Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands previews the 2019-20 wrestling season. Cody Goodwin, email@example.com
Welcome to the first wrestling mailbag of the 2019-20 season. I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you stick around. This season is going to be a fun one.
The collegiate season always has its crazy ups and downs. There are larger budding stories and smaller side notes each year, and there are so many to follow with regards to Iowa’s three Division I teams.
The Hawkeyes are seeking their first NCAA team championship in a decade, led by a venerable lightweight who’s also chasing his Olympic dreams. This year’s Hawkeye team might be the deepest and most talented since the 2009-10 team, but Penn State, winners of eight of the last nine team titles, aren’t just going to roll over. This two-team race will ultimately be defined by those three days in March.
The Cyclones are continuing their upward trend, and will field a wildly talented team that, when at their best, can make some serious noise. They’ll be led by David Carr, a redshirt freshman who has already made a tremendous impact on the program — both on and off the mat.
The Panthers are also looking for not only sustained success, but to take another step forward. Doug Schwab crowned his first national champion as Northern Iowa’s head coach last year. The program went 19 years between title winners. Schwab swears the next one won’t take that long.
Those are the big ones, of course. There are so many more wrestling storylines worth following in Iowa this season.
The growth of women’s wrestling: The Grand View women’s program, coached by Angelo Crinzi, has already hit the mats and is paving the way for the sport’s continued growth in this state. There’s also Waldorf, which has been competing since 2010, as well as Iowa Wesleyan, William Penn and Indian Hills, which will all boast programs in the future.
Speaking of Grand View: The men’s program is seeking a ninth-straight NAIA national title this season. On top of that, senior Evan Hanson is seeking his fourth-straight individual national championship, something only seven other NAIA wrestlers have ever done.
Loras College is making a lot of noise in Division III: Led by head coach T.J. Miller, the Duhawks opened the 2019-20 season ranked No. 1, ahead of perennial powers Wartburg, Augsburg and Wabash. They’ll all go head-to-head in Cedar Rapids in March.
Can’t forget about the Iowa high-schoolers: The 2020 class features some of the most-talented prep wrestlers the state has ever seen, including two seeking to become four-time state champions, and the season-long team battles between Fort Dodge, Waverly-Shell Rock, Southeast Polk, Don Bosco, Lisbon, Underwood and more will provide intrigue, starting next week all the way through February.
And, of course, the Olympics! The 2020 Olympic Trials are just two weeks after the NCAA Championships, where America’s best will duke it out for tickets to Tokyo.
There’s so much more, still, but those are just the highlights. We’re ramping up our coverage to match this season’s excitement. We’ll have weekly features, constant updates and even a podcast to ensure your wrestling needs are met this season.
So, please, join us for the ride. It’s going to be a blast.
► MORE WRESTLING COVERAGE FROM THE DES MOINES REGISTER
- IOWA'S PRESEASON MATCHES: Takeaways from Day One and Day Two
- CYCLONE OPEN: ISU-UNI matchups highlight Iowa State's early-season tourney
- HAWKEYE RECRUITING: Ankeny's Caleb Rathjen | Mizzou transfer Jaydin Eierman
Now, then. Onto the wrestling mailbag — the first one of the season, and you guys have questions. Let's get to it.
Please give me a follow on Twitter (@codygoodwin) and I’ll keep you guys up to date on all things wrestling in Iowa. Thanks so much for your help here, and for reading.
Dan asked this question over the summer. I promised him then I’d answer in the first mailbag of the year.
Iowa does, indeed, have a killer home schedule. The Hawkeyes host No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 3 Nebraska, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 1 Penn State, No. 8 Minnesota and No. 5 Oklahoma State this season. They'll also see No. 8 Iowa State, No. 14 Princeton and No. 23 Purdue on the road. That’s straight up 🔥🔥🔥.
But who could they add? I’d like to see them wrestle Northern Iowa.
I don’t know why they don’t wrestle. I know Northern Iowa wants it to happen, and I have a feeling many wrestling fans, both in-state and nationally, would like to see it, too. It’d be a lot of fun, whether it’s in the West Gym or Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The last Iowa-Northern Iowa dual came in December 2011 — a 38-4 Hawkeye victory — but I think it’s time to rekindle that in-state matchup.
Outside of Northern Iowa, I’d love to see Iowa wrestle Arizona State. The Sun Devils, I think, can be a darkhorse trophy contender this season.
Plus, the thought of watching Tony Cassioppi wrestle Cohlton Schultz sounds incredible.
Gotta give Tom Brands, Terry Brands and Ryan Morningstar a lot of credit for the job they’ve done building the roster.
Michael Kemerer came in 2015, then Alex Marinelli, Kaleb Young and others in 2016, then Spencer Lee, Jacob Warner and others in 2017, then add in the transfers of Austin DeSanto, Pat Lugo and Gavin Teasdale (and, soon, Jaydin Eierman), then the 2018 class with Tony Cassioppi and Nelson Brands and more, and the 2019 class has Abe Assad, Zach Glazier and Cobe Siebrecht, and …
You get the point.
One of the things that sticks out is Iowa's ability to take advantage of the transfer portal. Look at Lugo, DeSanto, Teasdale and Eierman. Lugo and DeSanto were All-Americans last year. Everybody is high on Teasdale and Eierman is going to be a title contender in 2020-21.
The transfer portal has made headlines in all of college sports, but especially in wrestling, and Iowa’s recruiting success is part of that. Give the coaching staff some credit for using that to their benefit.
