Wrestling takeaways: Tom Brands says Kemerer and Warner are healthy but ‘day to day’

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — It will be at least another week before Michael Kemerer and Jacob Warner don the all-black Iowa singlet this season.

Iowa coach Tom Brands said Tuesday that Kemerer and Warner “are both healthy,” but that they’re taking it “day to day.” Neither is listed on the probable lineup released by Iowa ahead of Friday’s 7 p.m. home dual against Princeton.

“It’s just one of those things where it’s early in the year and you make the right decision,” Brands continued.

Iowa wrestling head coach Tom Brands speaks to reporters during Hawkeye wrestling media day on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

This isn’t the first time Brands has held his wrestlers back from competition, usually (though not always) for varying degrees of health issues.

He did so multiple times last season — Sam Stoll didn’t wrestle against Maryland in December, Kemerer missed a dual against Michigan in January and Steven Holloway didn’t go against Iowa State in February.

Even more, Brands has a recent history of easing guys back onto the mat after they return from injuries. It wasn’t until mid-December that Alex Marinelli finally made his Iowa debut last year, and Spencer Lee didn’t hit the mat until the UNI Open that same month.

“This time of the year, you’re more conservative than maybe being aggressive,” Brands said, though he didn’t disclose any specific injuries. “Just smart.”

 Brands wants his guys healthy for March, when they’ll be needed the most. If that means easing them into the season or taking the occasional break in the middle, that’s what he’ll do.

Although, when asked when he’d ideally like to see both Warner and Kemerer back, Brands said: “Today. I would like to see them today.”

At media day last week, Brands said Warner was taking time to ease into the folkstyle season after training for the Junior World Championships over the summer. When Kemerer spoke with the Register the same day, he didn’t give any indication that he was dealing with any nagging injuries.

“I’m excited for it,” Kemerer said about competing at 174 pounds this coming season. “I feel really athletic there and I feel really good. I’m looking forward to it.”

So we’ll continue to wait. Add Stoll to that list, too, as he wasn’t listed on the probable lineup, either. 

► More Iowa wrestling news

Hawkeyes flash depth

Because Kemerer, Warner and Stoll aren’t going, Brands has the opportunity to flash his team’s depth.

Last Friday, the Hawkeyes beat both Cal State Bakersfield and Kent State. Iowa won 19 of 20 contested matches, including six by guys who are presumed to be backups.

Myles Wilson filled in at 174 pounds and went 2-0 with a major decision. Mitch Bowman and Connor Corbin both got a match at 197, and both won by decision. Aaron Costello filled in at heavyweight, winning both by a combined 10-2 score.

 Those four scored 11 takedowns in six matches, and outscored their opponents by a combined 48-20. Brands liked what he saw overall.

“Anytime you put guys out on the mat, you expect them to perform,” Brands said. “You talk about the job you’re supposed to do, or the job that you’re preparing for. I think our guys did a good job, or did their job well, in stepping out on the mat, no matter who got the call, whether it was Costello or whoever.

“It’s something that I think a lot of programs talk about — we certainly talk about it — that you have to be ready to go. You’re a heartbeat away from the presidency. I think that showed up a little bit. We have to continue that, three deep, four deep.”

All four guys are listed on the probable lineup ahead of Friday — Wilson at 174, Bowman at 184, Corbin at 197, Costello at heavy. Additionally, Brands said another 16 guys will compete at the Lindenwood Open on Saturday, down in Saint Charles, Missouri. Six will wrestle attached.

“We have to keep getting better at all levels of our depth,” Brands said. “It just shows us that guys are making the most out of opportunities.”

Iowa's Tony Cassioppi and Aaron Costello (right) wrestle at 285 during the wrestle-offs on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Breaking down 1,000 dual victories

Iowa’s 36-3 win over Cal State Bakersfield was the program’s 1,000th dual victory. Only three other programs have done that: Oklahoma State, Iowa State and … wait for it … Oregon State.

(Yes, really.)

Brands talked on Tuesday of the importance of the milestone. He listed off the seven Hawkeye coaches who came before him from memory — “E.G. Schroeder, Pat Wright, (Mike) Howard, (David) McCuskey, (Gary) Kurdelmeier, (Dan) Gable, (Jim) Zalesky” — and how they all contributed to the feat.

Then he mentioned how impressive it is to get to 1,000 dual victories after a slow start. And, well, he’s got a point.

The Iowa wrestling program began in the 1910-11 season, under Schroeder. The Hawkeyes won their 100th dual during the 1950-51 season, under Howard.

Iowa hit 500 dual victories in 1986-87, under Gable, and then hit 581 after the 1990-91 season.

So after 100 dual victories in the first 40 years, the Hawkeyes racked up another 481 over the next 40.

Quite a remarkable step up in pace.

“These last 50 years, it’s really gone up,” Brands said. “We hired this guy from Iowa State Teachers College, McCuskey, and he started to take things up. And then Kurdelmeier came in and he had all these ideas, and then he hired this guy from Iowa State named Dan Gable.”

The current crop of Iowa wrestlers have known the program to be a winner — the Hawkeyes have won 320 duals (including the two this season) over the past two decades alone, good for 16 a year on average. In that span, they’ve won six NCAA team titles and another nine NCAA trophies.

Many took pride in being part of the team that secured the 1,000th dual victory.

“It’s awesome,” said Lee, Iowa’s starting 125-pounder. “Being able to be a part of a program that’s as prestigious as the University of Iowa, it’s an honor, especially being able to be part of a major milestone. It’s pretty cool.

“It shows you that, if you look back at Iowa wrestling, it’s always been a good program to come to and wrestle. It’s an honor to compete for the university.”

Spencer Lee stands for a portrait during Iowa wrestling media day Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.

Carver debuts for six Hawkeyes

Come Friday, the Hawkeyes will seek the program’s 1,002nd dual victory against Princeton, and as many as six wrestlers could be making their Carver-Hawkeye Arena debuts: Wilson, Corbin, Costello, but also Austin DeSanto (133), Max Murin (141) and Pat Lugo (149).

“I’ve been dreaming of this for the last like 10 years,” Murin said Tuesday. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. I’m excited. I just have to stay relaxed and focus on scoring points and having fun.”

Murin, Lugo, Wilson, Corbin and Costello all got a chance to see the the Carver crowd up-close a year ago while they redshirted. DeSanto, who transferred in from Drexel in the offseason, will experience it for the first time as a Hawkeye — he did see a version of the crowd at the UWW Freestyle World Cup in April.

“I’m excited,” DeSanto said. “My teammates and coaches, they keep telling me their experiences with it. It’s going to be cool. It’s going to be really cool.”

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.