Indianola state champ Ryder Downey commits to Northern Iowa wrestling program

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

Ryder Downey became arguably the most popular man in Iowa high school wrestling last February after he won a historic state title at 145 pounds in Class 3A.

On Monday, the Indianola senior finalized his college decision — and he's staying in-state.

Downey has committed to the Northern Iowa wrestling program. He becomes the sixth known commitment for the Panthers' 2022 recruiting class, and the 28th in-state senior to commit to a Division I wrestling program. He projects at 149 pounds.

"Just a great coaching staff, and they seem like they really care about you," Downey told the Register. "They've developed a lot of guys, and really utilize the Iowa guys."

Ryder Downey of Indianola beat Robert Avila of Iowa City West in their Class 3A state championship match at 145 pounds on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Indianola's Ryder Downey stops Robert Avila Jr., wins Class 3A state title

Downey joins the Panthers after a stellar four-year career with Indianola. He finished with a career record of 183-25 and was a four-time Class 3A state medalist: seventh at 106 pounds as a freshman, second at 113 as a sophomore, fourth at 132 as a junior, then first at 145 this past season. He went a combined 88-7 over the last two years.

His championship run was perhaps the best individual performance at the 2022 state tournament. He knocked off three past state champs en route to first: Waverly-Shell Rock's Bas Diaz, a two-time Florida champ; Southeast Polk's Joel Jesuroga, a 2021 champ; and Iowa City West's Robert Avila Jr., a three-timer attempting to win his fourth.

In the finals, Downey rallied from down 5-0 and a near first-period pin to beat Avila 6-5 in overtime. He is just the second wrestler in state history to stop a potential four-timer in the state finals, joining Cascade's Aidan Noonan, who stopped West Sioux's Adam Allard from becoming a four-timer in the Class 1A state finals in 2020.

In doing so, Downey also became just the 10th individual state champ in Indianola history, and the first since Brandon Abernathy won in 2011. That list includes his dad, Jarid Downey, who won back-to-back state titles in 1990 and 1991.

Multiple schools reached out after Downey's title run — Northern Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota State, Oklahoma, Cal Baptist, among others. Downey sought a school close to home, and said Nebraska was actually the in-house leader until a visit to Northern Iowa helped change his mind over the last week.

Ultimately, Downey decided to take his talents two hours north to Cedar Falls, where he will join a budding Northern Iowa program. Under head coach Doug Schwab, the Panthers took eight qualifiers to the 2022 NCAA Championships after a fifth-place finish at the Big 12 Championships. All 10 postseason starters will be back next season.

"Things really picked up right after state," Downey said of his recruitment. "But I kept in touch with Schwab the whole time. I went up for a visit and really liked it. Great dude, great staff and great kids on the team. I could just see myself being there."

Ryder Downey (Indianola) defeats Bas Diaz (Waverly-Shell Rock) in the Class 3A match at 145 pounds during the Iowa high school state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022.

► Analysis: Way-too-early lookahead at Northern Iowa's 2022-23 lineup

Downey joins four other in-state prospects in Northern Iowa's 2022 recruiting class: West Delaware's Wyatt Voelker, North Butler-Clarksville's Chet Buss, Ankeny's Trever Anderson and Don Bosco's Garrett Funk, plus Alabama standout Cory Land. Voelker and Buss both won state titles this year, while Anderson and Funk both made the finals.

Northern Iowa's 2022 recruiting class was recently tabbed as No. 25 nationally by MatScouts. Land, Voelker and Buss are all considered top-200 overall prospects in the 2022 senior class — Land at No. 29 overall, Voelker at No. 70, Buss at No. 119.

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