"Wrestling with Iowa"
Tom Brands adds two more new faces to the 2013 recruiting class for Iowa wrestling.
This update is long overdue; apologies for its tardiness. In any event, here's the distilled version of the news: hot on the heels of Broc Berge becoming the first 2013 recruit to verbal to Iowa, two more wrestling recruits gave Iowa their verbal commitments to Tom Brands last week, Jake Marlin and Brandon Sorensen. Boy, Brands is sure reeling 'em in, isn't he? Right? Right?
Marlin was the first to hop aboard, a three-time state champion for Creston/Orient-Macksburg, who has Iowa wrestling practically hardwired into his DNA. His middle name is "Gable," for God's sake. Per Andy Hamilton, Marlin chose Iowa over offers from Nebraska, Iowa State, Wisconsin, and South Dakota State. What exactly won him over? The competitiveness of the Iowa practice room:
"They’re a little bit crazy," he said with a laugh. "I thought there was probably a better place for me. But after my visit, I realized this is the place."
"Iowa just seems like it’s on a whole different level than anywhere else," he said. "Being there with all of those guys and being there with the coaches, it kind of clicked. It’s just the right fit."
As noted, Marlin is a three-time state champion, having already notched titles at 130, 135, and 138 in his high school career. The path to those three titles has been paved with dominance, too: he's picked up bonus points in 10 of his 12 victories at the state tournament. This year, Marlin will attempt to join the exclusive club of 21 high-school wrestlers who won four state championships. If he gets a fourth straight title, Marlin won't be the only Iowa wrestler in the room with that accomplishment on his resume -- sophomore Nick Moore accomplished it from 2007-10 and incoming freshman Cory Clark managed it between 2009-12. (To see the other four-time state champions in Iowa, click here.)
As far as recruiting hype goes, Marlin appears to be more of a "diamond in the rough"-type than his more celebrated colleagues in this recruiting class. It's strange to think of a potential 4-time Iowa state champion as a "diamond in the rough," and one of the reasons for that may be that Marlin hasn't had a particularly standout freestyle career during the off-season. InterMat tabs him as the 79th best overall prospect in this class, but neither The Open Mat nor d1collegewrestling rank him in their top 100 (T.O.M. tabs him as a 2* prospect). That lack of recruiting hype may be initially disconcerting, but it doesn't necessarily have to be -- under both Gable and Brands Iowa has had unheralded recruits develop into NCAA title threats (for a recent example, see: Dan Dennis).
Marlin projects as a 141-lb. prospect at the college level, which is one of a few weights where Iowa has some uncertainty, both now and in the future. Montell Marion very ably manned that spot in the roster for the last three years (when he could stay out of legal trouble), but his departure has opened things up for new faces. The top contenders this year are Mark Ballweg (a senior) and Josh Dziewa (a sophomore). Assuming Marlin redshirts in 2013-14 (a pretty safe bet), he wouldn't be competing for a spot in the lineup until 2014-15, when Dziewa would be a senior. Marlin's other contenders for the spot might be Cory Clark or Topher Carton (assuming one of them moves up from 133). The idea of Marlin cracking the lineup is an idea to file away for (distant) future consideration; for now, let's just root for him to become a 4-time Iowa state champion.
Iowa's other new recruit, Brandon Sorensen, may very well be joining Marlin in the 4-timers club next March. Sorensen, a three-time state champion for Denver-Tripoli, chose Iowa over an eclectic mix of challengers: Iowa State, UNI, Nebraska, Upper Iowa, and Grand View. Like Marlin, the opportunity to test himself against other top-notch talent in the Iowa practice room was what ultimately led him to verbal to Iowa:
"That was a big part," said Sorensen, who committed to the Hawkeyes on Thursday after visiting Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Nebraska, Upper Iowa and Grand View. "You’ve got to have guys who are going to push you. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to take on the best. I’m always looking for the good competition and having fun with it."
Sorensen has had an unusual prep career, bouncing between several weights -- not in search of titles, though, but in search of the toughest competition. He bumped up to face eventual four-time Iowa state champion John Meeks (now at Iowa State) at a tournament last year, then dropped down to 132, in part to face Topher Carton (a top recruit and now at Iowa). That willingness to take on all comers and test himself against the best wrestlers available is definitely an exciting attitude.
Unlike Marlin, Sorensen has more recruiting hype to fall back on -- though he's not as highly regarded as Berge. InterMat pegs him as the 37th overall recruit d1collegewrestling has him as the 35th overall recruit, while The Open Mat slots him in as the 69th overall recruit and a 4-star prospect. Also unlike Marlin, Sorensen actually does have a solid freestyle record:
His resume includes a 2009 title at the Preseason Nationals, a runner-up finish at the 2012 folkstyle Junior Nationals and all-America honors at the 2012 freestyle Junior Nationals.
Sorensen projects as a 149-lb. or 157-lb. prospect at the college level. Given the nature of Iowa wrestling (i.e., assume a true freshman year will be spent redshirting, unless there are seriously extenuating circumstances, like Nathan Burak at 197 this year), that means in 2014-15 he'll be competing with guys who are currently freshmen, redshirt freshmen, or sophomores. That list includes sophomore Mike Kelly, a quarter of redshirt freshmen in Brody Grothus, Jake Kadel, Patrick Rhoads, and Joey Trizzino, plus true freshman Nate Skonieczny, one of this year's top recruits.
157 figures to be wide open in 2014-15 after the departure of Derek St. John, while the future of 149 is as mysterious as its present. It's possible that someone like Grothus or Kadel could wrest control of that weight this year and hold onto it for the next year. It's also possible that it will continue to remain in flux, with no one really able to impress at the weight. Either way, Soresnsen should have every opportunity to win a spot that year.
BONUS! Marlin and Sorensen -- and their quest to become four-time state champions -- are being chronicled for the documentary "Wrestling With Iowa." You can find more information about that project here.