Why Cobe Siebrecht has more confidence this year and what it means for Iowa wrestling
IOWA CITY — Cobe Siebrecht started journaling last summer. It is something Terry Brands, the Iowa wrestling team’s associate head coach, preaches often. Siebrecht saw his successful teammates do it, too, so why not?
It’s helped him catalog his progress, both on and off the mat. He writes down things that work and others that don’t; how he’s felt after good practices and bad ones; his diet (lots of chicken and rice); his mood; his level of focus; random thoughts; all of it.
“Just evaluating where I’m at,” Siebrecht said this week. “I’ve learned that when I’m focused and dialed in, I’m a much better wrestler. If I’m rattled and not as focused, I’m all over the place.”
More often than not, Siebrecht has been focused this season. He has emerged as Iowa’s starter at 157 pounds and is ranked No. 21 nationally by InterMat. He’s 7-1 overall entering Friday’s home dual against No. 5 Nebraska (8 p.m. CT, Big Ten Network).
Siebrecht’s arrival has been both a fun and important subplot for Iowa, the No. 2-ranked team in InterMat’s Division I poll. The Hawkeyes, 10-0 overall and 3-0 against Big Ten opponents this season, are chasing a second NCAA team title in three years, but have a tall mountain to climb to catch No. 1 Penn State.
It’s been fun because Siebrecht came from Lisbon, just 25 miles up the road. He won a four-man battle for the right to start in a spot previously held by Kaleb Young, a steady-and-consistent All-America talent who helped rebuild the program from consistent trophy winners to NCAA team champs in 2021. Big shoes to fill.
There was not an immediate heir to Young at 157 after last season, so Iowa coach Tom Brands talked with Siebrecht. By then, 149-pounder Max Murin opted to exercise his final year of eligibility after falling short of All-America honors yet again. Unless you’re consistently beating Murin, Brands told Siebrecht, better to bump up.
Siebrecht, now a fourth-year sophomore, was an under-the-radar prospect who grew up dreaming of wrestling for the Hawkeyes. He was a multi-sport athlete at Lisbon who didn’t give himself fully to wrestling until he moved to Iowa City. Even then, the pandemic limited opportunities that might have hastened his development.
He finally got the full experience last offseason. He went through a whole training cycle and competed at the U23 freestyle national championships. He went 8-2 and took fourth at 70 kilograms (154 pounds). He rattled off seven straight wrestleback wins after an early loss and built both confidence and mental fortitude along the way.
“Wrestling this summer was a game-changer for my wrestling,” Siebrecht said earlier this season. “I didn’t normally wrestle year-round. I think I made some jumps this summer and just feel better.”
The journaling started around that time, too. It helped him develop a routine, which he says has been critical to his success, then and now. In high school, Siebrecht’s performances could be hot and cold, with incredible highs and head-scratching lows.
Here’s an example: As a senior, he registered an 11-2 major decision win over Wyatt Henson, a top-flight recruit at the time. He was named The Open Mat's high school wrestler of the week. At state duals the same season, Siebrecht was pinned by a freshman who later went 0-2 at the state tournament.
“I’m trying to stay more consistent,” Siebrecht said this week. “More of a maturity thing. I’m a big routine guy. I need to stick to what I do every week. It helps a lot.”
The routine has led to some of the best wrestling of Siebrecht’s career. The 22-year-old has recorded five bonus-point wins — three majors, two pins — in his seven victories this season. He has also beaten three guys who were included in InterMat’s latest poll:
- 10-2 over Iowa State’s Jason Kraisser, who’s No. 29;
- a second-period fall over Penn’s Anthony Artalona, No. 12;
- 6-3 over Northwestern’s Trevor Chumbley, No. 14. (Chumbley, by the way, beat Siebrecht 17-7 for third at the U23 national tournament.)
“He definitely has the fire,” said Nelson Brands, Iowa’s 174-pounder and Siebrecht’s roommate. “He ain’t taking — can I cuss? — he ain’t taking crap from anybody, and that’s good, especially for wrestling. Go do your thing and hammer down.”
That high-powered consistency is important for Iowa moving forward.
It will take a full team effort for the Hawkeyes to run down the Nittany Lions in March. All 10 postseason starters will have to qualify for and score major points at the NCAA Championships for Iowa to win another team title. Siebrecht has shown that he’s capable of contributing to the cause.
He is confident offensively, with a variety of scoring moves, from a Drake Ayala-esque slide-by to monster throws out of an underhook to fundamental head-hands defense to set up re-attacks, all of which keeps his opponents guessing. He is stingy defensively because of the funkiness he brings with leg passes and a variety of rolls.
“He’s always been competitive,” Tom Brands said, “but when you get to this level, it’s about getting to where you want to be in matches and then forcing things to go your way so you’re putting points on the board.
“When things don’t go his way, he internalizes it. He’s accountable. He doesn’t take it on the chin. He wants to do something about it, and that’s what we like.”
The rest of the season will reveal more about Siebrecht’s capabilities. Nationally, 157 is a weight that can be had, and strong, consistent performances against the rest of the league will position Siebrecht for a run at the national tournament — especially since 10 of the top 20 157-pounders in InterMat’s rankings are from the Big Ten.
Siebrecht has bigger designs, of course. He didn’t come to Iowa to just be a guy. He came to win big and win often. In addition to archiving his progress, he also writes down goals when he journals. He’s written the same one down every day since he started last summer.
“I write ‘2023 NCAA national champ’ every single day,” Siebrecht said this week. “Looking forward to that opportunity.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at@codygoodwin.