Two Iowa high school wrestling stars to compete at FloWrestling's 'Who's Number One' event

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

Iowa high school wrestling is in a great place right now. It wasn’t always that way, which a weird thing to write and read back, especially after all the success from last summer.

But it’s true, and this weekend will be another example of the state’s continued rise.

FloWrestling is hosting its “Who’s Number One” event in Texas on Saturday, serving as the unofficial kickoff to the ’21-22 high school season. Two Iowa stars will be there: Southeast Polk’s Nate Jesuroga and Iowa City West’s Hunter Garvin.

The dual-style competition, set for 6 p.m. Saturday, was designed to decide the No. 1-ranked wrestler at each weight in Flo’s national rankings. The Register uses MatScouts’ national rankings, where Jesuroga is currently No. 1 at 113 pounds and Garvin was ranked No. 2 at 145 before missing most of the summer due to injury.

Jesuroga’s match, against California star Joey Cruz, should decide the new national No. 1 at 120 pounds. Garvin will face Pennsylvania’s Jackson Arrington in more of a notable exhibition at 145, but he’s excited for the opportunity all the same. (Two Iowa State recruits, Manny Rojas at 170 and Casey Swiderski at 138, are also wrestling.)

“It’s going to be really fun to represent,” said Garvin, a two-time state champ and Junior folkstyle national champ who fractured his sternum this summer. “I’m really excited for a chance to put my name out there.”

Iowa City West's Hunter Garvin is introduced before a match at 145 pounds during a wrestling dual Jan. 2, 2021, at City High School in Iowa City.

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Only four Iowa wrestlers have participated in the nine years Flo has held “Who’s Number One.” Fort Dodge’s Drake Ayala knocked off Richie Figueroa in overtime last year, and Bettendorf’s Fredy Stroker wrestled there in both 2013 and 2014. Fifteen other states have had more wrestlers compete, led by Pennsylvania’s 30.

Others from Iowa had strong cases for invitations over the years, but Flo never called. In the case of Jesuroga and Garvin, their credentials made them obvious choices for this year’s event.

Garvin, a senior, is a two-time state champ for West, a three-time folkstyle national champ and a two-time Greco-Roman All-American. He’s considered the No. 20 pound-for-pound wrestler in the country, according to MatScouts, and is tabbed as the No. 9 overall wrestling prospect in the 2022 class.

Jesuroga, a junior for the Rams, followed his state title in February by winning a bronze medal at the Cadet world championships this past summer. He is just the second Iowa high-schooler to win a Cadet world medal, joining Glenwood’s Jeff Jens, a silver medalist in 1987. Jesuroga is considered the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2023 class.

“It’s super cool that Drake wrestled in it last year, and now I’ll be in it,” Jesuroga said. “I haven’t wrestled at this weight yet, so this is a good opportunity.”

It’s also the latest opportunity, at least when viewing it through the larger Iowa wrestling lens. This past summer was something of a showcase for the state at various national wrestling events.

At the Cadet freestyle world team trials in April, six Iowa wrestlers reached the semifinals at their respective weights, three made the finals and Jesuroga made the team, a first for an Iowa high-schooler since 2014. That’s not counting Underwood’s Gable Porter, who made the Cadet Greco-Roman world team trials finals.

In June, Iowa won the Junior men’s freestyle national duals for the first time since 2005. In July, 27 Iowa wrestlers earned All-American honors at the 16U and Junior freestyle and Greco national championships, including eight who made the finals and two who won titles: Ayala and West Delaware’s Wyatt Voelker.

Ahead of the upcoming season, 18 Iowa high-schoolers are ranked in MatScouts’ latest national rankings, including multiple at six different weights. There’s also 16 Iowa high-schoolers who are considered top-level recruits in their graduation classes: nine in 2022, including two in the top-50; and seven in 2023, including four in the top-50.

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“It’s exciting,” said TJ Sebolt, the head coach at Sebolt Wrestling Academy, where Jesuroga trains. “It’s what you want. That’s what I’ve talked about for 10 years now, trying to help get Iowa to that level.

“This shows we’re getting better, we’re growing, and these coaches and wrestlers are doing what they need to do to get into an event like this. That was maybe lacking in the past. We’re doing the right things. Let’s keep it rolling.”

There’s more evidence of Iowa’s continued upward trend on the high school wrestling scene. A number of Iowa wrestlers have signed with Division I programs in recent years: as many as 18 from the 2021 class, 18 from 2020 and 17 from 2019. More could join that list in the coming years.

Jesuroga and Garvin both have big opportunities this weekend on a national stage — and the state of Iowa will be watching, including many of their peers who will continue to work tirelessly for a big opportunity of their own.

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