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Matt Levins | The Hawk Eye | November 28, 2014

No more ‘what ifs’

  Brooks (right)
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Sammy Brooks is unmistakable on the wrestling mat, his thick mullet setting him apart from the rest.

Now Brooks, a sophomore 184-pounder on the Iowa wrestling team, wants to let his wrestling be his distinguishing characteristic.

Brooks, who went 18-7 last year and was 7-3 in duals while filling in for injured senior Ethen Lofthouse, heard all the talk, fielded all the questions last year about why he wasn't competing at the Big Ten and national championships. While Brooks sat and watched, Lofthouse finished second at the Big Ten Championships, then went 1-2 at the national championships to end his career, leaving Iowa in fourth place as a team.

All of which has served to fuel the fire that burns deep inside of Brooks. No longer is he satisfied to just be in the lineup. No, he wants more. Much more.

When he steps out on the mat on Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in front of 15,000 screaming fans for the annual Cy-Hawk Series against instate rival Iowa State, Books has one thing in mind -- dominate his opponent. Nothing more. Nothing less.

For Brooks, the man with the mullet and the Hollywood looks, it's show time and the lights are about to come on.

Lights. Camera. Action.

"It's our first big competition. It's here. It's Iowa State. What more is there to say? They like to run their mouths, more or less, and hype themselves up. Good. Bring it on. I hope they come in here with everything they've got and we can shut them down still. There's nothing more fun than going out there and putting up points and pretty much taking the spirit out of somebody," he said. "The ultimate goal is to dominate your opponent in the best way possible and that's to get a fall."

Brooks, who started wrestling after he tagged along with his oldest brother Max to a wrestling practice, has put together a lengthy résumé through the years. He was a two-time state champion and three-time state finalist at Oak Park-River Forest, a nationally-ranked powerhouse in Oak Park, Illinois.

He was also the 2012 Junior National Greco-Roman (182 pounds) and Freestyle (195 pounds) champion and earned a bronze medal at the 2011 FILA Cadet Freestyle World Championships.

"It's awesome. It's perfect for me because Oak Park has a lot of the same philosophies they have here at Iowa, just go, go, go. You wrestle hard. You earn what you work for. It was perfect. I had the foundation set in stone already. It's just something I can use that and I don't have to start from scratch," Brooks said. "We're always looking for tough competition. That's the mindset. If I'm going to go out there and wrestle I want to be the best, so I'm going to go out and wrestle every tough person I can wrestle. That's just what you have to do."

Iowa was the perfect fit for him.

"I took my visit. I loved everybody's mindset. I loved how one-minded everyone was. Everyone's going for the same thing. There's no other choice for me. I think I ended up in the perfect place," Brooks said. "I love the coaches. I love Tom and Terry [Brands], all the guys. Everybody's going for the same thing."

There was nothing worse than going to nationals and hearing everybody say, 'Oh, you could have been out there.'
-- Sammy Brooks

Brooks continued his freestyle wrestling this past offseason, but fell short of his goal of competing for the U.S. Junior World team. But the toughest part of all for Brooks was watching Lofthouse compete at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships last season, knowing full well that just as easily could have been him.

"There was nothing worse than going to nationals and hearing everybody say, 'Oh, you could have been out there.' Or, 'we would like to see you out there, too.' That stuff burns. You don't dwell on it, but you use it in a positive way. I wanted to do that throughout the whole offseason and into this season," Brooks said. "It was good to get matches, get out there in front of the crowd, get some tough competition. But I wanted the spot. I wanted to wrestle in March. That's what I really wanted. It's good for experience and it's good for this year. But I wanted that spot really bad. I guess not bad enough."

This year Brooks is making sure there are no 'what ifs.' Brooks is taking care of business. Thus far, he has three pins, three technical falls and an injury default among his seven wins.

Brooks wants to be known as more than just the man with the mullet and the Hollywood looks. He wants to be the best. He wants to be a national champion.

"I came out there and did what you're expected to do," Brooks said after going 3-0 at the Iowa City Duals on Nov. 24. "You just go out there and wrestle hard. If you wrestle somebody that might not be up to the competition, then you end it. But I don't want to change how I wrestle depending on the competition, so I think I did a good job of that, wrestling hard for the whole time in every position."

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