Head coach Tom Brands discusses what it takes to wrestle at Iowa and what it takes to coach.
Tony Cassioppi admitted the recruiting process was a bit of a whirlwind, one that included moments of uncertainty and stress as he sifted through collegiate options.
His final decision, though? He couldn’t be more certain.
Cassioppi, ranked as InterMat’s No. 3 heavyweight for the 2018 class, committed to Iowa late Tuesday night, adding another explosive July 4 addition to the Hawkeye program. After landing Edinboro transfer Patricio Lugo earlier in the day, Tom Brands and company bolstered their upper-weight arsenal with a solid out-of-state pluck.
Cassioppi, a folkstyle nationals and Illinois state champion, originally committed to Northwestern in October but admitted he pulled the trigger too early. He then de-committed and visited other colleges before selecting the Hawkeyes.
“I went to a U.S. Open camp in Iowa, and I just fell in love with Iowa,” Cassioppi told Hawk Central late Tuesday. “So I was at home there and just felt great there.
“It’s every kid’s dream to be a wrestler for Iowa. It’s the top of the sport, and I’m so excited to be a Hawkeye.”
Cassioppi said he was instantly drawn to Brands’ straightforward approach.
“He’s’ going to tell you how it is, and I like that,” Cassioppi said. “I like knowing where I’m at. I know if I go out there and have a bad match, he’s going to tell me what I did wrong and what I need to do to correct it. I just like the trust that I have in him and what a trustworthy guy he is.”
While the Hawkeyes have never had much trouble attracting lightweight standouts, landing highly touted upper-weight prospects hasn’t always been as seamleess. But Cassioppi’s addition, along with incoming freshmen Jacob Warner (projected at 197) and Aaron Costello (heavyweight), has given Iowa some solid muscle up top.
Sam Stoll, recovering from his second knee surgery with two years' eligibility remaining, is in the mix as well.
“There’s a great room of heavyweights,” Cassioppi said.
With his collegiate future now cemented, Cassioppi will look to build off a dominant junior season, which saw the Hononegah High School product go 48-0 en route to a 3A state title.
He’s more than ready for his Iowa City journey.
“(The recruiting process) was really stressful and just confusing at times — I didn’t really know what was happening — and that’s why I reconsidered the first verbal,” he said. “And now after seeing other colleges, I really know what’s going on.
“I feel a lot better.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.