Analysis: Transfer Patricio Lugo fits Hawkeye plan for high-upside future lineup

Chris Cuellar
Hawk Central

Iowa’s coaching staff had front-row seats for what will probably go down as Patricio Lugo’s best win at Edinboro.

A low single-leg shot in overtime eventually turned in the deciding score against Iowa’s steady 149-pound star Brandon Sorensen, marking an upset in the otherwise uneventful NWCA National Duals Championship Series meeting last February.

With Tuesday’s transfer announcement, Lugo wants to be part of a bright Hawkeye future, and the two-time NCAA qualifier appears to fit perfectly into Iowa's plans.

Whether he waits a year behind Sorensen or moves to another weight class, the Florida native has flashed the kind of top-end potential Iowa is looking for in 2018 and beyond.

Pat Lugo, pictured at the 2016 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, announced his transfer from Edinboro to Iowa on July 4. Lugo is a two-time NCAA Championships qualifier at 149 pounds.

“No matter where I am, I’m going to be successful,” Lugo said last month at the UWW Junior World Team Trials in Lincoln, Neb. “I just want to put myself in the best position possible to be successful.”

Multiple sources have confirmed Lugo’s intent to transfer, and Lugo tweeted the announcement Tuesday. But his signing has not yet been finalized at Iowa. A report from indicated Lugo was not immediately granted a release from his scholarship at Edinboro, although he will likely use his redshirt year in 2017-18 anyway to avoid losing a season of eligibility. He was a sophomore for the Fighting Scots last season and has two years of eligibility remaining.

That timeline lines up just fine for Iowa. Sorensen, a three-time All-American coming off a third-place NCAA finish, is entering his senior season at 149. There are promising in-state options behind him, like Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont grad Jeren Glosser, or Southeast Polk alums Keegan Shaw and Aaron Meyer — but none have the pedigree or college experience of Lugo.

A short and strong grappler with freestyle accolades, Lugo went 32-9 as a freshman and 31-9 as a sophomore at Edinboro. He took on top competitors in both regular seasons before falling in high-scoring NCAA Championships matches.

Lugo’s younger brother, Ozzy, has also left the Fighting Scot roster, and Pat would have been one of seven NCAA qualifiers returning next season, but he has made it clear he wants to compete and perform at a higher level.

That’s how the Hawkeyes got involved and started hanging around Lugo at the Junior World Team Trials.

“The coaching staff is a big thing,” Lugo told TrackWrestling last month. “With them adding (Hawkeye Wrestling Club coach) Mark Perry, he’s a big reason why I’m leaning toward Iowa. And then the intensity they have in the room. That’s kind of my style — the way they wrestle, the way their coaches (are) in the corner when their guys are wrestling and how hyped up they are. That’s something I could see myself doing.”

The former Eastern Wrestling League freshman of the year topped Iowa State’s Kanen Storr and Penn State commit Brady Berge to win the freestyle challenge tournament at the Junior World Team Trials. He was swept by Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin in the finals, but Iowa’s staff got ample opportunity to see the competitor that took down Sorensen and easily swept the EWL tournament during the college season.

Iowa already has young talent penciled in at the weights above 149 for the foreseeable future. Michael Kemerer finished third at 157 as a redshirt freshman in March, and he’s expected to be followed in the lineup by Alex Marinelli (165) and Kaleb Young (174), who redshirted their first years on campus. Head coach Tom Brands has a spot to fill at 141, where senior Topher Carton was a one-year starter, but competition there should be fierce as former front-runner Vince Turk returns from injury.

Add those wrestlers in with the nationally renowned 2017 recruiting class, and Iowa expects to have ample firepower in 2019 and 2020, which is when Lugo may occupy Sorensen’s spot.

“Though he has yet to be an All-American, it is clear that coaches and members of the wrestling community believe he can be on the podium,” FloWrestling wrote after Lugo’s transfer Tuesday.

St. John transfers from Iowa to ISU

Middleweight Skyler St. John will leave Iowa after two seasons to follow his older brother Derek to Iowa State. The 21-year-old has a 10-5 career record and competed for the Hawkeyes at 157 pounds in their 2017 dual loss to Oklahoma State. Derek St. John became an assistant coach for the Cyclones in April and was a four-time All-American and 2013 NCAA champion with the Hawkeyes as a wrestler.