Wrestling: Hawkeye program's depth, future on display through spring competitions

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

Two Hawkeye wrestlers are taking their talents to the world stage later this year.

Myles Wilson and Tony Cassioppi both won titles at the U23 men’s freestyle national championships over the weekend at Nebraska’s Bob Devaney Sports Center. Wilson won at 86 kilograms (189 pounds) while Cassioppi won at 125 kilos (275).

Wilson went 6-1 overall, outscoring his first four opponents 44-7 then defeating Cornell star Chris Foca, two matches to one, in the best-of-three finals. Cassioppi carved an identical path, going 6-1 with his first four wins by a combined 45-0 before defeating Northwestern’s Lucas Davison, two matches to one, in the championship series.

As such, Wilson, a junior, and Cassioppi, a sophomore, will represent the United States at the U23 men’s freestyle world championships in Serbia in November. Only one other school had multiple members on the U23 freestyle world team (Nebraska, also two).

Iowa's Tony Cassioppi, right, celebrates with Iowa head coach Tom Brands after scoring a fall at 285 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual against the Illinois Fighting Illini, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

But even more, their accomplishments are two more sterling highlights in what’s been a strong spring season for the Iowa wrestling program, during which both the Hawkeyes’ depth and future has taken center stage.

Behind Wilson and Cassioppi, three other Hawkeyes earned top-six finishes at the U23 freestyle national tournament: Patrick Kennedy took third at 79 kilos (174); Cullan Schriever took fourth at 61 kilos (134); and Aaron Costello took sixth at 125 kilos.

More:Former Northern Iowa wrestler Drew Bennett announces plans to transfer to Iowa wrestling program

Kennedy, the ballyhooed true freshman from Minnesota, ultimately went 5-1 overall, losing only to Drexel’s Michael O’Malley in the semifinals. Outside of that 14-6 setback, Kennedy outscored his other five opponents by a combined 51-0, punctuated by an 11-0 technical fall win over Indiana’s Donnell Washington, a Junior world team member.

Schriever, another talented freshman out of Mason City, went 5-2, losing only to Indiana high school star Jesse Mendez in a wildly entertaining 9-7 semifinal bout and Michigan’s Dylan Ragusin in an 11-1 defeat in the third-place match.

It was another excellent showing from Schriever, who came to Iowa after a series of gnarly injuries. A month ago, Schriever went 8-2 and took fourth at the Junior world team trials. He figures to play an important role as a starting lightweight for the Hawkeyes in future years, and these results continually show he’s not only healthy, but thriving, too.

Cullan Schriever, right, wrestles Dominick Serrano at 61 kg during the UWW Junior National freestyle championships, Sunday, May 2, 2021, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Costello normally slots in behind Cassioppi in Iowa’s starting lineup, but showed out with a quarterfinal appearance and sixth-place finish in the bracket that featured eight NCAA qualifiers, a past Junior world silver medalist and a current Junior world team member.

All of that came a month after more of Iowa’s depth and future was on display at the Junior world team trials and Senior national championships at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

The depth: Zach Glazier, a redshirt freshman from Minnesota who slots in behind Jacob Warner at 197 in Iowa’s lineup, reached the finals of the Junior world team trials at 92 kilos (202).

The future: three Hawkeye signees also fared well against top-tier competition. In the Junior competition, Fort Dodge’s Drake Ayala took fifth at 57 kilos (125) and Ankeny’s Caleb Rathjen took fourth at 65 kilos (143). Additionally, Wyatt Henson, from Pennsylvania, took seventh at 61 kilos (134) in the Senior competition.

And that’s before mentioning that, also at the Senior national tournament, Jaydin Eierman won a men’s freestyle title at 65 kilos and Cassioppi reached the finals at 125 kilos (and former Hawkeye wrestler Pat Lugo took third behind Eierman).

The wrestling schedule available to collegiate athletes will slow down considerably for the remainder of the summer, but other competitions will continue to pop up.

For high-schoolers, national dual competitions are set for June and the freestyle and greco national championships will be contested in late July — the same time Southeast Polk’s Nate Jesuroga will be in Budapest for the Cadet world championships.

There’s also, of course, the Olympics in August. Soon after, the calendar will flip to fall, and the 2021-22 NCAA season will begin. Each of the Hawkeyes’ 10 starters from last season will be back again in an attempt to repeat as the national team title winners.

But this spring, the program revealed it is more than the 10 starters that compete each winter. There’s strong depth inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex, with Schriever, Glazier, Kennedy, Costello, Eierman, Wilson and Cassioppi all performing well, and another wave of talent ready to join them, in Ayala, Rathjen, Henson and more.

This past weekend, Wilson and Cassioppi earned the right to take Iowa’s black and gold to the world stage later this year. Two Hawkeyes earning international accolades would be a heck of a way to kick off a national title defense campaign.

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