The Grapple on the Gridiron fueled Iowa’s two-notch rise in the national wrestling rankings, but that record-setting rivalry win didn’t solve every question surrounding the Hawkeyes.
The 18-16 toppling of then-No. 1 Oklahoma State in front of an announced NCAA-record crowd of 42,287 at Kinnick Stadium reinforced Iowa’s strengths, but it also left lineup questions about three spots yet to be solidified.
What will the Hawkeyes do at 141 pounds? Who will they use at 157? What’s the plan at 165?
Second-ranked Iowa tangles with Maryland, Grand Canyon, Iowa Central and Cornell College on Friday at the Iowa City Duals, which could shine light on the lingering lineup questions.
For now, freshman Logan Ryan is Iowa’s top option at 141, although injured upperclassmen Brody Grothus and Topher Carton could challenge for ownership of the spot later in the season.
In his debut with the Hawkeyes, Ryan stuck with top-ranked Dean Heil early before dropping a 7-1 decision.
“I don’t think he was that overmatched,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “The score was maybe a little lopsided. I don’t know if he was wrestling to save us a bonus point or not, but he got his wrist rode a lot. We’ve got to iron that position out.”
The bottom position beset the Hawkeyes at 157 pounds, as well. In spurts on Saturday, Edwin Cooper demonstrated the skills that made him a junior college national champion and a NCAA Division II finalist. But the senior also surrendered eight near-fall points during a 14-11 loss to Oklahoma State’s Chance Marsteller.
The Hawkeyes list freshman Skyler St. John as a possible option at 157, but Brands indicated he plans to stick with Cooper, whose first test Friday could come against returning NCAA qualifier Lou Mascola of Maryland.
“He’s not a bad wrestler, he just needs to be seasoned,” Brands said of Cooper. “As long as he’s going forward, we’re good there. That’s going to be on him.”
Brands said the Hawkeyes plan to give freshman Burke Paddock his first career start at 165 pounds against Maryland. Senior Patrick Rhoads, who dropped a 17-5 major decision against two-time NCAA champ Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State, remains a contender for the starting job.
“We like both of our guys’ potential there, but we have to grow up maturity-wise with one guy and we have to grow up with consistency in the practice room with the other guy,” Brands said. “That’s how you get better, and everybody needs to. It’s not a shot at those guys. I need to grow up, too. We all need to get better every day.”