Leading up to Iowa’s first competition of the year, we’ll be previewing the 2017-18 iteration of the Iowa wrestling team. First up? The lightweights.
For the past few seasons, Iowa has not had those at the 125- and 133-pound weight classes. 141? Yes. But not 125 and 133. Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark had their spots locked down for most of the part four years and were tremendous during their time at Iowa.
Seven combined All-American honors. 205 wins. Two individual Big Ten championships. Too many unforgettable moments to count.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end.
Sidenote: I had almost forgotten it was Seth Gross, of all people, that he had to beat to take the title. Anyways, let’s move on.
Wrestle off winner: Justin Stickley over Perez Perez, (15-0 TF)
Luther Open winner: Stickley over Perez, (14-4 MD)
Probably should consider: Spencer Lee
Will true freshman Spencer Lee start at some point this season?
That, my friends, is the 125 million dollar question. It’s pretty obvious Lee wants to wrestle. The three-time world champion (once at cadet, twice at junior) out of the heralded Young Guns Club is coming off an ACL injury and the absolute last thing Iowa wants to do is bring him back before he’s ready.
There’s another thing, too. Tom Brands does not normally start freshman. In fact, Nathan Burak is the only during Brands’ tenure to have started as one.
But it doesn’t exactly sound like they’re going to redshirt him. Brands was asked about it directly at the team’s Media Day. His response?
“Spencer Lee is a unique individual. He's a competitor from the word go. And you do what's best by the individual, and we'll certainly do that.
And in Spencer Lee's case, it might be best thing for him to compete and not sit him, not put him on the shelf. And not that he would get dusty, you know, using a metaphor there. But it might not be the best thing for him. But we're going to be very careful with what we do.”
That said, there’s no doubt we’ll see him at some point this year. More from Brands at Media day:
“We'll see him soon. Don't know specifically. We'll see him at Midlands and then we will make decisions. We will make decisions going forward. Our pre-New Year's schedule, we're going to need our best team, but it's very, very possible and probable that we will not have our best team when we go to Rutgers and when we have Illinois here on December 1.”
Read into that as much as you want.
In the meantime, it seems at least in the Iowa City Duals there’s going to be a chance we see Stickley, another freshman. Fun fact: Stickley went to the same high school — St. Paris Graham (Ohio) — that Alex Marinelli did. Stickley has taken out Perez, a junior, twice in convincing fashion and could very well could be in the lineup.
How long could depend on a lot of things. Again, Lee’s health and whether he’ll redshirt. Penn State is probably going to win the team national title this year, would Iowa consider punting the season in order to get another year of Lee? Would Stickley consider a move to 133?
So, so many things to consider and Iowa won’t finalize its starters until after Midlands. After that, however, things could get very interesting.
Wrestle off winner: Paul Glynn over Phillip Laux (4-3 dec.)
Luther open winner: Laux over UW-Whitewater’s Hazen Rice (10-0 MD)
Probably should consider: No one off the top of my head. Stickley, maybe?
It would be pretty shocking if Phillip Laux, a senior, doesn’t start the season.
Flo has him ranked as the No. 19 wrestler in the country and outside of a strange, late loss to Glynn in the wrestle offs there’s no reason to think Brands won’t go with the experience here. Laux got the nod last season when Clark missed several meets due to injury.
The Iowa City West product ended up 10-8 overall with a 2-1 mark in Big Ten duals. He’s 36-12 during his career, with most of those coming in smaller tournaments. It’s hard being behind Cory Clark.
Glynn is a sophomore, went 7-6 last year and finished second at both the Luther and Pat Flanagan Opens. As a redshirt during the 2015-16 season, he went 15-9.
133 is pretty cut-and-dry. Glynn finished third at this year’s Luther Open and it would seem like the starter should be Laux, but stranger things have happened.
Wrestle off winner: Vince Turk over Carter Happel, (6-2 dec.)
Luther Open winner: Max Murin over Carter Happel, (5-2 dec.)
Probably should consider: It’ll be Turk
Iowa went so far as to have Darren Miller write a piece about how Vince Turk is the guy at 141 so I think that’s a pretty fair bet.
Turk took out both Happel and Murin in the wrestle offs and didn’t complete in the Luther Open. All of that combined would signal to me they’ve settled on Turk.
If you’ll remember, Turk spent nearly all of last season injured after a solid redshirt campaign in 2015-16. He won both the Duhawk and Joe Parisi Open’s as well as a solid 3-2 showing at the Midlands Championships.
He fell to the losers bracket in the first round of the Midlands, but then picked up three wins before narrowly falling to Topher Carton.
As far as 141 goes, it’s kind of been a hole the Hawkeyes have had for years. Carton was okay at the spot last year, but went just 2-2 at the NCAA tournament. The Hawkeyes haven’t had a national or Big Ten champion at the weight since Cliff Moore won both in 2004. Montell Marion was the last All-American, finishing second during the 2011-12 season.
Anything — at all — from 141 would be a major boon to this squad.