We're in the middle of the two-week hiatus between the end of the regular season and the start of the Big Ten Tournament, but the 2nd-ranked Iowa wrestling team is still making news. And in this case, that's a very good thing. There's already a lot of buzz around Iowa's team in 2011-2012 because much of the lineup should return intact and with few questions -- except at 149, 165, and 197. Iowa loses senior starters (Aaron Janssen and Luke Lofthouse) at 165 and 197 and has had a piecemeal solution at 149, where four different wrestlers have started this year. The good news is that there should be plenty of competition at 149 and 165, between wrestlers rehabbing injuries or redshirting this year. The bad news is that there was no such depth at 197. The only other 197er listed on the roster is Brodie Ambrose -- and he hasn't wrestled at all this year. So it's very good news indeed that Iowa just landed high-profile transfer Cayle Byers from George Mason:
"It’s Iowa," said Byers, who took an official visit to Iowa this week. "They’ve got the tradition. In the end, I felt comfortable on my visit. I liked it and felt like I fit there, and with my style, I feel like it’s a good fit with Iowa."
Byers was a two-time Alaska state high school champion. He compiled a 67-17 record in his first two seasons at George Mason and reached the round of 12 at the NCAA Championships in 2009. He’ll have one season of eligibility remaining when he joins the Hawkeyes.
Byers was a two-time NCAA qualifier and was ranked in the top-3 at 197 in some polls earlier this year, so he definitely brings quite a bit to the table from a talent standpoint. He's also from Alaska, which continues Iowa's recent penchant for filling the upper weights with guys from out west (Lofthouse is from Utah and last year's HWT starter, Dan Erekson, was from Idaho). Of course, the reason he's transferring to Iowa is not because he suddenly decided that he'd love to be a Hawkeye -- he's got some baggage:
ASSAULT ON POLICE-ARREST, 11/8/2010, 3200 block of N. Pershing Drive On November 6 at 1:30 am, a man assaulted another man. When police arrive, the suspect also spit on an officer. Cayle Byers, 21, of an unknown address, was charged with Assault on Law Enforcement and Drunk in Public. He was held without bond.
Assuming Byers has resolved those issues (and you'd have to think that's the case if Iowa is willing to bring him in as a transfer) and he can keep his nose clean, Byers is probably the best-case scenario in terms of filling the void at 197 last year. (And, as Andy Hamilton notes in his article, adding him also has the side effect of keeping him away from Oklahoma State and Penn State, two top contenders next year who also need help at 197.) That said, he's also just a stop-gap solution: he only has one year of eligibility remaining (even though he's transferring from one Division I program to another, he doesn't need to sit out a year because George Mason granted him a full release), so Iowa still needs to find a young guy or two to be long-term options at this weight. But right now the future is looking a lot brighter for next year than it did a week ago.