So we’re going to do this in a slightly different manner over the next two weeks — and yes, I hate change as much as you do. But, you’ll still get your regularly-scheduled programming following the lead notes, but said lead notes will act as previews as we approach the beginning of Iowa wrestling season. This week, the veterans.
In the interests of transparency, the plan was for this to be on the new guys in the lineup, but I want to hold off on that until after the Luther Open this weekend — I figure it’ll be more worthwhile after we have a solid picture of the lineup.
With that said, the focus of Friday morning’s Luther preview will be on names like Kemerer, Marinelli, Wilcke, Bowman, and Holloway. Where else on the internet do you get this kind of candor?
Thomas Gilman, Senior, 125 pounds. As head coach Tom Brands told us last week, Gilman is the undisputed leader in this lineup. It’s a combination of his firey attitude and potential for bonus points that makes the 2016 NCAA runner-up so valuable to this squad. He’s the quintessential Hawkeye wrestler, and exactly the guy Iowa needs setting the tone.
Brands and company are going to have a hell of a time returning to the top of the podium in March without Gilman scoring bonus points deep into the NCAA Tournament. That is, unless…
Cory Clark, Senior, 133 pounds starts pinning, tech falling, and majoring dudes on a regular basis. It’s kind of strange to ask more of a three-time All-American and two-time runner up — and to be clear here, I’ll still be crazy happy for Clark if he wins every match in St. Louis by a one-point margin — but, Brands needs a lot from his big guns to get his team back on top Saturday night.
It’s worth noting Clark will have to go through a tougher road than Gilman to get to the promised land, having to beat guys like Nathan Tomasello, Zane Richards, Eric Montoya, and Earl Hall. That’s perhaps the strongest — or at least most top-heavy — weight class in the nation. Outside of Joey Dance and Dylan Peters, 25 is, on paper, a much weaker field.
By the way, Iowa wrestles Ohio State Jan. 27, in case you’re ready to start the countdown to Clark-Tomasello.
Brandon Sorensen, Junior, 149 pounds. The third and final runner up of last season’s Hawkeyes comes into this season ranked as Flowrestling’s No. 2 grappler at 49, behind only Zain Retherford, the man he lost to in last year’s NCAA Final. As is the case with everyone on the Hawkeye roster, bonus points are of the necessity. Okay, I’m done writing that, just take it as a given.
Anyways, we saw all sorts of success from Sorensen in his first two years wearing a Hawkeye singlet — we’ve seen him take down big conference and non-con names and work his way all the way to the National Final. Next March, can he get over the hump?
It’s going to take a lot. Retherford is the best wrestler not named Kyle Snyder in the country, and it’d be nothing short of Herculean to knock him off. That’s not to say he can’t, it’s just going to be really, really tough.
To add one more note to this Sorensen section — 149 is relatively weak in the Big Ten. Outside of Retherford and Sorensen, Flo only has four others in their top-20. The rest of the national field isn’t overly impressive, so an NCAA Final rematch is entirely possible — even probable, depending who you talk to.
Alex Meyer, Senior, 174 Pounds. Ah, the sometimes-overlooked wrestler who needs to perform well enough not to be sometimes-overlooked in his final year wearing the black and gold. After posting a 27-7 record in his inaugural year as a starter replacing Mike Evans, Meyer faltered in the conference semifinals and failed to reach the podium at NCAAs. [EDIT: 9:57a CT. Thanks to Hawks1010 for catching my stupidity in the comments. Meyer finished eighth at NCAAs.]
Meyer’s shown some ability to hang around with guys, and in a lot of ways reminds me of Nick Moore — always there, never quite able to get over the hump. In a weight class with Bo Jordan and Kyle Crutchmer, he’ll have to go through some of the best in order to do so this season.
Sammy Brooks, Senior, 184 Pounds. Outside of Gilman, Brooks is the most electric wrestler on the team. Throw 76 dual points, four techs, seven pins, a Big Ten title, and a sweet mullet together and the OPRF grad had himself a season.
Two things on Brooks — the eight-place finish at NCAAs was quite disappointing and surprising. Granted, conference and nationals are totally different beasts, but Brooks seemed to be the ‘X’ factor for the Hawkeyes. That’s not necessarily the case this year, as the Hawkeyes will need some of the younger guys to produce at weights that have been left on the table in years past.
I’d argue Brooks is just as capable as anyone to make a deep run into March — he’s as strong as an ox and has a fantastic motor, wrestling a full seven minutes each time he steps onto the mat. Give me Sammy Brooks against damn near anyone in the country. It’s going to be awesome watching him compete this season.
Sam Stoll, Sophomore, Heavyweight. Last but not least, the big boy, Sam Stoll. Per Brands last week, Stoll will likely begin the year on the mend due to injury, but let’s assume he’ll be back in full force when things really matter. If that’s not the case, well, we’ll cross that bridge if we get there.
Stoll had a nice season at 22-6 overall and 9-0 in the Big Ten dual season, however a disappointing eighth-place finish at the conference tournament and a non All-American finish at NCAAs clearly hurt Iowa in the team race. Stoll’s also aided by a weakened conference field, especially given Adam Coon’s redshirt status. Nobody’s getting through Snyder, so the conference and NCAA race is for second with the heavies. Here’s to hoping a second year on the mat pays dividends for Stoll.
Jim Harbaugh is such an crazy person, man. Whether it’s a quote about steak or, most recently, Spongebob, we’re reminded of how well he knows how to play into the public eye. Maybe this political mess is dominating too many of my brain cells and causing an unnecessary level cynicism, but damn, does he know how to make people eat out of his hand.
This is going to hurt so much more when Eno and Calloway commit to Michigan.
There were multiple questions asked Tuesday about the Hawkeyes potentially wearing alternate uniforms against the Wolverines Saturday. Both Desmond King and LeShun Daniels, Jr. said they’re “not sure” or “assuming” the regular home blacks will be the play.
Yeah, Iowa’s definitely wearing fancy uniforms this weekend.