But the signings helped build the foundation, and for a handful of years, Iowa maybe didn’t have the same success they’re having now on the recruiting trail. Give them credit, again, for figuring out how to land the high-school superstars.
It’s helped put the program in position to truly contend for the first time since the 2014-15 season. And when you take a quick peek at who Iowa has committed for both 2020 and 2021, it looks like the Hawkeyes might keep that championship window open longer.
I’m not sure that it was Kemerer sitting out as much as it was Jeremiah Moody. Take a look at the preliminary matchups Iowa released beforehand. Kemerer was supposed to wrestle Moody on Thursday, then Nelson Brands was supposed to wrestle Moody on Friday. Neither happened.
But, with regards to Spencer, he’s not signed up for the Bill Farrell because he doesn’t have to.
The Bill Farrell Memorial International, set for this weekend in New York, is the next Olympic Trial qualifier. The highest-placing U.S. wrestler at each weight qualifies, and there’s a ton of great wrestlers going.
Spencer doesn’t have to go to this. He will have other opportunities to qualify for the trials. The U.S. Senior Nationals is in December. He alluded to possibly going there a couple weeks ago. After that, there’s also the NCAA Championships and the Last Chance Qualifier the weekend after.
He would need to win the Bill Farrell, NCAAs and the Last Chance to qualify. He only needs to place in the top-five at Senior Nationals to qualify. It makes sense to prepare for the tournament where you don’t have to be perfect in order to qualify. Less stress.
Remember: Spencer hasn’t wrestled a freestyle match since before his senior year of high school. We have no idea where he’s at from a freestyle perspective. Yes, freestyle and folkstyle are similar, but there are subtle differences that can flip a match in a hurry.
Also remember: The Olympic Trials is just as wild and emotionally-charged as the NCAA Championships, but once you qualify, you give yourself a chance. I’m of the belief that that’s all he’s worried about right now.
Once he qualifies, he’ll worry about what’s next.
UPDATE: USA Wrestling announced Wednesday an amendment to the Olympic Trials qualifying process. The Dave Schulz Memorial was another competition that served as a trials qualifier, but that's been nixed, so the top-two at the Last Chance will now qualify.
Iowa State is closing in, but what strikes me about this year's matchup is just how interesting it is.
The Hawkeyes should be favored at 125, 165, 174, 197 and 285, which is enough to consider them the favorites.
The Cyclones should be favored at 149 and 184 (I can entertain arguments against that last one), just based on last year’s results.
Which means 133, 141 and 157 are the toss-ups, for various reasons — 133 and 141, because we aren’t sure who Iowa is sending out there right now (more on that in a minute), and 157, because Iowa State has David Carr, a Junior world champ, but we aren’t sure how he stacks up against Young, a returning All-American.
It took Iowa State winning nearly every swing match — 133, 141, 149, 174 (by injury default) and 184 — to make last year’s dual a thriller. If the dual is close again this season, I don’t think it’ll surprise as many people, especially after the Cyclones’ postseason run last year.
But everybody should circle Nov. 24, because that dual is going to tell us a lot about both teams.
If I had to guess, I’ll bet we’ll see Teasdale at 133 and DeSanto at 141 when the Hawkeyes host UT-Chattanooga on Sunday.
Just a gut feeling, but also an attempt to connect the dots. Iowa coach Tom Brands said we’d see Teasdale on Nov. 17. The exact quote: “I mean, why not? Let's just put it out there.”
Later, Brands told me: “Here’s the thing, the guy can wrestle.”
Now, the confusion stems from DeSanto. He’s a returning All-American, and when Brands talked about him during the team’s media day, he talked about trying to close the gap on Wisconsin’s Seth Gross, a past NCAA champ and the current No. 1-ranked wrestler at 133 pounds.
The exact quote: “There's a national champion coming back, Seth Gross, so he's going to have to get better at the bottom.”
So who knows? More clarity could come later this week. Or maybe not until Sunday.
As with anything, you guys will know when I know.
Here’s who Iowa’s big three schools are expected to sign as part of their 2020 classes:
For Iowa: Mason City’s Cullan and Colby Schriever, Southeast Polk’s Gabe Christenson, Minnesota prep Patrick Kennedy, Arizona prep Jesse Ybarra, Florida prep Bretli Reyna and Montana prep Leif Schroeder
For Iowa State: Woodward-Granger’s Cody Fisher, Ankeny Centennial’s Ben Monroe, Pennsylvania prep Cameron Robinson, Minnesota prep Drew Woodley and New York prep Zachary Redding.
For Northern Iowa: Lisbon’s Cael Happel, West Sioux’s Adam Allard, Woodbury Central’s Wade Mitchell, Florida prep Ethan Basile and Ohio prep Nevan Snodgrass.
For the most part, those guys should be it. There might be a few extras that get announced this week, but I can’t imagine too many.
Regarding Anthony Echemendia, everybody wants him — he’s taken visits to Iowa State, Iowa, Ohio State and Arizona State — and he’s tweeted that he’s looking to decide soon. I think he’d probably be more important for Iowa State than Iowa.
Don’t get me wrong, anybody would love to have that guy in the room. He’s incredibly talented and can be an immediate contributor at whichever program he chooses. He’s projected at 141 or 149, and while some schools have those weights figured out for both the near- and long-term, he’s the kind of guy you get in the room and then figure out where to put him in the lineup.
While nobody would turn down a high-impact guy like Echemendia, he could make a huge splash for the Cyclones and give them another big-time point-scorer, which would elevate them closer to trophy contention.
And I think Iowa State realizes that, which is why they nearly signed him before he decided to take his visits.
Where will he go? Your guess is as good as mine.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
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