Freezing for a good cause

Freezing for a good cause

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UI coaches among those to take a polar plunge for Hawkeye Wrestling Club
Kirk Ferentz and Tom Brands go for a freezing dip in the Iowa River
Kirk Ferentz and Tom Brands go for a freezing dip in the Iowa River. Photo by Brian Ray/The Gazette/KCRG.

Tom Brands knew it was crazy. Kirk Ferentz knew it was crazy. Heck, even Clark Griswold would have told you it was crazy. But as the great ones often do, they stripped down to their shorts and took the plunge.

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club (HWC) raised more than $25,000 last year at the inaugural HWC Plunge when Ferentz, Brands, and dozens of otherwise rational supporters raced into the icy waters of the Iowa River in Riverside. Thirty men and women entered with 600 fingers and toes, and because they eventually emerged intact, they've decided to do it again.

"I remember Ferentz didn't flinch," says Brands, "and the reason the event might have received national attention is because there was a lot of focus on Ferentz. I don't think there would have been a coach in the SEC willing to do that."

Brands said the advent of the cold tub and incorporating it into training and recovery may have made last year's plunge tolerable, but an element of surprise always exists when you mess with Mother Nature.

"I did not flinch, but I had to talk myself into it," says Brands. "It's different than being in the controlled environment of a cold tub... as far as going full submerge or under the ice or chopping the ice out of a body of water. It's a good testament to maybe what you're made out of.

"I've been in Russia before where you have a hotbox and you basically walk into three feet of snow, lie down and do a snow angel, and then run back into a hotbox. But it was actually a part of your recovery and training phase. Here it's more of an event. There it was a sanctuary."

Brands will break through the ice again this year when the Plunge returns on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 11 a.m. on Highway 22, across the street from the Riverside Casino. Plungers can register or pledge support starting at 9:30 a.m., or online at Each plunger must pledge a minimum of $100 to participate, and admission into the frozen drink includes lunch and a dry towel. Additional prize values increase with pledge money, there is no limit to the amount of entries, and costumes are encouraged.

Fans and supporters are also invited to attend the event at no charge, and water fowl or not, hot chocolate, food and music will be provided to create a family-friendly atmosphere.

"Last year we had an incredible response," says Kyle Beaird, an HWC board member and emcee of the event. "I was amazed by the fan support, and I think we're poised to double it because everyone had a great time, and we do it for a great cause. Any time you can support a young man's Olympic dream you have to show up and do it."

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club was established in 1973 with a mission to provide the training, coaching, and resources necessary to help post-collegiate athletes pursue their dreams of becoming World and Olympic Champions.

The money raised from the HWC Plunge and other fundraisers benefits club members by assisting with living, training, and traveling expenses.

Brands and his brother Terry, a Hawkeye assistant coach, were members of the HWC during their Olympic runs in 1996 and 2000. Current club members include Daniel Dennis, Dan Erekson, Phil Keddy, Luke Lofthouse, Brent Metcalf, Ryan Morningstar, and Lloyd Rogers.

"It's amazing to see so many people willing to jump into ice cold water to raise money for a good cause," says Beaird. "The HWC has been producing Olympic athletes since Chuck Yagla, Barry Davis, Randy Lewis, and the Banach boys in the '80s, and the fact that people are willing to jump into the water because they believe in the kids chasing those dreams is pretty remarkable."

More information is available online at


Chris Brewer, Sports Information, 319-335-9411


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