Lookahead: Hawkeyes should be viewed as legitimate contenders in 2019-20
Next season marks the 10th since the Iowa wrestling program’s last NCAA team championship. That year, 2009-10, the Hawkeyes scored 134 points and crowned eight All-Americans, including three champs, for what was then their third-straight national title.
The 2019-20 team could achieve similar heights — at least on paper.
Barring anything unforeseen, Iowa will likely boast a lineup with seven All-Americans next year. Of the other three, two have previously reached the bloodround, and the third is a wildly-talented freshman who sat in redshirt this past season.
It’s a salty lineup, to be sure, which will bring high expectations. The Hawkeyes may not be the official favorites — that’s Penn State’s role until it’s mathematically eliminated during those three days in March — but Iowa should be considered a legitimate contender next year.
It will take a lot to unseat the mighty Nittany Lions, but the window has arrived for Iowa to make a move. They last had this opportunity in 2015, but a young Ohio State team, anchored by a semifinal run by Kenny Courts, ripped it from the Hawkeyes’ grasp.
Because of Iowa’s success on the recruiting trail, more opportunities will present themselves in the future. But this nine year drought marks the longest the Hawkeyes have gone without an NCAA team title since they won their first in 1975.
Now is the time, in other words.
Here’s a breakdown of what Iowa’s lineup might look like in 2019-20:
Sam Stoll is the big loss for Iowa. The senior heavyweight qualified for three national tournaments and earned All-American honors in 2018. He won 65 matches during his Hawkeye career. A slew of injuries, and a certain gunshot mishap last summer, kept him from reaching his full potential.
Stoll is one of three Iowa seniors leaving the program. The others: Mitch Bowman, who filled in anywhere from 174 to 285 throughout his career and won two matches at the 2018 NCAA Championships; and Perez Perez, a backup lightweight from California.
But that’s it. Everybody else is returning.
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Eight of the 10 starters from this year’s postseason are back again in 2019-20.
That includes two-time national champion Spencer Lee (125), All-Americans Austin DeSanto (133), Pat Lugo (149), Kaleb Young (157), Alex Marinelli (165) and Jacob Warner (197), as well as Max Murin (141), who reached the bloodround, and Cash Wilcke (184), who went 2-2.
In total, that’s 75 points from this past season’s NCAA Championships, which is everything except Stoll’s two points. That doesn’t include the deduction following DeSanto’s win over Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak in the wrestlebacks (Iowa finished with 76 last week).
That’s a lot of points, and one primary reason for the high expectations entering 2019-20. That’s more returning points than every other team — yes, even more than Penn State, which has just 48 returning before the possible additions to Anthony Cassar (who scored 24 en route to an NCAA title at 285) and Shakur Rasheed (who scored 3.5 at 184) through medical redshirts.
Additionally, Paul Glynn, Vince Turk (who won three matches at the 2018 national tournament), Jeren Glosser, Jeremiah Moody (who beat Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis, the 165-pound NCAA champ, in freestyle), Myles Wilson, Keegan Shaw, Connor Corbin and Aaron Costello all return, too. They all served as backups most of the year, but got some run with the starters on occasion.
Michael Kemerer is not a “new” addition, per se, but he was on the shelf all season after opting for surgery in November. He should be a lock to get a sixth year as well, but he gives the Hawkeyes another All-American in the lineup — he twice finished on the podium at 157 pounds before making the jump to 174 ahead of this past season.
The other big addition: freshman heavyweight Tony Cassioppi. He was considered the No. 14 overall 2018 recruit by Flowrestling when he joined the program, and went 20-2 while redshirting this season with 14 pins, including 13 in the first period. He will likely follow Stoll as the starter and is expected to contribute immediately.
A couple things to keep in mind: Lee could, potentially, take an Olympic redshirt to try for the 2020 men’s freestyle team. And there’s also no guarantee that Kemerer will return to full form once back from injury. But their presence and performance as part of the Hawkeyes’ postseason roster is crucial to their team title hopes.
Kemerer and Cassioppi round out Iowa’s lineup — for those who want to see it written out in full: Lee, DeSanto, Murin, Lugo, Young, Marinelli, Kemerer, Wilcke, Warner, Cassioppi — but three others who redshirted this past season, Aaron Cashman, Jason Renteria and Nelson Brands, could also see time in spots next year.
Cashman, a past Cadet world-teamer, didn’t wrestle much this season, but looks like he’ll be Lee’s primary backup. Brands went 18-0 while competing at 165 pounds this past season, but will have to beat out Young, Marinelli and/or Kemerer to crack the starting lineup.
Renteria transferred in from Nebraska after qualifying for the 2018 NCAA tournament at 133 pounds as a true freshman. It’s unclear where his weight is, but he could be another factor at 133, 141 or even 149 next season.
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Iowa’s 2019 recruiting haul addresses both immediate needs as well as some long-term depth, despite being just a three-man class. Joining the program will be Abe Assad, Zach Glazier and Cobe Siebrecht, all of whom will likely redshirt next season.
Assad is the big one, a two-time Illinois state champ and a 2018 Cadet freestyle world bronze medalist. A product of Glenbard North High School, Assad projects at 184 pounds, and is considered the No. 13 overall prospect in the 2019 class, according to Flowrestling.
Glazier is a two-time Minnesota state champ who projects at both 184 and 197, depending on how he grows. A product of Albert Lea Area, Glazier is considered the No. 64 overall prospect in the 2019 class. He has had some national success, too, earning All-American honors at both the Cadet and UWW Cadet freestyle national championships.
Siebrecht is a name many Iowa natives will know. He was a three-time Class 1A state finalist and 2019 state champ at 138 pounds for Lisbon this past season. He went 188-28 during his high school career, is currently ranked No. 18 nationally at 138 by Flowrestling, and projects at 141/149.
Others may join the program via late commitments or even by transferring. We saw that last year, with Cashman committing late and then both DeSanto and Jason Renteria transferring in during the offseason.
But as it stands right now, this is an Iowa team that can compete for the top spot in Division I wrestling. The pieces are there. The rest is up to them.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.