Here we are, five days ahead of the biggest dual meet on the third-ranked Hawkeye wrestling team’s schedule to date, Sunday’s tussle with No. 1 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. This get together, as well as Jan. 20’s with No. 2 Penn State, are the two biggest happenings the Hawkeyes will have in a regular season that’s been pretty damn successful so far. An unblemished dual record, a Midlands title — yes, the significance of those can be debated — and a team that is, for the most part, wrestling as well as one could realistically ask at this point in the season.
As we’ve discussed ad nauseum this year, there’s seemingly room for a good ol’ fashioned upgrade at 165 in the form of Alex Marinelli. If that team improvement is going to happen this year, now is the time to pull his redshirt, to go full-steam ahead towards a Big Ten and NCAA Championship.
Let’s start with the immediate benefits the true freshman would give Tom Brands and company. A highly-touted recruit who finished fourth and looked tough at the Midlands, the Ohio native would fill a hole and give Iowa a much higher ceiling come tournament time than incumbent Joey Gunther. Sure, Gunther’s looked respectable at times this season, but after he failed to place at the Midlands, didn’t really compete last Friday against Michigan and squeaked out a win over Michigan State, you’d be foolish to count on him for more than a couple early-round points in the postseason.
The alternative, however, could theoretically give the Hawkeyes another guy wrestling deep into the tournament.
Is Gunther an All-American candidate? No. Is Marinelli? If he gets a couple things going his way, you betcha.
Nothing is guaranteed, but based off what we’ve seen so far, you’d think Thomas Gilman, Cory Clark, Brandon Sorensen, and perhaps Michael Kemerer are safe bets not only to AA, but to wrestle for first or third. Add significant points from Alex Meyer (although his underwhelming first-half showing is even more of a reason to wrestle Marinelli), Sammy Brooks, and Sam Stoll. Without the young Hawk, you’re putting an awful lot of stock into a senior-heavy team with its best chance at a title in recent history. Not to mention the 2017-18 squad doesn’t have nearly the promise, on paper, of this season’s team. Five starters are gone after this year, ladies and gentlemen.
This is the time for Tom to pull the trigger. There’s no sense in waiting any longer — the two biggest meetings of the season are happening in the next nine days. Why not get Marnielli licks against the No. 4 wrestler in Chandler Rogers and No. 6 Vincenzo Joseph of the Nittany Lions? Seeding is especially important in the postseason, so why hurt Marinell’s cause? Gunther showed he’s not close to par with AA-caliber guys, and there’s a possibility of lingering effects from the receiving end of then-No. 15 Drew Hughes’ third-period ride Sunday. He’s had his chance, he didn’t grab it.
Last year, following Iowa’s worst NCAA performance in his head coaching tenure, Brands said this season is the one for the Hawkeyes to close the gap between them and the top.
Pulling Alex Marinelli’s redshirt is a huge push towards the peak.
Thought this was worth a share in case you missed it yesterday in the Brian Ferentz news. Iowa’s Outback Bowl payout this year was the third with a 2 in front of it in Kirk Ferentz’s tenure.
Originally requested this for a story that already ran, but if you're interested in what Iowa's pulled in from bowls lately: pic.twitter.com/Tk1LcnJ3Es— Jordan Hansen (@JordyHansen) January 9, 2017
If you’re looking for a refresher, those bowls were: Alamo W, Orange L, Outback W, Capital One W, Outback L, Alamo L, Outback W, Orange W, Insight Bowl W, Insight Bowl L, Outback L, TaxSlayer L, Rose L, Outback L.
In case you didn’t click those links above, below are the CliffsNotes, which are encouraged depth to sides of this story worth more detail.
The first is from Ross at GIA — it looks at what Iowa’s lineup will resemble in the future and reminds us Marinelli’s redshirt could be used strategically even after this year, a la Nico Megaludis, Zain Retherford, and Penn State two years back.
The second was one I should’ve explicitly mentioned Monday that we’ll learn more about when Iowa meets the media today. We’ll know when Iowa meets the media today, but Gunther might’ve hurt his shoulder in that third period Sunday. If anything comes of that, I’ll put it in the comments.
Programming Note: Primer coming Friday, it’ll be linked in an Open Thread Sunday around noon.