Iowa wrestling: Addressing Michael Kemerer's weight gain with Tom Brands

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Tom Brands knows there have been murmurs that his Iowa wrestling program could be mulling a bombshell lineup change for the 2018-19 season.

On Wednesday, he addressed the scuttlebutt that junior-to-be Michael Kemerer would be moving up two weight classes — from 157 pounds, where he’s been a top-four NCAA finisher each of his first two seasons, to 174.

“He’s going to be in the lineup one way or another. It looks like he could move up,” Brands said Wednesday, when asked by the Des Moines Register if Kemerer was going to 174 pounds. “And the good thing about having a lot of good guys in your program is that there will be very capable people at each weight class. The best guys in the room will find their way into the lineup, and they’ll contribute.”

Iowa's Michael Kemerer wrestles Missouri's Joey Lavallee at 157 pounds at the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, March 16, 2018. Kemerer won by decision, 5-2.

Yes, Kemerer’s body is getting bigger — as anyone who’s seen him lately can attest.

No, Iowa isn't making anything official — and probably won't anytime soon.

“We’ll figure it out,” Brands said. “This is June.”

Indeed, the start of the college wrestling season is more than five months away.

But where there’s smoke there’s fire, as the saying goes.

With Kemerer’s potential move in the works, a two-time NCAA qualifier at 174 pounds, Joey Gunther, is transferring.

It’s very unlikely that all-American Alex Marinelli is budging from his ideal college weight, 165 pounds, going into his sophomore season.

And Iowa already has a couple of options lining up at 157 pounds.

Talented sophomore Kaleb Young, who lost a wrestle-off with Gunther at 174 earlier this winter, could make the cut — he finished third in the under-23 World Team Trials at 74 kilograms (the equivalent of 163 pounds). He has plenty of time to make it down to 157, where junior Jeren Glosser also has "great scoring ability," Brands said.

There's movement program-wide.

Brands has Drexel transfer Austin DeSanto coming in at 133 pounds; Max Murin (at 141), Pat Lugo (at 149) and Jacob Warner (at 197) coming out of redshirt; and two-time 197-pound NCAA qualifier Cash Wilcke probably cutting to 184.

It’s possible that, despite losing just one senior in Brandon Sorenson, seven Iowa weight classes in 2018-19 will have different starters than in March — with only NCAA champ Spencer Lee at 125 pounds, Marinelli at 165 and Sam Stoll at heavyweight staying put.

In offseason workouts, Brands said there’s “a different feel” to the room. He likes it that way — having guys worried more about improvement than protecting lineup spots.

“There’s no ‘my weight.’ You own your weight because you’re the best guy at the weight,” Brands said. “You don’t own that weight because your mom and dad, or your high school coach, or your (inner) circle … is saying that’s your weight class.

“That’s what’s going on. You know what? When that’s going on, you’re not focused on who’s coming up or down to my weight. That stuff will take care of itself. There’s things that are shifting already. Whether it’s personnel leaving the program, personnel changing weight classes — going down, going up. Those shifts are happening."

None bigger, perhaps, than Kemerer.

Whether it's the final plan or not, kudos to the Hawkeye wrestling staff for being bold and for creating an environment to find its best possible lineup.

Perhaps a heavier Kemerer will be a healthier and happier Kemerer, too.

As a bonus, he could escape having to run into his 157-pound nemesis — former Young Guns teammate (and friend) Jason Nolf of Penn State, a two-time NCAA champ who is finally a senior. Not that facing Penn State phenom Mark Hall (NCAA champ and NCAA runner-up in his first two years at 174) would be a picnic.

Kemerer at 174 is far from a done deal, Brands was careful to say. A lot could happen between now and November.

But there’s certainly a conviction in Brands’ voice that his Hawkeyes are on the move, in more ways than one.

“If our guys come in every day to get better, and they’re about that — which they are, because you feel it — there’s a lot of good things that can happen, man,” Brands said. “And those things will sort themselves out, without coaches’ intervention.”

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.