Well, it’s over.
The 2016-17 Iowa wrestling program won the Midlands, took third at Big Tens with two individual champions, and took fourth at NCAAs behind Penn State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma State. They finished 13-2 overall with a loss on the road to the Cowboys and at home against the Nittany Lions.
Was this season a success?
Not so sure there’s a definitive answer there. Iowa doesn’t — and hasn’t — had the depth to put a real dent in the Cael Sanderson dynasty for close to a decade, but nor has anyone in college wrestling. That’s just the way it’s been during this Pax Penn State-a we’re all lucky enough to be alive in. Joy!
They should be at the top, but they’re not. The program’s still one of the best in the country but sadly, not the best.
Anyways, let’s take a run-through of the team’s season by wrestler
- Thomas Gilman: Midlands, Big Ten Champion. NCAA 3rd Place. All season, it seemed like Gilman was on a warpath to get the big one. Then came a semifinal loss to fourth-seeded Darian Cruz of Lehigh, and just like that we’re left wondering what the hell happened to this supposedly sure-fire thing. A very unfortunate and unexpected ending to the 125-pounder’s career in Iowa City.
- Cory Clark: Big Ten Runner Up. NCAA Champion.
- Topher Carton: Big Ten 9th Place
A senior in his first year starting, it’s hard to have asked for a ton more than Carton gave the Hawkeyes this year. There were performances that were better than others, but there was stability at a weight without many legitimate options for the Hawks. With the way this roster was constructed, Carton did a serviceable job for head coach Tom Brands and his teammates.
- Brandon Sorensen: Midlands Champion. Big Ten and NCAA 3rd place.
Frustrating as he may be at times, it’s hard not to like the consistency Sorensen’s provided the Hawkeyes with for three years now. In his senior season, it’d be fantastic to see the Denver native push the pace in the postseason, or perhaps give Retherford a real run for his money in March. Overall, 2017 was a solid but not elite year for the junior.
- Michael Kemerer: Midlands Champion. Big Ten Runner Up. NCAA 3rd Place
This dude is tough. The freshman put together a very nice regular season, followed by a strong showing at Big Tens and a strong-but-not-as-strong national tournament. I keep going back to this, but it’s going to take a miracle for anyone to get the best of Jason Nolf at this weight as long as he’s in the mix — the next step for him is getting close to his former club teammate at the collegiate level.
- Alex Meyer: Midlands 4th Place. Big Ten 5th Place.
Thanks for the consistency, Meyer. He failed to All-American for the second-consecutive year at nationals, but put together a regular season and conference tournament on par with what you’d expect from Meyer. Good, not great, but his contributions to this squad certainly don’t go unnoticed.
- Sammy Brooks: Midlands Champion. Big Ten Champion. NCAA 4th Place.
After finishing his regular season doing the best wrestling of his career, Brooks pulled that through to Big Tens where he won his second-consecutive conference final. Everything looked fine until the semis at nationals, too, when Bo Nickal pinned him for the second-straight match. To make matters worse, rival T.J. Dudley of Nebraska got the last laugh and did the same in the third-place match. Much like Gilman, Brooks had a bitter ending to a great career in Iowa City, heightened by the disappointment of getting stuck twice. At least he has the conference crown.
- Joey Gunther, Cash Wilcke, Steven Holloway
Iowa was kind of strapped for cash at 165, 197, and especially heavyweight following Sam Stoll’s season-ending injury was announced ahead of the Penn State dual. WIlcke and Holloway were wrestling a class up and had mild success — the former pushed his way to the round of 12 at NCAAs. Gunther had a strong ending to the regular season, but failed to make any hay in the postseason. Although in undesirable circumstances, a year of mat experience for this trio is valuable.
What say you, fans? Was this year a success?