Wrestling mailbag: Thoughts on Mitch Bowman, the Midlands, Jason Renteria and pizza

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

Mitch Bowman is officially on his way down to 174 pounds, and because of it, the rest of Iowa’s wrestling season just got a lot more interesting.

Having Bowman at 174 pounds does a few things. First off, it fills a hole. Junior Michael Kemerer, a two-time All-American at 157, grew into the weight over the summer, but an injury ended his season. Redshirt freshman Myles Wilson joined him on the shelf after a freak injury in the Iowa State dual.

The only other 174-pounder on the roster is Tristan McDonald, but he wrestled off at 165 last month. Nelson Brands promptly beat him 28-12. For Saturday’s dual against Lehigh, Jeremiah Moody, who’s wrestled 157 this season, took the mat and gave up five takedowns in a 12-3 defeat.

So Bowman is a decided upgrade, at least on paper, but outside of that, there’s a lot of unknown surrounding this move.

Iowa's Mitch Bowman is seen during a match at 197 during a Big Ten Conference NCAA wrestling dual on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Bowman hasn’t been down at 174 since his redshirt freshman year, 2015-16. He went 10-5 that year against not-the-toughest competition. Every year after, he’s been up at 184 while also filling in at 197 when needed and even once at heavyweight. His career record is 30-21 in four years.

Bowman has improved a lot since that first year. He owns a handful of wins over ranked opponents, including, most recently, a 7-5 win over Purdue’s Christian Brunner, who’s currently 14th at 197 pounds by Trackwrestling and was a U23 World Team member. He scored a major and a technical fall at last year’s NCAA Championships at 184, which contributed to Iowa’s third-place finish.

This is part of what makes the upcoming Midlands Championships so intriguing. Iowa coach Tom Brands said that Bowman will indeed be down at 174 for the annual midseason tournament. And based on the competition, there’s a chance we’ll know right away how this all works out.

As many as eight wrestlers currently ranked by Trackwrestling are expected to be in the field at 174 pounds, including Arizona State’s top-ranked Zahid Valencia, No. 8 Taylor Lujan of Northern Iowa, No. 12 Johnny Sebastian of Northwestern, No. 14 Ryan Christensen of Wisconsin and No. 15 Seldon Wright of Old Dominion.

We’ll see whether Bowman still has the same juice down at 174 as he did at 184 and 197. That he’s down there at all at least plugs the hole, but if he can show productivity, wrestle at a similar pace and score points against that level of competition, Iowa might really have something.

Now, then. Onto the wrestling mailbag. Iowa’s off until the Midlands, but both Iowa State and Northern Iowa have home duals this weekend: The Cyclones host Ohio and the Panthers take on Cornell.

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.

Blain kupka coming in hot!

I think Alex Marinelli has a great shot at it this year. He’s looked really good so far this season, but against lower-tier competition. At the Midlands, he could see guys like Arizona State’s Josh Shields, Northern Iowa’s Bryce Steiert and Brown’s Jonathan Viruet, who are all ranked in the top 16 by Track.

I also think, if there’s ever a year to beat Minnesota’s Gable Steveson, it’s this year, which means Sam Stoll could potentially cap his career as a national champ. But others, like Penn State’s Anthony Cassar or Oregon State’s Amar Dhesi, might have a say.

Those are the two that come to mind. If they don’t do it this year, we can throw Michael Kemerer into that mix next season. 

As for the second part of your question … I think Iowa will be better positioned to truly contend for first over the next two seasons than it has since 2014-15. You’re looking at a potential lineup of Lee, Austin DeSanto, Max Murin, Pat Lugo, Kaleb Young, Marinelli, Kemerer, Cash Wilcke, Jacob Warner and Anthony Cassioppi.

Everybody but Cassioppi will have at least one year under their belts, but this also depends on what kind of teams Penn State, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, among others, throw out there. But that’s definitely a team that can contend.

Iowa's Alex Marinelli, right, wrestles Lehigh's Trey Cornish at 165 during a NCAA wrestling dual on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

I’ll say five: Lee, DeSanto, Marinelli, Warner and Stoll. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see guys like Murin, Young and Wilcke make runs. It’s a tough field this year, so we should actually learn a lot about everybody, especially about Bowman and Lugo and a bunch of the backups/redshirts.

Which leads us to …

This, of course, is the most intriguing question.

We won’t know for sure until next week, but my guess is the starters — that’s Lee, DeSanto, Murin, Lugo, Young, Marinelli, Bowman, Wilcke, Warner, Stoll — plus a handful of backups, like Paul Glynn, Vince Turk, Carter Happel, Jeren Glosser, Moody, and Aaron Costello. I might be missing a few there.

