Wrestling Mailbag: What's the deal with Iowa's lineup? Plus Cy-Hawk talk, high school thoughts and AWL picks

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

This whole Iowa lineup thing has a lot of people in a tizzy. 

For those who are late to the party, the Hawkeyes fielded a lineup against Purdue that featured five wrestlers that are considered backups. Iowa still rolled, 26-9, despite only two of the five backups winning. 

A lot of people are some combination of confused and upset and frustrated. I get it. You guys want to see Iowa’s best team every chance you get. If you’re going to buy a ticket to watch them live, you want to see Spencer Lee and Michael Kemerer wrestle, and when they don’t, you get irritated. 

Iowa's Perez Perez (right) looks up at the scoreboard after the second period while wrestling Purdue's Devin Shroder at 125 during a Big Ten Conference NCAA wrestling dual on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

And that irritation spikes when there aren’t clear-cut answers as to why they aren’t wrestling. I feel that too.

Here’s what I do know: Tom Brands is always going to do what’s best for his team. He wants his wrestlers healthy and ready for March. He used similar tactics a year ago — he was careful with Lee and Alex Marinelli, allowed Kemerer and Sam Stoll to sit out some duals, and when the NCAAs arrived in March, Iowa came in fresh, rolled up bonus points and finished third.

“We always do what’s best for the individual,” Brands said after the Purdue dual, “and that’s why we’re sitting some guys.”

It’s still November. The Division I wrestling season is a long grind that takes a wicked toll on the body. Then to do that for 4-5 years? It’s a wonder that anybody gets through all of that unscathed. 

All I’m trying to do here is add some context. I understand your frustration, but if the team is healthy and performs in March, you’ll forget the irregular lineup against Purdue in November. Heck, I’ll bet some of you forgot that Stoll sat against both Maryland and Ohio State while he was racking up pins in Cleveland. 

So, yeah. I get it. I really do. But now is not the time to panic. 

Now, then. Onto the wrestling mailbag. You guys sent in a lot of really good questions this week, which is great. Keep them coming each week. If the volume increases, I may not be able to get to all of them, but I will always try.

Please give me a follow on Twitter and I’ll keep you up to date on all things wrestling In Iowa. Thanks for your help here, and for reading.

My guess is they’ll get through the next couple of weeks with something similar to the lineup we saw last weekend. Iowa has Iowa State this weekend, Lehigh next, then about three weeks before the Midlands. That’s a lot of time for guys to get healthy.

My gut says we’ll see Lee against Iowa State, barring something unforeseen. Maybe even Jacob Warner, too. I’m unsure on Pat Lugo, Kemerer and Stoll. We may not see those guys until the Midlands or maybe after.

I’m meeting with coach Tom Brands later today, so maybe we’ll get a better idea of what’s what this afternoon.

This is intriguing, if only because it’s something I hadn’t really thought about. Took a little digging, but here’s what I found from last season.

Penn State: Corey Keener and Vincenzo Joseph both missed a dual early on, and Jason Nolf missed time in February after his knee injury against Rutgers. Otherwise, none of the big names missed any time.

Arizona State: A handful of wrestlers missed a handful of duals — Ryan Millhof missed a few, Tanner Hall missed a couple, Josh Shields missed one, and Josh Maruca and Jason Tsirtsis split time throughout the year. Zahid Valencia didn’t miss any.

Oklahoma State: Boo Lewallen missed time early, Chandler Rogers missed three duals, Jacobe Smith missed various time and Preston Weigel missed a few both early and late.

Ohio State: Nathan Tomasello didn’t go until January, Kyle Snyder missed six duals (although he was usually competing elsewhere), Joey McKenna missed a couple early, Bo Jordan missed a few, and both Te’Shan Campbell and Luke Pletcher both missed an occasional dual.

Cornell: Hard to tell, but the big names — Yianni Diakomihalis, Ben Darmstadt and Max Dean — didn’t miss many. Darmstadt wrestled in 14 of 15 duals and Jon Jay Chavez missed a few as well.

Michigan: Couldn’t find any concrete stats.

So, yeah. It may not be as weird as you think for guys to miss time here and there. I don’t know the exact reasons for all of those guys missing time, but I’ll bet more than a handful were injury related.

Welcome to the Cy-Hawk portion of the mailbag.

Iowa State last beat Iowa on Dec. 5, 2004. The Cyclones won 19-16 that day thanks to Trevor Smith’s major decision over Dane Pape at 197 and Grant Nakamura’s pin over Lucas Magnani at 125. 

