Iowa's Spencer Lee reacts after winning his second straight national title. Hawk Central
The future of the Iowa wrestling program got a whole lot more exciting Sunday.
Ryan Sokol, a Minnesota standout and Hawkeye commit, won the Cadet freestyle world team trials Sunday morning. He went 7-0 to win the world team spot at 65 kilograms (143 pounds), and will compete at the Cadet freestyle world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, next month.
Competing inside the Louis and Freda Stile Athletic Field House in Akron, Ohio, Sokol steamrolled the field, winning three matches by technical fall and two more by pin. He outscored his seven opponents by a combined 65-18. In the finals, against Ohio prep Derek Fields, Sokol swept the best-of-three series, winning the first 11-6, and the second by fall after trailing 6-0.
Sokol became Iowa’s first 2021 commitment last October. His résumé was already impressive going into the weekend. He was a two-time Minnesota state medalist as a middle schooler, won a Cadet freestyle national title in 2017, and, this past season, won his first state championship at 132 pounds for Simley Senior High School.
Flowrestling considers Sokol the No. 16 overall wrestler in the 2021 class and the No. 14-ranked wrestler nationally at 132 pounds. Both rankings are certain to fluctuate after this weekend’s results. En route to first, Sokol defeated Ohio prep Bryce Hepner, ranked No. 14 nationally at 145; and won by technical fall over Texas prep Chase Warden, ranked No. 18 at 145.
Sokol will now take his talents to the international stage in late July. The immediate and long-term future of the Iowa wrestling program is already promising. Sokol’s success only makes it that much brighter.
Ybarra falls in best-of-three finals
A second Iowa commit, Jesse Ybarra, nearly joined Sokol on the Cadet world team.
Ybarra, a rising-senior at Sunnyside High School in Arizona, reached the best-of-three finals of the Cadet world team trials at 55 kilos (121 pounds). He ultimately fell short, dropping straight matches to Penn State recruit and New Jersey standout Robert Howard by scores of 6-0 and 5-2.
Still, Ybarra impressed during his run to the finals, defeating Florida prep Nic Bouzakis, the No. 1-ranked 126-pounder by Flo; Oregon prep Chance Lamer, a past Cadet world-teamer; and Oklahoma State recruit Jakason Burks, a past Cadet Greco-Roman world-teamer and the No. 3-ranked 120-pounder. (Howard is ranked No. 1 at 120.)
Ybarra entered the weekend ranked No. 11 at 120. He will likely be considered among the best in the 2020 class when new rankings are released.
Iowa preps among UWW Cadet All-Americans
- Fort Dodge sophomore Drake Ayala reached the semifinals at 51 kilos (112 pounds). He went 4-2 to finish fourth. He lost to Oklahoma prep Jordan Williams, 6-4, in the semifinals. Williams nearly made the world team, losing two matches to one in the best-of-three finals.
Ayala’s big win came against California prep Joey Cruz, who's ranked No. 1 at 113 pounds. He trailed 6-0 in the first period, then stormed back with nine unanswered points to win 9-6 in the quarterfinals. Cruz eventually got Ayala, a 2019 state champ, back in the third-place match.
- Ankeny sophomore Caleb Rathjen also finished fourth, going 6-2 at 60 kilos (132 pounds). He opened his tournament with a 12-2 technical fall win over New Jersey prep Shayne Van Ness, currently the No. 2-ranked 132-pounder in the country. He followed with a 6-6 criteria win over Ramon Ramos, who’s No. 18 at 126 pounds (Rathjen is No. 7 nationally at 126).
Rathjen, a 2019 state champ, stormed into the quarterfinals before losing to Indiana prep Jesse Mendez, who ran the gauntlet and ultimately made the world team.
- Iowa City West freshman Hunter Garvin finished third in the Greco-Roman competition. He went 4-1 to reach the semifinals. In his four wins, the 2019 state finalist outscored his competition 36-7 and recorded two technical falls and one pin. He lost to Nebraska prep Conor Knopnick in the semifinals. Knopnick ultimately went on to make the world team.
- Underwood freshman Nick Hamilton also made the podium in the Greco tournament, going 6-3. The 2019 state finalist actually dropped his first match, then won six straight matches in the wrestlebacks, outscoring his opponents 46-5 along the way.
Notable results from the U23 competition
- Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi finished fourth at 125 kilograms (275 pounds) in men’s freestyle. The freshman went 6-1, losing to Fresno State’s AJ Nevills, 4-0, in the quarterfinals, but he rebounded and actually beat Maryland All-American Youssif Hemida, 13-2, in the third-place bout.
- A pair of former Iowa high school standouts both made the podium in men’s freestyle. Zach Price of Johnston, now at South Dakota State, went 4-3 and took eighth at 61 kilos (132). He beat Campbell’s Noah Gonser along the way.Max Lyon of Western Dubuque, now at Purdue, went 7-2 and took seventh at 86 kilos (189), which included a win over Iowa’s Myles Wilson.
- A trio of former Iowa State wrestlers all made the podium in the U23 freestyle competition. Danny Vega, now at South Dakota State, went 5-2 and reached the best-of-three finals at 57 kilos (125), but lost to Stanford’s Gabriel Townsell, two matches to one, in the final. Kanen Storr, now at Michigan, went 5-2 and took fifth at 65 kilos (143). Colston DiBlasi, now at George Mason, went 5-3 and took eighth at 70 kilos (154).
- Two more former Iowa preps earned All-American honors in the U23 Greco-Roman competition. Kaleb Reeves, a Sigourney grad now at Coe College, finished fourth at 130 kilos (285). Drew West, a state champ for Highland and Solon now at Northern Illinois, took fifth at 55 kilos (121).
- A couple of Loras College wrestlers also finished on the podium in the Greco competition. Eddie Smith took fourth at 77 kilos (170). Brady Vogel finished fifth at 82 kilos (180).
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.