Things have been quiet on the recruiting front for the Iowa wrestling program since they added Brandon Sorenson and Jake Marlin in rapid-fire succession a few months ago, but with the beginning of the spring signing period, business has definitely picked up. The biggest -- both physically and strategically -- commitment landed by the Brands brothers was that of Aaron Bradley, a heavyweight out of Nazareth Area High School in Pennsylvania.
Bradley was considered a solid prospect before his senior season, but his stock increased dramatically after a season in which he went 34-1, won a state championship, and scored a high-profile win at the prestigious Dapper Dan Classic over Brooks Black, a very highly-regarded heavyweight prospect headed to Illinois. (Iowa was one of several teams in hot pursuit of Black's signature.) Black had beat Bradley earlier in the season, handing Bradley his only loss of the season. That win moved Bradley into the #2 spot among Flowrestling's heavyweight prospects. InterMat ranks him the 7th best HS heavyweight ($) and the 53rd best prospect in the 2013 class ($), while d1collegewrestling is a little bit cooler on him, slotting him the 105th best prospect in the 2013 class. (Although their rankings also haven't been updated since 2/14, so there's a very good chance that he would be ranked higher by them if the rankings were a bit more current.)
Of course, there's also a catch with Bradley's recruitment. He's a devout Mormon and he plans to take a two-year Mormon mission beginning this summer, meaning that he wouldn't enroll at Iowa until the 2015-16 season. Iowa should be covered until then -- Bobby Telford will be a junior in 2013-14 and a senior in 2014-15 -- but his absence will mean that Iowa still won't have any depth at 285 over the next two seasons (a problem if Telford should get sick or injured, both of which happened this season). It's also a virtual certainty that he'll need to redshirt as a freshman in 2015-16 (he even admits as much), given that he figures to be a bit rusty after two years away from the sport. So Iowa will still need to find someone who can replace Telford in 2015-16. That could be tricky, since top heavyweight prospects might be gunshy about coming to Iowa with Bradley waiting in the wings. Brands might need to beat the bushes for a transfer (JUCO or otherwise) to serve as a stopgap.
Mind you, there's also the fact that Bradley-to-Iowa isn't necessarily a 100% done deal. Commitments, even signed National Letters of Intent, are not considered binding if you serve at least 12 months in the armed services or on an official church mission. There's no indication that Bradley isn't solid to Iowa, but two years is also a pretty long time and things can change. I certainly hope Bradley shows up in Iowa City in 2015-16 as expected -- he seems like a good kid and a very good prospect at a weight where Iowa will be in dire need of help in the near future -- but I also hope that Brands has a few contingency plans in mind, too. In any event, welcome to Iowa, Aaron.
Meanwhile, Iowa also received commitments from a few other wrestlers in the class of 2013:
* Doug Miner: 3x Iowa state champion for Spirit Lake Park; unranked by any of the recruiting services; projects at 125, which means he faces a very steep climb to crack the Iowa lineup (given the presence of Cory Clark and Thomas Gilman, both coming off strong redshirt campaigns, and Phillip Laux, a well-regarded freshman 125er who transferred from Wisconsin), although at least he seems to be coming in with eyes wide open on that front.
* Logan McQuillen: Iowa state champion at 160 lbs. for Monticello; unranked by any of the recruiting services; projects at either 157 or 165. McQuillen is a good all-around athlete (he also played football and ran track in HS) and could really benefit from being able to focus on only wrestling at the college level. And if nothing else, he had one hell of a dramatic title win at the state tournament this year.
* Austin McCartan: Iowa state runner-up at 195 lbs. for Emmetsburg; unranked by any of the recruiting services; projects at 197 lbs. McCartan came up just short in his bid for a state title this year, but he should provide some decent depth at a weight where Iowa has badly lacked depth in recent years.
* Chance Shelton: Iowa state qualifier at 126 lbs. for Harvard; unranked by any of the recruiting services; projects at 125 lbs. I believe Shelton actually signed last fall, but I neglected to mention him until now -- mea culpa. Like Miner, he faces a seriously uphill path to the starting lineup in the lower weights.
Honestly, it's hard to say if any of these guys will crack the Iowa lineup during their time at Iowa. Pedigree and recruiting hype aren't everything... but they're not irrelevant factors to consider, either, and these guys are somewhat lacking on that front. Still, you never know who might really blossom when they get in the Iowa training room and get to focus exclusively on wrestling and get to train every day with very talented teammates -- some guys really flourish in that situation. It's also not as though these are particularly risky additions for Iowa; scholarship amounts are a closely-guarded secret, but it's a safe bet that none of those four wrestlers will be receiving a ton of aid yet.
Finally, it's not yet confirmed, but there appears to be a pretty good chance that Iowa will be adding Edwin Cooper at 149 lbs, especially if you believe his Twitter feed. There might be some concerns about Shelton, McCartan, McQuillen, and Miner cracking the Iowa starting lineup, but that wouldn't be the case with Cooper. A starting job wouldn't be assured -- Cooper would still need to get by Brody Grothus and Mike Kelly -- but he would have a very, very good chance of making the lineup, given the ongoing black hole that Iowa has been dealing with at 149 in recent years. Cooper, out of Joliet, IL, was the #30 recruit in d1collegewrestling's 2011 Top 150; he ended up at Iowa Central due to some academic issues. Cooper won an NJCAA title at 149 lbs. in 2012 and would still have three years of eligibility remaining to use at Iowa. More on him when/if he does sign with Iowa.
If there's any more recruiting news for Iowa during the spring period (especially if the Cooper news becomes solid), I'll write it up. In the meantime, this week will see the start of a big weight-by-weight series, (belatedly) recapping the 2012-13 season (and the NCAA Tournament in particular), while also looking ahead to the 2013-14 season. Stay tuned.