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Real Fire Brands
Merrell Noden
March 25, 1991
Iowa won the NCAA title with the help of the cantankerous Brands brothers
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March 25, 1991

Real Fire Brands

Iowa won the NCAA title with the help of the cantankerous Brands brothers

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"Among other wrestlers, Tom Brands is known as a cheap-shot wrestler," says Oklahoma State assistant coach John Smith, a former Cowboy star who last week became the first wrestler to win the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. "But I don't think it's purposefully done. The kid is so intense, he doesn't control his emotions. If you have that kind of intensity, you're almost a violent person when you step to the mat. I enjoy watching both the Brands. If they were out on the street somewhere, you wouldn't want to face them. Here, at least, you're under some rules."

That didn't help Cowboy freshman Alan Fried, who faced Tom in the final. At the start, though, Tom looked tight, and Fried scored first with a takedown. But Tom hammered away. "I could hear him grunting under me," said Tom. "I knew I could last longer than he could." Tom scored a decisive takedown in the second period and, with a one-point bonus for riding time, won 5-3.

Afterward, Tom's voice cracked repeatedly when he considered his brother's defeat. "You never forget the pain of losing," he said. Someone mentioned that Terry had suffered a near pin. "Terry did?" said Tom incredulously. "Ah, geez. Let's not talk about my brother."

One Hawkeye, though, fared more like Tom than Terry. In the 167-pound division, junior Mark Reiland, Iowa's last remaining finalist, faced Kevin Randleman of Ohio State. Reiland, who had missed last year's NCAA meet with a broken jaw, was nearly flawless. Leading 6-2 as the second period was running out, he caught Randleman on his back. "Mark elongated Randleman's neck, making his head go down," said Gable. The result was a fall, with one second remaining in the second period.

Reiland's win gave the Hawkeyes 157 points—one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty point shy of the record. Gable, who got his 10th championship with a team that doesn't have a single senior, didn't seem to mind. "The Brands aren't the happiest losers," he said. "They aren't good losers. That's why they're good."

Indeed, the same can be said for a number of Hawkeyes. A renowned motivator, Gable constructs little time bombs of emotion. They don't always explode in joy. After losing 14-0 to Jeff Prescott of Penn State in the final of the 118-pound division, Chad Zaputil blew up. John Coyle, the NCAA official who drew the unenviable assignment of getting the losers to sign out, described Zaputil's departure delicately. "He went up to his locker at a high rate of speed," said Coyle. There were bloodstains on the sign-out sheet after Coyle got Zaputil to sign, and one can imagine that the wrestler's locker looked as bad as his hand.

Later, Hawkeye Troy Steiner lost 8-7 to West Virginia's Scott Collins for the 142-pound title and went behind a partition and wailed for 10 minutes.

Gable found encouragement in such anguished reactions. "I don't want them to forget them [the losses]," he said, adding that he has considered having videos made of such scenes. "You remember the pain as long as you can."

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