Disclaimer: I am no journalist, expert, or Jack Ryan-like analyst. I’m simply an overzealous wrestling fan that is way too eager for the season to start. Take everything I say with a block of salt. So let’s light this fuse and get going!
It’s hard to believe we’re only 18 months removed from Cory Clark’s amazing run through a tough field to capture his 1st NCAA Championship. Our last AA and NCAA Champion at 133lbs, I might add.
Again, It’s only been one season, but it’s felt like much, much more. Perhaps it’s because we Hawkeye fans are used to dominating light weights and annual title contenders that when we don’t have one, it’s really apparent and painful. Such was the case last year.
A Year In Review:
For much of the season we bounced back and forth between Phillip Laux (9-4) and Paul Glynn (7-11). Outside of Glynn’s deep run in the Midlands Tournament where he made it the Quarterfinals before falling, there wasn’t too much to be excited about. Six of Laux’s victories came against inferior opponents early in the schedule. Eventually after Glynn’s Midlands performance he took control for the remainder of the season. In his final match at Midlands through the remained of the season he kept all of his losses to a decision except for two. He faced four top #25 opponents and 3 of those 4 losses he held to a decision as well. Though he wasn’t necessarily helping the team, he also wasn’t putting us in a deep hole early. He at least gave us ample opportunity to bounce back.
Ultimately, all of these close matches didn’t result in an at large bid to the NCAA tournament, which is what we needed. Without a representative at this weight class, that’s a lot of team points that were left off the board. When we’re trying to run down the two big horses of Penn St. and Ohio St. we need guys there in March and more importantly, we need them to produce. But you can’t produce if you’re not there…
Laux has graduated, but Glynn returns for his Junior season. Along for the ride are two transfers, Austin DeSanto and Jason Renteria. Both are true sophomores and both are past NCAA qualifiers.
Renteria has had quite the interesting journey to Iowa. As the #32 overall recruit for the 2017 class, he originally gave a verbal commitment to the Hawks way back in 2014. With the additions of Spencer Lee (and for awhile Gavin Teasedale) he eventually second guessed his decision and decided to head to the unholy land of Nebraska instead.
J-Ren didn’t make his debut until midseason last year for the Huskers. As a true freshman he finished his limited campaign with a record of 8-4 with three of those wins coming against the eventual 6th place finisher and All-American, Scott DelVacchio (Rutgers). He qualified for the NCAA’s but failed to make weight and wasn’t allowed to compete, which is a bit alarming. I’d have to assume with an additional year at this level he’ll have his nutrition, diet, and weight all under control. This shouldn’t be a problem for the remainder of his career. For Renteria, right now, it seems like an issue of discipline and in-match adjustments that are holding him back while he’s on the mat. With a lengthy offseason Tom, Terry, and Lee will straighten this out and will turn him into an immediate AA threat.
Austin DeSanto is a polarizing figure to say the least. For those of you who are not aware, he handed Spencer Lee his only High School loss in the state finals of their senior year. He obviously has the talent to wrestle with the best, because, well, Spencer Lee is the freaking best. But with his physical abilities comes a concerning mental aspect to his game.
DeSanto had a stellar true freshman campaign for Drexel that saw him go 29-7 with a 51% bonus rate, which is pretty damn good for a guy getting his first taste at the college level. He went 8-6 against top #25 wrestlers with 2 losses coming to Jack Mueller (Virginia) before he turned around and throttled him 16-8 in the NCAA’s. DeSanto earned a #7 seed to the dance and made it to the Quarterfinals before falling apart. He got torched by eventual 2nd place finisher Stevan Micic (Michigan), who he majored earlier in the season, before losing in suddenly victory to the eventual AA, Scott DelVacchio. Yes, the same guy Renteria beat thrice.
As I mentioned, it’s the mental aspect that raises some questions. In his beat down by the hands of Micic, he went off the hook at the end of the match and channeled his best MMA and combo’d a cartwheel kick into an arm bar as time expired. It was a cheap, illegal, and enormously dumb move. One that has earned him the ire from much of the wrestling community and justifiably so.
Even the Bad Boys (Tom and Terry Brands) won’t and don’t approve of that sort of behavior. They never object to beating the shit out our opponents or even Thomas Gilman-esque tough talking, but they want it done legally. I have a feeling this won’t be an issue going forward because DeSanto knows that he’s more than likely on short leash, especially with the other 133-pounders on this roster.
I’m a life long Hawk fan and I’ve lived through some heart breaking dismissals and guys getting booted from our teams, but it’s refreshing that we’re giving somebody a second chance. It was his choice to leave Drexel, but it’s not every day that you get to depart under scrutiny and transfer to the best damn school on the planet. I love it.
One other stud that deserves some words is true freshman Aaron Cashman. As a junior in 2017 he was Minnesota State Champ, placed second in 2016, and fourth in 2015. Simple math tells us he should’ve wrestled last year, but he spent his senior year living and training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
He’s also a former Cadet World Team member and placed fourth last year in the Junior World Team Trials. Along the way he teched Rayvon Foley (Michigan State) who was an NCAA qualifier and finished last year ranked #16.
Who We Must Break:
133lb is tough this year and will be a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Here’s a look ahead at some of the guys we must break (Flo Rankings).
#13 Sean Nickell, CSU Bakersfield: 11/9
Ty Agaisse*, Princeton: 11/16
Austin Gomez*, Iowa State: 12/1
#6 Scott Parker, Lehigh: 12/8
#5 Ethan Lizak, Minnesota: 1/13
#12 Dylan Duncan, Illinois: 1/25
#15 Colin Valdiviez, Northwestern: 1/27
#9 Daton Fix*, Oklahoma State: 2/24
*Fix is yet to be confirmed at this weight, while Agaisse and Gomez are tough guys that could easily make a jump in the rankings.
Meanwhile, 2x finalist and NCAA Champ, Seth Gross (SDSU), returns for his senior year and is the unanimous #1. We could be on a collision course with him at the Midlands.
Also, there’s the possibility that #2 Nick Soriano (Rutgers) could also be bumping from 125 to 133.
Due to the rumors that J-Ren and Cashman are supposedly redshirting, this opens the doors for DeSanto who enters with the #8 ranking. Considering he didn’t place last year and the amount of solid guys returning, this is a fair place for him to start, but I fully expect him to climb a few places along the way.
At this moment I think DeSanto is the favorite to come out of the wrestle-offs, but I wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed if either Cashman or J-Ren entered as our starter. Whoever starts is because they earned it. The Brands Bros know that we’re within striking distance and have gone on record to say that they’re going to put their best guy on the mat… and that means pulling a redshirt if need be.
Regardless of who gets the nod, we’re looking at immediate All-American threats, especially from DeSanto and Renteria. They’ve already proven that they can compete and beat the best, now they need to add consistency to that formula. I look for a midrange podium finish, say 3rd to 6th place in the NCAA’s. It is a lofty, but reasonable expectation for these guys. Perhaps with some fortunate seeding and a bit of help they could be finalists. Either way, the talent is there and it’s time to be excited for 133lbs again.
DeSanto gets the green light takes 4th in March.