Graceland's Brennan Swafford, a two-time NAIA wrestling champ, announces transfer to Iowa

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

Brennan Swafford has spent the last two seasons dominating NAIA wrestling, but is now taking his talents to the NCAA Division I level.

Swafford, a two-time national champion for NAIA's Graceland, announced his plans to transfer and join the Iowa wrestling program. He joins the Hawkeyes after spending the last three seasons at Graceland.

"I just want to start by saying that I’m extremely grateful for all of the great things Graceland has done for me," Swafford wrote in a tweet on Wednesday, announcing his decision. "The support from my coaches and professors has been awesome.

"With that being said I would like to announce that I will be continuing my journey at Iowa. Go Hawks!"

The Mediapolis native compiled a 76-13 career record for the Yellowjackets. Swafford went 25-9 as a freshman and finished seventh at the 2019 NAIA national championships at 165 pounds. He then went 29-4 and won an NAIA title in 2020, then bumped up to 174 and went 22-0 and won another national title this past season.

Prior to his career at Graceland, Swafford was a standout high school wrestler, going 194-22 overall at Mediapolis from 2014-18. He was a four-time state medalist between Class 1A and 2A and twice made the state finals in Class 1A.


Swafford will join the defending NCAA Division I national champions. Iowa went 5-0 in duals this past season and won both the Big Ten and NCAA team titles, which came after the Hawkeyes went 13-0 and won the Big Ten tournament title last season before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Championships.

The Hawkeyes return everybody from a team that totaled 129 team points at the 2021 national tournament, which was 15.5 ahead of second-place Penn State (113.5). Those two teams figure to be the top team contenders throughout the 2021-22 season.

Graceland University junior Brennan Swafford, a Mediapolis High School graduate, celebrates after winning the 174-pound national championship Saturday at the NAIA Championships at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas.

Iowa's lineup will be expected to have two-time All-American Alex Marinelli at 165 pounds and three-time All-American Michael Kemerer at 174. Abe Assad and Nelson Brands will likely battle again for the starting spot at 184 pounds. Both are past NCAA qualifiers and top-four finishers at the Big Ten Championships.

Swafford's addition will bolster Iowa's depth at those weights, and he could see time if Iowa head coach Tom Brands opts to give any of his starters more rest, which is something he's done previously. 

Making the jump from NAIA to NCAA's Division I level is rare, but not unheard of. One of the most recent examples is heavyweight Demetrius Thomas. He won an NAIA title in 2017 and reached the finals in 2018 for William Baptist, then transferred to Pittsburgh and won two ACC titles and twice qualified for the NCAA Championships, in 2019-20.

Swafford will join the Iowa program along with five others who signed as part of the 2021 recruiting class: Fort Dodge star Drake Ayala; Ankeny standout Caleb Rathjen; Pennsylvania state champ Wyatt Henson; Colorado state champ Cam Lucero; and Arizona state champ Sebastian Robles.

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