs inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The season the officially begins Nov. 16 at Tennessee-Chattanooga.
"It's early, but it's been a great experience," says Lofthouse. "I've learned a lot and grown a lot, and now it's time to keep growing and start focusing more on getting the guys ready to wrestle because the season is nearly a month away.
"If we take care of business individually in our preparation, there is a lot of potential for these guys to do really well."