Iowa's Michael Kemerer talks about the Hawkeyes and the 2019-20 season ahead. Hawk Central
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The 2019-20 season could be a very special one for the Iowa wrestling program.
Here are the facts: The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 2 in Trackwrestling’s Division I poll, trailing only Penn State. All 10 presumed starters are ranked in the top 12 at their respective weights, including seven in the top eight.
But here’s what’s also true: This year represents Iowa’s best chance at an NCAA team title since 2014-15. That year, the Hawkeyes stumbled in March and Ohio State seized the crown.
Iowa is now entering Year 10 since its last national team championship, the longest drought since the team won its first in 1975, under Gary Kurdelmeier. That fact has worn on head coach Tom Brands, who has still led the Hawkeyes to 11 NCAA team trophies in the last 13 years.
“We have the personnel,” Brands said at the team’s media day last week. “I know what I think of our guys, and I wouldn't trade our team for any other team. I love our guys.
“Our standards are high. Are we not supposed to be high standard? Yes, we are supposed to be high standard. We'll take on all comers.”
This year’s roster is perhaps Brands’ deepest, most-talented assembly of wrestlers since that 2010 team. Iowa currently has seven All-Americans, two more bloodround participants, as well as a handful of other credentialed, exciting wrestlers that could make up the 10 starters this year.
The following is a breakdown the Hawkeyes’ 2019-20 starting lineup. We’ll go weight-by-weight, listing the frontrunners, as well as who could push them. All rankings are from Track.
Frontrunner: Spencer Lee. Fun fact about Iowa’s wildly-talented lightweight — Lee has only won three tournaments in his collegiate career: the 2018 and 2019 national titles, and the 2017 UNI Open. Seriously. He’s currently ranked No. 1.
Others to watch: Lee is going to be wrestling a custom schedule this season as he pursues the 2020 Olympic Team, so expect to see redshirt freshman Aaron Cashman from time to time this season.
Frontrunner: Austin DeSanto. A returning All-American. DeSanto won 23 matches last year and established himself as one of the best 133-pounders in the country after transferring in from Drexel. He’s currently ranked No. 2, but …
Others to watch: This weight could be one to watch early, with the addition of Gavin Teasdale. Brands alluded to the fact that we could see Teasdale on Nov. 17, when Iowa opens its season against UT-Chattanooga.
“I mean, why not? Let's just put it out there,” Brands said, then later added: “We’re going to put our best team on the mat.”
Any number of things could happen here. DeSanto has a redshirt available, and Teasdale might also. There’s also the possibility of one sliding up to 141 pounds and challenging Max Murin. This will be something to monitor moving forward.
And let’s also not forget that senior Paul Glynn is also in the mix here.
Frontrunner: Max Murin. The sophomore made great strides by the end of last season. He ultimately went 17-9 and reached the NCAA quarterfinals and bloodround, just a win away from the podium. He’s currently ranked No. 9.
Others to watch: One of the 133-pounders could bump up here, but Carter Happel and Justin Stickley both have some starting experience, too.
Frontrunner: Pat Lugo. A returning All-American who, like DeSanto, transferred in. After a couple of years at Edinboro, Lugo came to Iowa, redshirted in 2017-18, then stepped into the lineup last year, went 23-9 and finished eighth at the national tournament. He’s currently ranked No. 4.
Others to watch: Quite a bit of depth behind Lugo. Jeren Glosser has shown some excellent growth over the last couple of years and could probably start at many other schools. Vince Turk, who won three matches at the 2018 NCAA Championships, has bumped up from 149 and could push Lugo, too.
Frontrunner: Kaleb Young. A returning All-American. After spending his redshirt freshman year as a backup at 165 and 174, Young dropped down to 157 and balled out — 24-7 and reached the NCAA semifinals before taking fifth. He’s currently ranked No. 2.
Others to watch: The logjam that was behind Young a year ago has seemingly cleared up some. Only redshirt freshman Joe Kelly is listed as the other 157-pounder, but Glosser and Jeremiah Moody, a past UWW Junior freestyle national champ, and even Zach Axmear could provide depth.
Frontrunner: Alex Marinelli. A two-time All-American. Marinelli owns a 46-8 career record, and five of his career losses have come at the NCAA Championships — thrice two years ago, twice last year. He’s currently ranked No. 6.
Others to watch: Some quality depth behind Marinelli, with the likes of Moody, Keegan Shaw and even Nelson Brands all listed at 165. Brands is the intriguing one, a redshirt freshman and the son of associate head coach Terry Brands. He could get some run at times this year.
Frontrunner: Michael Kemerer. A two-time All-American, although at 157 pounds. After sitting out last year due to an injury, the senior is back this year and currently ranked No. 2 nationally at 174. And while it’s assumed that he’ll land a sixth year thanks to a medical waiver, we’re going to refer to him as a senior until that becomes official (check back after the season).
Others to watch: Another weight where Nelson Brands could perhaps see time in spurts this season, but Shaw filled in here last year. So did Myles Wilson, until an injury put him on the shelf in the Iowa-Iowa State dual.
► 2019-20 SCHEDULE: Check out when the Hawkeyes compete this season
Frontrunner: Cash Wilcke. A three-time NCAA qualifier and two-time bloodround participant. Now a senior, Wilcke owns 63 career victories and his progression will be key if Iowa wants to bring home the team title come March. He’s ranked No. 10.
Others to watch: This is Wilcke’s spot, but a couple of true freshmen in Abe Assad and Zach Glazier are listed at 184, as well as Preston Stephenson, a junior from Utah.
Frontrunner: Jacob Warner. A returning All-American. Warner, a 2018 Junior world-teamer, grew up plenty last year, going 21-6 and placing seventh at the NCAA Championships. Expectations are only going to grow. The sophomore is currently ranked No. 5.
Others to watch: There’s some quality depth behind Warner. Connor Corbin is perhaps the primary backup. He finished seventh at the UWW Junior freestyle national championships last spring. There’s also Sam Cook, Steven Holloway and Cade Brownlee.
Frontrunner: Tony Cassioppi. A lot of excitement surrounding this guy. As a redshirt last year, Cassioppi went 20-2 with 14 pins. Then he dominated his way to a UWW Junior freestyle national title in the spring. His continued growth will be necessary, as Iowa views him as a big-time point-scorer. He’s currently ranked No. 11 nationally.
Others to watch: Behind Cassioppi, Aaron Costello, a Western Dubuque graduate, saw time in spots last season. He will push Cassioppi for the job, too.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
Your subscription makes work like this possible. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal