Top in-state target John Waggoner commits to the Iowa Hawkeyes

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

The top 2018 college football prospect in Iowa has committed to the Hawkeyes.

Four-star Dowling Catholic defensive end John Waggoner picked Iowa on Tuesday afternoon after meeting with defensive line coach Reese Morgan, Dowling head coach Tom Wilson told HawkCentral.

Dowling Catholic's John Waggoner (94) celebrates their 35-21 victory over Iowa City, West to win the 4A state championship at the UNI Dome on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, in Cedar Falls.

Waggoner and his head coach met Morgan in Wilson's office, where Waggoner officially let Iowa's defensive line coach know he wanted to be a Hawkeye. He had called Kirk Ferentz on Sunday and let him know the same thing.

"I had a feeling this was coming, but I think, as you know, Iowa was getting down in scholarships and things like that — you can't assume anything," Wilson said. "It was a matter of John just communicating to them and letting them know how much it meant to him to be an Iowa Hawkeye, and obviously, that feeling is reciprocated. We have ourselves another one going to Iowa City."

Wilson said Waggoner will take his official visit to Iowa this weekend (Dec. 8-10).

Iowa's main competitors down the stretch were Minnesota, UCLA and Nebraska, with Iowa State, Oregon and Penn State still in the mix.

"To be honest with you, a little bit of it, I think, is the consistency of the program," Wilson said of why Iowa won out. "I think John grew up watching Iowa football. His mom, I know, graduated from Iowa — that meant a great deal to him and his family. And I think the big thing is there’s a part of him that was always an Iowa fan, and obviously, as he did his homework on these other schools, he had to decide: ‘OK, what does this all mean?’ And obviously it took some time, but in the end, he’s definitely where he wants to be. It all worked out."

Added Waggoner: "Just kind of the relationship and the culture of the program was the selling point, to me, that I would come back to. Throughout the season, I was really focused on the team and put recruiting on the back burner for a little bit."

Wilson had previously told HawkCentral that Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck was visiting Waggoner Tuesday in order to finalize a Dec. 8 official visit.

But Tuesday morning, Wilson told HawkCentral that Fleck was no longer going to make the trip south, that Nebraska was now trying to set up a visit and that Waggoner wasn't going to make any recruiting decisions until after he met with Morgan on Tuesday afternoon.

Well, he made his decision.

Kirk Ferentz paid Waggoner a visit last Wednesday and spoke more with the four-star prospect over the weekend, Wilson said. He said the Hawkeyes had been recruiting Waggoner hard for the past two years, even as his recruitment dragged through his senior year. They made a late push after Iowa's interest had seemed to wane in recent weeks.

Wilson said Iowa State backed off somewhat later in the process.

When news circulated that Ferentz was making a final push for Waggoner, excitement buzzed on social media about Waggoner playing with A.J. Epenesa, who lived up to his five-star billing this season.

"I think you’d be crazy not to (think about that)," Wilson said. “But (Matt and Anthony Nelson) are really good players, as well. (Parker) Hesse’s a really good player. They’ve got some guys there, so I think, before we get too far ahead, he’s got to go in and prove himself — that he’s worthy of doing that. Those guys have already proved themselves; now, it’s John’s turn to prove that he belongs."

This is a big get for the Hawkeyes, who missed out on the state's top prize last year in Oliver Martin. They have now secured commitments from Iowa's three best prospects: Waggoner, Solon defensive tackle Tyler Linderbaum and Iowa City West linebacker Dillon Doyle.

Checking in at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Waggoner is the state's top 2018 recruit, according to Rivals and the 247Sports Composite. He helped lead Dowling to a state-record fifth consecutive Class 4A title with his 11 solo tackles for loss and five solo sacks this season. The 247Sports Composite ranks Waggoner the No. 365 recruit in the Class of 2018. Rivals ranks him the class' No. 17 defensive end.

He had offers from a who's who of Power 5 powers, including Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma.

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.