3-time state champ leaves Hawkeye wrestling for Northern Iowa

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

After one year with the Iowa wrestling program, three-time state champion Jack Wagner is transferring to Northern Iowa.

Wagner told the Register on Tuesday that Iowa coach Tom Brands has given him a full release, and he can compete immediately for Doug Schwab and the Panthers.

Wagner, who starred at Bettendorf, has four years of eligibility remaining after going 17-7 unattached for the Hawkeyes at 133 pounds while redshirting. Wagner had three pins, eight technical falls and three major decisions among those 17 wins.

Jack Wagner celebrates his third straight Class 3-A championship for Bettendorf in February 2016. He finished 34-0 as a senior at 120 pounds, then wrestled one season at Iowa.

“During the recruiting process, I thought (Iowa) was a good move and a good choice,” Wagner said. “I still think that it was, I just don’t know if I was a fit there, or if they were a fit for me. I thought I’d explore new options and get the most out of my career.”

Wagner admitted he’s leaving behind a thin group of lightweights at Iowa, one that presented wrestling opportunity.

He likely would have been competing with fifth-year senior Phillip Laux for a lineup spot at 133 this winter.

“I think I would have been the guy, in my eyes,” Wagner said. “A lot of people think it’s a head-scratching move. But you’ve got to be happy to succeed. … So I wanted to get out of there.”

The Hawkeyes have phenom recruit Spencer Lee coming in at 125 pounds, but he’s recovering from knee surgery. That leaves Perez Perez as the leading option at that weight.

Meanwhile, Wagner should fit in nicely at 133 in Cedar Falls, with two-time NCAA qualifier Josh Alber expected to slide up to 141 pounds.

“I want to be there for my teammates, and I want them to be there for me,” Wagner said. “Talking to Schwab, that’s exactly how he is. That’s the biggest attraction from a UNI perspective. It was a perfect fit for me.”