"We got the pants beat off us in the past," the Hawkeye wrestling coach said at the team's media day. Hawk Central
IOWA CITY, Ia. — A mix of returning firepower and new faces will join the Iowa wrestling lineup for the 2018-19 season.
As many as five newcomers will join four returning All-Americans to combine for an Iowa team with the goal of returning to the top of Division I wrestling.
“We’re excited about what’s going on,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said Monday. “I tell you what, it's a blast in that wrestling room, a lot of fun. These guys are solid in a lot more ways than just being great wrestlers.”
The following is an attempt to break down the Hawkeyes’ 2018-19 starting lineup. We’ll go weight-by-weight and discuss who’s the front-runner to start, and who else could contend for starting time as the season progresses.
Front-runner: Spencer Lee, sophomore
Analysis: Lee, the returning NCAA champion, figures to be the favorite to repeat at 125 again this season. He might contend for the Hodge Trophy — college wrestling’s version of the Heisman — since he'll go the whole year. Senior Perez Perez will be the primary backup, while true freshman Aaron Cashman redshirts.
Front-runner: Austin DeSanto, sophomore
Analysis: One of the new faces. DeSanto transferred in from Drexel and can make an immediate impact. He won 30 matches and reached the NCAA quarterfinals last year, coming one win shy of All-American status. Paul Glynn, last year’s postseason starter at 133, will back up DeSanto, and Jason Renteria, who transferred in from Nebraska, is expected to take a redshirt.
Front-runner: Max Murin, redshirt freshman
Analysis: Another new face. Murin leads arguably Iowa’s deepest weight. He beat out Vince Turk and Carter Happel, who both started at times last season, in last week’s wrestle-offs. Any of those three is capable of starting and potentially scoring crucial NCAA points.
“It remains to be seen how strong it is,” Brands said. “The depth is certainly there. Happel and Turk competing for that spot last year tooth and nail, then this year Murin winning that spot. Murin has five wins against those guys now dating back to last year.
“We talked about wrestling Murin as a freshman last year. Then he had an injury. We like the depth there. We like our new face, Max Murin. That's not a done deal. That's up to Murin to go out and compete hard.”
Front-runner: Pat Lugo, redshirt junior
Analysis: Lugo transferred in a little more than a year ago and took his redshirt while Brandon Sorensen finished out his stellar Iowa career. A two-time NCAA qualifier at Edinboro, Lugo could contend at a wide-open weight. Redshirt freshman Zach Axmear will back him up.
Pat Lugo took a redshirt last season, but is ready to contribute as a starter for Iowa this year. Hawk Central
Front-runner: Kaleb Young, sophomore
Analysis: Yet another weight where the depth shines. The sophomore from Pennsylvania came down after wrestling at both 165 and 174 last season and won the wrestle-offs, but Jeren Glosser and Jeremiah Moody may have a say throughout the year if he doesn’t produce. It’s a heck of a thing when a Pan-American freestyle gold medalist is the third guy on the ladder.
“Another new face,” Brands said. “When I say ‘new face,’ he's down a weight. He had some time in the lineup last year. We need more of a seven-minute match out of him, probably. That's the knock. Blow those matches open by wrestling hard for seven minutes.
“If he does that, then he's going to have a successful career.”
Front-runner: Alex Marinelli, sophomore
Analysis: Marinelli is a returning All-American and will contend at this weight again this season. He went 19-6 during his redshirt freshman campaign, which included an appearance in the national semifinals, and he finished sixth at the NCAA tournament. Some guys, maybe Moody, may come up from that logjam at 157 to back up Marinelli. True freshman Nelson Brands will redshirt.
Front-runner: Michael Kemerer, junior
Analysis: A two-time All-American at 157, Kemerer is now up two weights for his junior season. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the transition from competing as a true middleweight. Expect him to contend for All-American honors again this season, while Myles Wilson and Tristan McDonald provide depth behind him.
Iowa's Michael Kemerer, a two-time All-American at 157 pounds, talks about growing into 174 this offseason. Hawk Central
Front-runner: Cash Wilcke, junior
Analysis: Wilcke is down at 184 this season. He spent the past two years at 197, where he twice qualified for the NCAA Championships and twice was a win shy of earning All-American honors. The OABCIG grad looked good during the wrestle-offs, beating out Mitch Bowman 9-5, thanks to a handful of takedowns. Bowman was last year's starter at 184, and he won a couple of matches at the NCAA Championships.
“This is not just a guy where automatically he should have won that match,” Brands said. “Mitch Bowman is game. What we saw in the wrestle-off is a situation where there is depth. (Wilcke) won a match Friday in a lopsided fashion against a guy who I think very highly of.”
Front-runner: Jacob Warner, redshirt freshman
Analysis: Warner came to the program alongside Lee as yet another highly-touted recruit. He made waves last season when he beat Willie Miklus, a three-time NCAA All-American at Missouri who has since transferred to Iowa State, and made a semifinal run at the Midlands. He also made the Junior World Team this summer and can be an immediate impact contributor. Connor Corbin may be the primary backup.
Front-runner: Sam Stoll, senior
Analysis: Stoll is the highest-returning NCAA place-winner at heavyweight and is ranked No. 1 by many national polls. He’ll sit early on because of his gunshot mishap this summer, but he will be a contender for a national title at a weightconsidered open for the taking. Aaron Costello will be the primary backup, while true freshman Tony Cassioppi redshirts.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.