IOWA CITY, Iowa — There were plenty of great individual performances at Iowa this year in just about every sport.
First baseman Jake Adams slugged a Big Ten-record 29 home runs to lead the Hawkeyes to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in 27 years. Shooting guard Peter Jok led the league in scoring. Cornerback Desmond King was named an All-American for the second straight year. Alley Disterhoft set the Iowa women’s basketball all-time scoring record. Aaron Mallett has a chance to win an individual NCAA gold medal in a men’s running event for the first time in 60 years. Cory Clark fought back from a serious shoulder injury to win an NCAA wrestling title.
Team-wise, the high-profile sports didn’t reach their lofty expectations. Iowa football had a nice finish but began the season in the top 10 and exited with an 8-5 record. Neither of Iowa’s basketball teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Iowa wrestling didn’t win the national title.
Other sports — wrestling, baseball, gymnastics and rowing — enjoyed terrific seasons, led by strong coaching performances. Some of those teams expected to challenge for national titles, while others had to battle against the weight of history. Either way, their performances were solid.
Here’s a breakdown of the five candidates for Iowa’s coach of the year. The winner will be announced Monday morning in The Breakfast Club.
RICK HELLER, baseball — Iowa advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and just the third time since 1975. The Hawkeyes won the Big Ten Tournament for the first time and finished with 39 victories, the fourth-most in school history. Heller has produced winning records in each of his four seasons. Before Heller arrived at Iowa, the Hawkeyes had 15 losing seasons in the previous 17.
TOM BRANDS, wrestling — The standards are so high for Iowa wrestling that unless the squad wins the national title, it’s often deemed a failure. Such is the case with this year’s team. But the wrestling team finished fourth in the country, higher than any other sport. It was 13-2 in dual meets and crowned an individual champion in Cory Clark.
LARISSA LIBBY, women’s gymnastics — The GymHawks finished third at the Big Ten championships in March and scored the most points in school history. Iowa also placed third in regular-season duals with a 7-2 mark. Libby was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year, and the team advanced to NCAA regionals, where it finished third. The team shattered school marks in several areas, including five gymnasts earning all-Big Ten honors.
ANDREW CARTER, women’s rowing — Iowa qualified for the NCAA championships for the first time since 2001, and Carter was named the NCAA regional coach of the year. Blessed with an $8 million boathouse, the rowing program long underachieved until Carter took over four years ago. This year, Iowa was ranked as high as 11th nationally and placed fourth at the Big Ten meet.
BOND SHYMANSKY, women’s volleyball — Gaining any traction in the nation’s best volleyball conference is difficult. But Shymansky, who completed his third season at Iowa, quickly has built the Hawkeyes into a Big Ten contender. Iowa’s 19 wins were the most since 1994, and the program notched its first winning season since 2000. Considering Shymansky’s predecessor was 66-125 in six seasons, his 45-51 overall mark shows great progress.