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Recall that a group is called large if it has a finite index subgroup which surjects onto a non-abelian free group. By work of Agol and Cooper-Long-Reid, most 3-manifold groups are large; in particular, the fundamental groups of hyperbolic 3-manifolds are large. In previous work, the first author gave examples of closed, hyperbolic 3-manifolds with arbitrarily large first homology rank but whose fundamental groups do not surject onto a non-abelian free group. We call a group very large if it surjects onto a non-abelian free group. In this paper, we consider the question of whether the fundamental groups of homology handlebodies – which are very close to being free – are very large. We show that the fundamental group of W. Thurston’s tripus manifold, is not very large; it is known to be weakly parafree by Stallings’ Theorem and large by the work of Cooper–Long–Reid since the tripus is a hyperbolic manifold with totally geodesic boundary. It is still unknown if a 3-manifold group that is weakly parafree of rank at least 3 must be very large. However, we more generally consider the co-rank of the fundamental group, also known as the cut number of the manifold. For each integer we construct a homology handlebody of genus whose group has co-rank equal to , where for even and for odd. That is, these groups are weakly parafree of rank g and surject onto a free group of rank roughly half of g but no larger.
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Shelly Harvey, Eamonn Tweedy, Co-rank of weakly parafree 3-manifold groups. Groups Geom. Dyn. 14 (2019), no. 1, pp. 25–39