Iowa has won every year since, a span that’s now 14 consecutive duals (they wrestled twice in 2009-10, in both the scheduled dual in December and in the national duals in January). Brands has never lost to Iowa State as coach, and the Dan Gable Traveling Trophy, invented in 2010, has yet to leave Iowa City.

I’m with you, Flaming Fireball. Until the Cyclones have more team points than Iowa at the conclusion of the dual, it’s hard to go against the Hawkeyes. They’ve been that dominant.

But this year’s dual is shaping up to be an interesting one.

If Iowa rolls out the same lineup this Saturday that it did against Purdue, I’d say the Hawkeyes have the advantage at 157, 165, 184 and the Cyclones have the advantage at 125, 149, 174, 197 and 285.

That leaves only 133 and 141 as toss-up matches. If Warner goes against Miklus, consider that one a toss-up. If Lee goes, that’s an Iowa pick with bonus points. If Lugo goes, 149 becomes a toss-up, too. 

There are a lot of possibilities on the table here that’ll make for an intriguing Saturday afternoon inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

This has to be the featured matchup, right?

Here are two dudes that are wildly talented and likely All-American contenders at perhaps the deepest weight in the country. DeSanto reached the blood round a year ago. Gomez made the Junior World Team this past summer. 

And here’s who they’re up against this season:

  • South Dakota State’s Seth Gross, returning NCAA Champion
  • Michigan’s Stevan Micic, returning NCAA finalist
  • Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, returning NCAA finalist (at 125)
  • NC State’s Tariq Wilson, returning All-American
  • Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher, returning All-American
  • Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak, returning All-American and past finalist (at 125)
  • Wyoming’s Montorie Bridges, returning All-American
  • Lehigh’s Scott Parker, returning All-American
  • Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix, Final X participant and age-level freestyle world champ

There are more still. The NCAA Championships can be a wild, crazy beast, full of ups and downs. The eight who ultimately make the podium in March ride that wave and wrestle their best at the right time. 

I think both DeSanto and Gomez can make the podium come March. I could also see them matching up in the blood round or even in the quarters. Or maybe not at all.

The one thing I know for sure is that it’ll take one heck of an effort to finish on the podium at this weight.

This is fun. Here’s what I came up with, in no particular order:

Ed Banach vs. Mike Mann — These two four-time All-Americans met four times, and Mann won three of them. Banach won three NCAA titles and ultimately won Olympic gold in 1984. Mann was a two-time NCAA runner-up, losing both finals matches by a combined one point (criteria decided some of those matches before overtime was implemented). They wrestled in the 1983 NCAA finals at 190 pounds. Banach won 4-3.

Chad Zaputil vs. Eric Akin — Neither of these guys won an NCAA title, somehow, but they always tangled in exciting matchups.

Mark Reiland vs. Steve Hamilton — This rivalry began back when these two were in fourth grade and carried all the way through college. Reiland finished as a two-time All-American and NCAA Champion. Hamilton never won a title, but finished as a four-time All-American.

A fourth! Terry Steiner vs. Torrae Jackson — These two went back and forth a lot. At the 1992 NCAA Championships, they wrestled twice. Jackson beat Steiner in overtime in the quarterfinals, then Steiner rebounded to beat Jackson by technical fall for fifth. 

If we’re talking purely Division I, you can look at guys like Iowa State’s Marcus Coleman, or Iowa’s Max Murin and Kaleb Young, or Northern Iowa’s Bryce Steiert. Easy pickings. Others will emerge, I’m sure.

But if we go outside of Division I, there’s so many more to choose from.

Like Upper Iowa’s Maleek Williams, the returning Division II national runner-up who’s currently ranked No. 1 at 125 pounds by Intermat.

Or, in Division III, Wartburg’s Brock Rathbun, the returning national champ at 133 who’s back ranked No. 1 again. Or Loras College’s Guy Patron Jr., a two-time All-American who’s ranked No. 1 at 197.

Or, at Grand View, Evan Hansen, a two-time NAIA national champ who’s again ranked No. 1 at 197. Hansen beat a handful of Division I guys over the summer at the U23 men’s freestyle national championships. 

Or, at the junior-college level, Iowa Lakes’ David Hollingsworth and Ellsworth’s Charles Griffin are both No. 1 at 157 and heavyweight, respectively, according to Intermat.

Or, hey, Waldorf’s Akina Yamada, who’s currently ranked No. 8 nationally at 130 in Intermat’s WCWA rankings. 

I could give you a host of others, too, but my editors have already read this far and have other things they need to do today so we’re going to stop there for now.

I think Cash Wilcke has looked great thus far. By my stat keeping, he’s outscored his four opponents 50-18 with 16 takedowns. He looks fast and confident. He’s getting to his offense. It’s been good to see.

