A few days have passed since the Midlands Championships, and oh man, I’m still beaming about Michael Kemerer winning the 157 pound title. The redshirt freshman’s first time wrestling in an Iowa singlet in Evanston was arguably the most exciting Midlands performance since Thomas Gilman won the 125 pound bracket back in 2013.
As you may recall, a fourth-seeded Gilman recorded decisions over top-seed Jesse Delgado in the semifinals and No. 2 Jarrod Garnett in the finals to win the first of his three crowns. While Kemerer’s tempo and skill isn’t at the level of Gilman’s — not yet, at least — the former Pennsylvania state champion’s major over former NCAA and Big Ten champ Jason Tsirtsis showed his ability to bust things open. Perhaps more impressive was the youngster’s resiliency in the finals.
Now ranked No. 2 at 157 by Trackwrestling (we usually use Flo’s rankings, but the site was wonky when looking them up), he fought all the way to the second overtime period, outlasting top seeded Tyler Berger of Nebraska. Each wrestler had a takedown reversed — even though you could make a decent case for both standing — after the first seven minutes, providing a win unlike anything Tom Brands and Company have seen at 157 since Derek St. John’s graduation two seasons ago.
Not to count our chickens before they hatch, but the impact of postseason points at this weight can’t be understated for the Hawks. Iowa’s been ride-or-die with only a handful of guys in the postseason the last few years, meaning the emergence of a Kemerer type could fill in the gaps assuming the Gilmans, Cory Clarks, Brandon Sorensens, etc. of the roster perform.
If he wasn’t already there, Kemerer threw himself firmly into that second tier of Hawkeyes that’ll likely have a huge say in the success or failure of the Hawkeyes in the postseason along with Sammy Brooks, Alex Meyer, and Sam Stoll.
Having the redshirt freshman as part of that group is extremely encouraging.
In the coming weeks, we’ll go over areas a handful of Hawkeye football’s returning players and perhaps coaches can improve on this offseason. In the spirt of relevancy, we’ll begin with the Hawkeye wideouts.
Matt VandeBerg: Teach literally anyone else to be a halfway decent pass catcher, because you’re the only one that knows how to do so, apparently. After missing the majority of the season, a mediocre at best passing attack went down the drain. Some didn’t think we’d ever say it, but man, was MVB’s hustle and lankiness was truly missed.
Jerminic Smith: Catch the damn football. Smith was supposed to be this great downfield target and impact player for Iowa, but couldn’t catch a cold. He’s not the world’s best route runner, but it doesn’t matter whether he’s open or not — superhero Nate Stanley won’t toss the ball his way if it’s going to be dropped.
Jay Scheel: Show us you’re not a lost cause and please live up to the hype even a little bit.
Ronald Nash/Dominique Dafney/Shaun Beyer: Did anyone realize the Hawks have a trio of full-grown men on the outside? Nash is 6-2, 210, Beyer is 6-5 (!!), 210 while Dafney’s 6-2, 220. Nash was the only one that played this season, recording two catches for seven yards while Dafney and Beyer took redshirts. Please, fellas, don’t let your wonderful sizes go to waste.
Jonathan Parker: Yes, he still has one more year of eligibility, folks! How about a jet sweep touchdown or six?
It’d be fantastic if Cory Clark’s time out of the lineup due to injury comes to an end soon. The 133 pounder’s been out of commission for roughly a month — during that time, his replacement, Phil Laux, has collected a robust 2.5 team points with a 2-4 record.
Luckily, it sounds like Clark’s coming back when Iowa travels to Ann Arbor Friday for its first Big Ten dual since Nov. 27. When healthy, Clark’s potential for points is arguably as high as anyone’s on the roster. Laux’s is not.
God forbid Clark misses more time, and we’re left with Laux, who, by the way, never ended up transferring to Northwestern.
Non-Iowa related PSA: Season 12 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia premieres tonight on FXX at 9 p.m. God’s time.