Iowa wrestling's 2017 recruiting got off to a bang with rapid-fire commitments from two Top 20 overall prospects, lightweight Justin Mejia from California and lightweight Jason Renteria from Illinois in the fall of 2014. But questions were raised when Iowa picked up verbal commitments from mega-recruits Spencer Lee and Gavin Teasdale in the spring -- they projected at the same weights as Mejia and Renteria, so there seemed to be a future logjam at 125 and 133. Still, there was hope that between redshirt years and guys just growing a bit that it might be possible to accommodate several of them in future lineups. Well, now that won't be much of an issue.
Mejia announced late Tuesday night that he would not be attending Iowa:
I love Iowa but sometimes things don't workout I have nothing bad to say about Iowa love everything about it sad to say it didn't workout— J-izzo (@jmejia106) July 6, 2016
Renteria followed suit minutes later:
I've thought from Day 1 Iowa was a good fit for me. However, things weren't able to work out. I appreciate the opportunities they gave to me— FatBoy (@JasonJayzilla) July 6, 2016
Neither guy has indicated where they will be headed next, but both said that they would take their time and evaluate their prospects. Mejia indicated that he's been talking to Minnesota and Illinois, while Renteria released a top five that included Illinois, Penn State, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Missouri. One other option for Mejia could be Fresno State -- former Hawkeye Troy Steiner (a standout lightweight wrestler himself) is bringing that program back after it was ended a few years ago and Mejia is a local star (he wrestles for Clovis High, just down the road from Fresno State). (That said, Friend of the Pants Tony Hager threw cold water on that idea and he's pretty clued-in on these things, so maybe Fresno State isn't an option.)
So what precipitated this change in opinion from Mejia and Renteria? Questions about their commitments to Iowa were raised after Lee and Teasdale committed and both publicly declared that they were still firm with Iowa. So what's changed since then? Well, financial information for one thing. (Another factor could be the departure of Tony Ramos from the Iowa program; both Mejia and Renteria seemed to be big Ramos fans.) Coaches aren't allowed to discuss scholarship money with prospects until July 1 before their senior season -- in other words, about a week ago for Mejia and Renteria. It's entirely possible that the money Iowa proposed to them simply wasn't what they were looking for (or needed).
As a reminder, college wrestling programs are capped at 9.9 scholarships and they are free to distribute that scholarship money as they choose. Some prospects will receive more scholarship money than others -- the very best may receive a full scholarship (although these are very rare) while less-renowned prospects may only receive enough money to cover the cost of textbooks. It's entirely possible that as Iowa divvied up their future scholarship money, they simply weren't able to offer as much to Mejia and Renteria. That's just the reality of the economics of college wrestling. There are no bad guys here -- Iowa's lightweights will be in excellent shape with Lee and Teasdale and Mejia and Renteria are both very good young wrestlers who should do very well at whichever programs they end up at. It sucks because both guys seemed to really want to be Hawkeyes (especially Mejia, who made several trips to Iowa City on his own dime and even competed in a custom-made Iowa singlet at the Agon V freestyle event at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last year), but sometimes things don't work out perfectly.
Ultimately, these de-commitments may prove beneficial for the Iowa program as a whole. Again, there are already ready-made replacements in the fold for both Mejia and Renteria in upcoming recruiting classes in Lee and Teasdale (both of whom are more highly ranked than Mejia and Renteria, for what that's worth). And while it would have been very nice to have Lee, Teasdale, Mejia, and Renteria all in the fold -- nothing like having a bevy of great options to choose from and letting the cream rise to the top -- it probably doesn't make a ton of sense to tie up so many resources in just a few weights, especially when those scholarship resources are so limited. The departures of Mejia and Renteria should provide Iowa with additional resources to pursue other wrestlers at need weights, hopefully in the upper weights.
Best of luck to Mejia and Renteria wherever they do land.