In terms of redshirts, I expect to see plenty of them — Cassioppi, Nelson Brands and Aaron Cashman, for sure. Maybe even Joe Kelly. Iowa has routinely used the Midlands as a proving ground for the redshirts, so it’ll be fun to see how those guys compete.

I’m sure I’m missing a few names, but those are the ones I’ll be looking forward to seeing.

 RELATED: Tony Cassioppi continues pinning ways at UNI Open

So Marinelli is now 6-0 this year. In those six matches, he’s scored 74 total match points and 27 takedowns. He’s won all six in bonus-point fashion — three pins, two majors and a technical fall.

But, yes, it hasn’t been against the toughest competition. But you want to see your title contender middleweight beat up on guys like that, and Marinelli’s done that.

Internally, I know Iowa loves Marinelli. He’s the leader, both vocally and through example. They think he can absolutely win a national title this year. His win over Vincenzo Joseph last year was huge, but they haven’t wrestled since. It would be nice to see them match up again — Joseph was beating Marinelli before Marinelli took him feet to back for six points in that dual.

I agree that 165 is tough. There’s Joseph, obviously, the two-time defending champ, but also Wisconsin’s Evan Wick, who beat Marinelli by a 16-3 major decision at the national tournament, Lock Haven’s Chance Marsteller, Shields, Nebraska’s Isaiah White and Virginia Tech’s Mehki Lewis, who beat Marinelli in freestyle and won a Junior world title this summer.

So, yeah. Stacked field. It remains to be seen since he hasn’t wrestled hardly any of those guys, but I’d say Marinelli is up near the top of that list. We’ll learn more at the Midlands and in the second half of the season.

► MORE MARINELLI: On the sophomore's emerging leadership for Iowa this season

It’s my understanding that he’s fine. Before Steven Holloway took the mat against Lehigh, Warner was down by the tunnel in the northeast corner of Carver-Hawkeye Arena warming up for his match. It looked like he planned on going until Brands decided otherwise.

But yes, I think that’s a fair assessment, that Brands is managing these guys’ injuries in a way so they’re ready for the bigger, more important competitions. He did the same last year with Stoll, who missed a handful of duals and then went on a pinning tear at the NCAA Championships.

Brands has done this in the past, too. The year Cory Clark won, he missed many duals throughout the season, and then muscled his way to a title in March. Kemerer even got time off at times last season, and he scored ultimately some crucial points at the national tournament.

If Iowa and Lehigh had been close, I’m sure Warner would’ve taken the mat. But the dual was technically out of reach after Marinelli’s technical fall at 165 pounds.

Iowa's Jacob Warner celebrates after scoring a decision over Iowa State's Willie Miklus at 197 during a NCAA Cy-Hawk series wrestling dual on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Jason Renteria is taking a redshirt this season, obviously, and I’m pretty sure it’s so that he can acclimate to more than just wrestling.

I keep coming back to this Omaha World-Herald article from last January, written after Renteria, then at Nebraska, beat Northwestern’s Cameron Valdiviez and Rutgers’ Scott Delvecchio, both ranked at the time, in the same weekend.

Here’s what Nebraska coach Mark Manning said then:

“We knew Jay Renteria had it in him, it was a matter of discipline, getting him down to weight.”

Those 19 words are revealing. Renteria ultimately missed weight at the NCAA Championships last March. He hasn’t really competed since. I’ve seen him around the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex and at home duals this season.

But that quote from Manning leads me to believe they’re working with him on more than just wrestling. Wrestling Division I is a tall order, and requires one heck of a lifestyle commitment. Very few can divert from that and find success.

Perhaps Iowa is working with him on that “matter of discipline,” whatever it may be. Perhaps there’s more. I’ve asked before and gotten nowhere. Maybe we’ll see him at the Midlands. Maybe we’ll see him at the Flash Flanagan Open. There are a couple of other tournaments on the schedule he could attend.

As for when we’ll see him, your guess is as good as mine.

► RELATED: A closer look at what Iowa is getting in Jason Renteria

From @Tork76: Mailbag question: Has the 2% chance Carr’s redshirt gets pulled this year grown any?

My guess is no, it hasn't. At least not yet.

David Carr's been solid this season. He's 18-1 and has won titles at the Grand View Open, Lindenwood Open and UNI Open. Of his 18 wins, he's scored bonus points in 10 of them — 6 majors, 2 techs and 2 pins. He's beat some good dudes, but he hasn't really faced anybody that's great yet.

He'll get that chance here in about a month.

Iowa State will be at the Southern Scuffle come Jan. 1-2. The Scuffle, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been considered one of the toughest midseason tournaments in the country. This year is no different, as teams like Penn State, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State, among others, will be in attendance.

