Waverly-Shell Rock state champ Ryder Block commits to the Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling program
Ten years ago, Ryder Block rode with his dad to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a wrestling dual. He remembers two things from that night.
First, that he ate a cheeseburger on the drive to Iowa City.
And two, the ear-splitting roars from the Carver crowd after Tony Ramos upset Jordan Oliver, 4-3, in overtime at 133 pounds.
"I remember that like it was yesterday," Block told Hawk Central. "When (Ramos) beat him, my dad and I were jumping around and I was like, 'I want to do that someday.'"
He'll get his chance soon.
Block, a junior from Waverly-Shell Rock, told Hawk Central on Friday that he has committed to the Iowa wrestling program. He picked the Hawkeyes over dozens of other top teams around the country, and projects at 149/157 pounds.
"I've been a Hawkeye fan my whole life," Block continued, "so this is kind of a dream come true."
Block joins Southeast Polk's Nate Jesuroga and Iowa City High's Ben Kueter in the Hawkeyes' current 2023 recruiting haul. They are all are considered top-50 prospects nationally in the junior class by MatScouts — Jesuroga at No. 7, Kueter at No. 9, Block at No. 40.
He is also the eighth in-state wrestler to commit to Iowa in the last week. The others: Jesuroga, fellow Go-Hawk Aiden Riggins, Des Moines Lincoln's Mickey Griffith, Southeast Polk twins Carter and Carson Martinson, Mason City's Jace Rhodes and West Lyon's Easton Fleshman. Riggins, Griffith, the Martinsons, Rhodes and Fleshman are all 2022 recruits.
These all came after the Iowa wrestling program hosted as many as 18 recruits when the Hawkeye football team played Penn State on Oct. 9. Jesuroga and Riggins committed Saturday, Griffith on Sunday, the Martinsons on Monday, and both Rhodes and Fleshman on Tuesday. A Thursday night home visit sealed the deal with Block.
"It’s hyped me up, man," Block said. "They’re getting all of us. We’re all coming. It’s going to be fun to have a lot of us in-state kids there. We all want to win national titles.
"I was telling (assistant coach Ryan Morningstar) and (head coach Tom Brands) when they were here, we're going to have a squad. It's going to be so much fun."
Block's credentials stand out among his peers. In his two seasons at Waverly-Shell Rock, he's 67-1 overall. He won a state title as a freshman at 106 pounds, then reached the finals his sophomore year at 132. He helped the Go-Hawks to back-to-back Class 3A state team titles, too, as well as the 2021 state duals championship.
He is currently ranked No. 13 nationally at 132 pounds by MatScouts, and his results merit that position. He took seventh at the 15U freestyle world team trials in 2019, eighth at the Cadet world team trials this past summer, and went 6-1 for the Iowa team that won the Junior men's freestyle national duals last June.
On the first day college coaches were allowed to contact 2023 wrestlers, Block received more than 20 calls from programs around the country. He took visits to Iowa State, South Dakota State and Iowa, and planned others with Cornell and North Carolina State. He wanted to visit more, then release a top-five list after the '21-22 season.
But the trip to Iowa City last weekend made Block reconsider the idea.
He watched a practice inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex that morning. He stood on the field during Iowa's thrilling 23-20 comeback win over Penn State that afternoon. He had dinner with the other visiting recruits at Brands' house that night.
Then came Thursday's home visit from Brands and Morningstar. By then, Block had heard everything he needed, and gave them his verbal before they left.
"I tried to stay unbiased, because if Iowa wasn’t the place for me, I wasn’t going to go there," Block said. "But it ended up being where I wanted to go, so I’m pretty hyped up. I’ve known since I was four years old that I wanted to be a Hawkeye.
"It sounds cliche, but everyone says it — when you know, you know. When I was there, I just felt it. Everything seemed perfect. It felt like I needed to be there, and the place I needed to be if I want to be successful. I just ran with it."
Block and the others are joining a Hawkeye program that is just seven months removed from winning the NCAA team championship, the 24th in program history but their first since 2010. Brands and Co., built that title-winning team largely on the backs of top-tier out-of-state wrestlers and transfers who made a new home in Iowa City.
It's clear now that Brands is building the foundation for his next wave of teams with homegrown talent — though there were plenty of high-level out-of-state wrestlers who visited last week, too. Block is ready for his opportunity when the time comes, and can't wait for the chance to bring the Carver crowd to its feet with his own wrestling ability.
"Strap in for the ride, because it's going to be a good one," Block said. "Make sure to add a big 'go hawks' to the end of your story, too."
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.