I enjoy taking a look at things like this as well, so here my ‘list' of the biggest Iowa Hawkeye sports stories/happenings from the 2007 calendar year. The first grouping will not be ranked with regards to ‘importance' or ‘significance', but I felt all deserved mention.
Mark Perry Wins the National Title at 165 pounds: Perry became Iowa's first national champion since Cliff Moore in 2004, and he also beat Oklahoma State's Johnny Hendricks in the final seconds to capture the crown. It was a dramatic match (Perry trailed 2-0 late until he scored a reversal and two nearfall points), Perry's emotion and trip into the stands to hug his family and friends was memorable, as was Hendricks congratulations. Hendricks had beaten Perry in their six previous matches, and Perry grew up in the Oklahoma State wrestling family.
It was also a big step for Iowa Wrestling, which finished a disappointing eighth at nations. "This is big for the program," said Iowa Head Coach Tom Brands. "It's very important; it's a big step for the program. When you're building and rebuilding, it's a huge step in the right direction."
Adam Haluska Leads the Big Ten in Scoring: It had been 10 years since an Iowa player had led the Big Ten in scoring (Andre Woolridge,1997) and Haluska averaged 21.3 points per game in Iowa's 16 Big Ten contests to capture the crown. Iowa went 9-7 in Big Ten games and tied for fourth place, several positions higher than the ‘experts' had predicted them to finish. Much of that was in due to Haluska's ability to carry the team on his back. He scored over 1,500 points in just three years in an Iowa uniform and he is one of the top scoring native Iowans to ever play for the Hawkeyes. Halusaka was taken in the second round of June's NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets, and he made the team.
Iowa Wrestlers Back Where They Belong; at #1: I think most Iowa fans were surprised to learn that Iowa had not held the #1 team ranking since the 2000 season. I know I was shocked to learn that last week, but we all found out about that because Iowa regained the #1 ranking after a 20-13 win against then #1 Iowa State in Ames on December 9th. The Hawkeyes won 6 of the 10 matches, and earned bonus points in two of those wins. They also won the dual without the services of Mark Perry, who was suspended for the meet. Coach Tom Brands has the Hawkeyes back on top of the polls in less than two years on the job, but he would be the first to tell you that December rankings mean nothing; it's all about the nationals in March. This year, they will be held in St. Louis. Start making plans to get down there and scalp tickets, if you don't already have them.
Former Hawks Flying High in the NFL: Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders played huge roles in helping the Indianapolis Colts to their first ever NFL championship. Either player could have been named Indy's playoff MVP with the performances they turned in during the months of January and February. Clark created several mismatches with his speed and agility, while Sanders transformed a weak run defense in the final weeks of the regular season, when he was out with injury, into a fearsome front in his return. Aaron Kampman recorded 15.5 sacks last year, and he punched his ticket to his first Pro Bowl. All three of those players have had excellent seasons in 2007, with Sanders and Kampman earning trips back to the Pro Bowl this year, both of them as starters. Kampman has a streak of 72 consecutive starts for Green Bay.
Disappointment on the Gridiron: I picked Iowa to finish 9-3 this season, so their 6-6 record was well below that mark. Perhaps I was too optimistic, but I don't know that many folks saw 6-6 coming. Of course, we didn't see the attrition in the playmaker department coming, either. Losing Dominique Douglas before the season began was a bad beginning, and then losing Andy Brodell and Tony Moeaki in game four were huge blows. There were times this year where Iowa had just three healthy scholarship receivers, and all of those players were redshirt freshmen. When they had four healthy receivers, there were times when that extra player was a true freshmen.
Off the Field Incidents: Going back to April there were far too many run ins with the authorities in 2007 when it came to members of the Iowa football team. DUI's, theft charges, assault charges, public intox, driving infractions and others were on the docket this year, and not the kind of docket you want to see from your football program. I know that Coach Kirk Ferentz was just as bothered by these situations. There is the pending sexual assault investigation that did not cite players by name, but said that three Iowa football players were being questioned in relation to a sexual assault on Iowa's campus in October. Thus, there is a chance that this category could spill over into 2008.
Baseball Back to the Big Ten Tournament: Jack Dahm's Iowa Hawkeyes qualified for the Big Ten tournament for just the third time in the last 16 years. It was the second appearance for Iowa during the three year Dahm-era. Iowa finished with a record of 31-23, its best record in 14 years. Iowa also finished fourth in the Big Ten standings. Iowa also strung together 12 straight wins, the second longest streak in school history. That included 10 straight wins against Big Ten opponents, something the school had never done in its history.
Now we get to the two biggest stories related to Iowa athletics, in my opinion, for the 2007 calendar year.
Iowa Hires National Coach of the Year: Todd Lickliter earned that honor, awarded to him by a vote of his peers, after leading Butler to a Sweet 16 appearance in last year's NCAA tournament. His Bulldog club gave eventual champion Florida its best game of the tournament. Lickliter's arrival at Iowa ushered in a new era of Iowa basketball, and though this year will provide several ups and downs, perhaps more downs when it comes to the win column, Lickliter's demeanor and personality are a perfect fit for the state of Iowa and its fans.
Alford Resigns: The Steve Alford era, one that began with fanfare and proclamations by the former Athletic Director, Coach Alford and Internet publishers alike, ended with a crashing thud. Iowa set Carver Hawkeye Arena attendance lows over the finals four years of the Alford era, player defections were almost more the norm than the exception and Alford rubbed too many people the wrong way during his eight seasons at Iowa. The most significant statistic of the Alford era, in my opinion, was that his teams earned just three trips to the NCAA tournament in those eight years. In the 21 years prior to Alford's arrival, Iowa had been invited to 16 NCAA tournaments. Tom Davis went to 9 in his 13 years and he never lost a first round game. Alford's teams went 1-3 in NCAA tournament action, making it out of the first round just once.