This will be a great opportunity for the Cyclones as a whole, to see how they stack up in a tournament setting, but also for Carr.

No offense to the UNI Open, but the Scuffle will have much tougher competition. All four of the aforementioned teams all have a 157-pounder ranked in the top 25 nationally by Trackwrestling. That includes Penn State's Jason Nolf, the two-time defending NCAA Champion, as well as N.C. State's Hayden Hidlay, the returning national finalist.

There's no guarantee Carr will see those guys, but there is a chance if he continues to wrestle well. Perhaps a strong showing in Chattanooga will increase the odds that he comes out of redshirt this season — I mean, Spencer Lee didn't come out of redshirt until after the Midlands last year, after all.

Iowa State has a really solid team this season, and it stands to be even better next year with more experience. Coach Kevin Dresser wants Carr for as long as he can, which likely means redshirting him now. But we'll see what happens at the Scuffle.

Limiting this to one thing is tough. There’s some little things I would do — like better display who was wrestling on each mat or show what matches were upcoming on each mat.

There are some bigger things, too, like trying to find a better solution for the TV broadcast, or adjusting certain rules to make the on-the-mat product better, or trying to recruit more officials.

But, honestly, if I could only change one thing, I’d change the current seeding rules. I’d change it so that only four wrestlers in each weight were seeded, not eight. And, yes, I say that without having seen how seeding eight wrestlers will ultimately look this year.

I just think eight is too many. That’s half the bracket. I was a big fan of the random draws because it put butts in seats all weekend at Wells Fargo Arena. The best kids are going to have to beat the best kids anyway, so why does it matter if those matchups occur in the first round or the finals?

But I understand the need to draw in the casual sports fan. The wrestling die-hards will come back year after year. If wrestling is going to grow, it needs to target the non-wrestling fans and bring them in and get them hooked.

Maybe that means seeding the tournament. I think I would only do four. You separate those guys so they could potentially meet in the semifinals, and everybody else gets drawn in at random. That way, you could still have the occasional exciting first-round matchup, like if the No. 3-seeded wrestler draws the guy who’s ranked fifth.

Maybe my priorities are a tad backwards, but I just think eight is too many. There will still be exciting matches and now, with the seeds, actual upsets. The state tournament’s opening day will still be a lot of fun.

But I hope just seeding the top four is something the Iowa High School Athletic Association looks at in the future. I think that’s the way to do it. If we have to sit through a couple of years where the top eight are seeded before we get there, so be it. But that’s what I would change.

► HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: State tournament to be seeded, beginning in 2018-19

Very intrigued by this dual. Using the Predicament’s rankings, we could see five matchups between ranked wrestlers. 

Specifically, I’m very intrigued by the potential matchups at 120, between Waukee’s Nick Miller and Southeast Polk’s Joel Jesuroga, and at 138, between Waukee’s Cody Anderson and Southeast Polk’s Nathan Marchand.

There’s also the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we could see Cade DeVos, SEP’s No. 1-ranked 160-pounder, bump up to wrestle Anthony Zach, Waukee’s top-ranked 170-pounder. I don’t know if it’ll happen, but that would be a lot of fun.

I’ve been real impressed with Waukee so far this season. Two weeks ago, the Warriors took a really, really good Park Hill team to the wire down in Kansas City. This past weekend, they took second at the Council Bluffs Wrestling Classic, which has grown into one of the toughest tournaments in the Midwest.

But Southeast Polk is still Southeast Polk. This is one of the deepest teams they’ve had in a while, and they’re wildly talented in all directions. 

I’m excited for this dual. It’s at Waukee, and varsity is scheduled to go at 7:30 p.m. I’ll be there watching. You should be, too.

► Prep wrestling takeaways: Waukee impressed in Council Bluffs, more from Week 2

So I’m like the worst pizza person. I’m originally from Kansas City, where barbecue is king. So when it comes to pizza, I’m pretty simple — deep dish pepperoni. (My mouth is already watering at the thought of Giordano’s coming to West Des Moines.)

But if deep dish isn’t available, I’m a big fan of barbecue chicken pizza with some mozzarella cheese on thin crust. With the right sauce (see: Gate’s or Cowtown or Joe’s KC), that’s the good stuff right there.

Now, the tough part. Which Iowa wrestler could eat a deep dish pizza the fastest? The easy answer here is probably the heavyweights, right? Stoll and Cassioppi?

My bet is on Stoll only because Cassioppi is originally from Illinois, so the idea of deep dish pizza is probably more exciting to Stoll, so he would probably eat it faster, if that makes sense.

Then again, I talked with Kemerer at media day, and we talked about his diet and growing into 174. He said he just kind of ate what he wanted. I would bet he’d push both of those dudes in a pizza-eating contest.

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