He said this at media day earlier this month on being down at 184 and how it feels compared to being up at 197:

“I trust my offense a little more. I’m a little quicker and faster. I can get to my shots better. Things are opening up more. I can get to my shots before guys react. Clean finishes.”

So far, that’s exactly what we’ve seen. It’s still early, and he hasn’t really been tested — 184 is another deep weight — but it’s been encouraging to see him beat up on opponents he should beat up on. 

It is my understanding that Shane Sparks is used mostly in a sideline reporter/post-match interviewer role. Big Ten Network always goes for the Jim Gibbons-Tim Johnson combo when it comes to live broadcasts.

I wouldn’t mind Sparks behind the camera. The dude has great energy. And while Gibbons and Johnson know wrestling, I tend to roll my eyes and shake my head at some of the things they say sometimes.

Like, you know, calling Mitch Bowman Jacob Warner. They oughta know who’s who. But alas.

This week is the first competition week of the 2018-19 Iowa high school wrestling season, so, naturally, let’s talk state favorites.

I think PCM, Monroe is the early favorite in Class 2A. The Mustangs return five state qualifiers from last year, all of whom scored points. Lucas Roland won at 170 and is the unanimous No. 1 at 182. Wes Cummings is also ranked first at 160 (by the Predicament). Then there’s Jarron Trausch at 170, Landon Fenton at 113, Colby Tool at 145 and Payton Drake at 126.

That’s a real solid team, and those are just the guys who are currently ranked. I expect others to emerge throughout the year. But for now, it’s easy to pencil PCM in as the early favorite in a wide-open 2A.

I say wide-open because, well, it’s still November and other teams will no doubt emerge. Centerville returns three top-three finishers from last year. New Hampton and Ballard are always tough. Davenport Assumption, Union of LaPorte City and West Delaware will all have tough lineups, too.

Class 2A is always so much fun during the high school season and this year will be no different. Those three days in February are still a ways out, but I expect them to be a wild, crazy ride once we get there.

The American Wrestling League’s debut event is Friday in Cedar Rapids. There are a lot of great matchups on tap, including many that feature some former Hawkeye wrestlers and other past NCAA superstars.

I’ll be in Cedar Rapids covering the action. Here’s who I think will win the matchups:

  • 57 kilograms: Nico Megaludis over Frank Perrelli 
  • 61: Cory Clark over Tony Ramos
  • 65: Jordan Oliver over Zain Retherford
  • 70: James Green over Brandon Sorensen
  • 74: Richie Lewis over Tommy Gantt
  • 79: Alex Dieringer over Isaiah Martinez
  • 86: Sammy Brooks over Nick Heflin
  • 92: Mike Macchiavello over Deron Winn
  • 97: Kyven Gadson over Jacob Kasper
  • 125: Adam Coon over Don Bradley

So that’s seven wins for Team Taylor (Megaludis, Clark, Dieringer, Brooks, Macchiavello, Gadson, Coon) and three for Team Dake (Oliver, Green, Lewis). 

We’ll see what happens. Man, this event looks like fun. 

There’s a few things that I thought might happen that never did. 

I thought Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark would both win NCAA titles in 2017. They had been so good for so long, and I thought them going out on top would be a cool story. 

I thought Mike Evans would win a title in 2015. I told his story back when I wrote for The Daily Iowan — he was held out of the wrestling room during his freshman season, among other things — and I felt he had a good chance to go out on top and lead Iowa to a team title that year for a storybook ending to his career, but he couldn’t take down Matt Brown in the semifinals. 

This last one is more personal, but I thought and really hoped that Missouri’s Alan Waters would win a title his senior year in 2015. Iowa fans will remember Waters as the guy who went back and forth with Gilman at the national duals and NCAAs. But we went to the same high school and he beat up on me for the final five years that I wrestled and I was really pulling for him to win it throughout his career. I still pull for Park Hill kids that wrestle Division I like John Erneste and Canten Marriott (Mizzou), Ke-Shawn Hayes (Ohio State), Colston DiBlasi (George Mason) and others. 

Outside of that last one, I tend to root for stories. You’ll find that journalists do that sometimes. No cheering in the press box, but seeing cool stories unfold is always really, really awesome. That’s part of why I got into sports writing to begin with, to chronicle cool people doing cool things. It’s inspiring. That’s what made Tariq Wilson and Kyle Conel so fun to watch at the NCAA Championships last year. 

I tend to go for the original, but the pretzel M&M’s have grown on me a little bit. They’re underrated.

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