Get jacked up Hawkeye fans wrestling season is here to stay!!!
Let them look into my eyes and see the fire and the passion. Let them know what winning is all about.
If you missed our 125lbs – 157lbs Preview, please click here and catch up!
165lbs: Alex Marinelli (JR)
#3 Alex Marinelli: The Bull is back and looking for his third consecutive All-American finish. Marinelli has been a stone-cold killer in the middle of this lineup during the regular season, going 34-0 in his redshirt freshman and sophomore campaigns combined. Then the postseason hits and something changes, something happens, he struggles. It’s hard to say back-to-back AA finishes is a struggle, but The Bull entered last season as the #1 seed and got upset by eventual champ, Mekhi Lewis (VT) then dropped another close match to Chance Marstellar (Lock Haven) to finish his season in 7th.
Marinelli beat #1 Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) and #2 Evan Wick (Wisc, twice) last year, so he has the firepower and pure sweet abilities to finish at the top. But he has to stay aggressive and get it done in March. If he stays focused he can take that next step this year and reach the top. He can do it and this team needs him to.
On the Schedule:
#15 Chase Straw (ISU) – Nov. 24
#2 Evan Wick (Wisc) – Dec. 1
#23 Emil Soehnlen (Pur) – Jan. 12
#5 Isaiah White (Neb) – Jan. 18
#22 Ethan Smith (OSU) – Jan. 24
#1 Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) – Jan. 31
#24 Drew Hughes (MSU) – Feb. 2
The lone guy that bulldozed The Bull, Wick, and Joseph on his way to a 1st place finish as a true freshman, Mekhi Lewis, is taking an Olympic Redshirt. Which is probably good news for the rest of the field. Other contenders that have emerged are #4 David McFadden (VT) who’s dropping down after finishing 5th last year at 174lbs and #6 Josh Shields (ASU) who placed 6th at this weight a year ago. Even with Lewis removed from play Joseph remains as a 2x champ, but his margin for error is razor thin because this is an incredibly deep field. Not much separates the top 5.
174lbs: Michael Kemerer (SR) // Nelson Brands (RSFR) // Jeremiah Moody (SR)
#3 Michael Kemerer: Kemdog is back, bay-bay!!! Kemerer is our former 157lber and 2x AA. Now he’s back, fully healthy, and ready to light it up. He was supposed to debut his new weight last year before he got sidelined by injuries. Then Myles Wilson filled in and was looking damn impressive before tragedy struck him as well. Mitch Bowman eventually made the descent, but the cut proved to be too much for him and faded out during the NCAA’s.
We needed points from this weight in March and we didn’t get them.
Now Kemerer is back, he’s absolutely hulking, and looks every bit the size he needs to be. But, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the additional weight. Most guys don’t make this big of a jump, but then again, most guys aren’t Michael Kemerer.
He’s never finished below 4th and I don’t see that happening this year either. If he’s truly healthy he’ll be a finalist favorite and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him bring home a title. The talent is there, but his body needs to hold up. It’s good to have another fan favorite back in the lineup.
Nelson Brands and Jeremiah Moody: could be filling in for Kemdog if he needs any time off, but don’t expect to see too much of these guys unless the injury god rears his ugly head again.
On the Schedule:
#22 Marcus Coleman (ISU) – Nov. 24
#10 Dylan Lydy (Pur) – Jan. 12
#5 Michael Labriola (Neb) – Jan. 18
#1 Mark Hall (PSU) – Jan. 31
#6 Devin Skatzka (Minn) – Feb. 15
#4 Joe Smith (OKST) – Feb. 23
The Competition: This is a pretty loaded weight that returns All-Americans, Skatzka, Smith, Labriola, and #2 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh). Other names to look out for are #7 Ben Harvey (Army), who Kemerer could collide with at the Midlands, and #8 Anthony Valencia (ASU). Hall is the biggest test our Hawkeye will face all season and we’ll get our first look at how he really squares up later in the season on Jan. 31.
184lbs: Cash Wilcke (SR) // Abe Assad (FR)
#9 Cash Wilcke: is back for his 4th year in the starting lineup and looking for his 4th NCAA appearance. In terms of reliability, Cash has been everything we could ask for, but he’s never taken that jump to the next level that we have all come to expect (and unfairly demand) from our wrestlers. He’s 63-29 in his three previous seasons, but he’s failed to find the podium at season’s end… this is his last chance and he’s in prime position to do it.
Wilcke has the size, the strength, the look, and the athletic ability to knock off nearly anyone in this weight, but sometimes he gets in the way of, well, himself. If he stays on the offensive and is the aggressor, he will succeed, but that’s always been the big “if” with Cash Money. This is his last year and he needs to wrestle like it. IF he does, he’s going to shock everyone.
Abe Assad: is our super talented freshman and main recruit for 2019. He’s a former Fargo champ and 2x Illinois state champ to boot. He’s going to be the eventual face of this weight class, but the biggest question is whether or not he’s ready right now. In the wrestle-offs he lost a close decision, 3-2 TB1 to Cash, so here’s right there with the senior. I expect him to take his redshirt, but if Cash goes down for any reason, Assad could be the next man in.
On the Schedule:
#10 Sam Colbray (ISU) – Nov. 24
#16 Max Lyon (Pur) – Jan. 12
#3 Taylor Venz (Neb) – Jan. 18
#5 Shakur Rasheed (PSU) – Jan. 24
#19 Jelani Embree (MSU) – Feb. 2
#17 Hunter Ritter (Minn) – Feb. 15
#7 Dakota Geer (OKST) – Feb. 23
The Competition: #1 Zahid Valencia (ASU) is a back-to-back champ that’s bumping up from 174lbs, this is his weight class. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. #2 Taylor Lujan (UNI) is a 2x R12 guy with serious upside, he is bumping up from 174lbs as well and by his early season ranking, he’s a serious finalist contender. There are several former AA’s including Valencia, Rasheed, Geer, #5 Ben Darmstadt (Cornell) who placed 6th at 197lbs in 2018 as well as Venz who took 7th that same year. Valencia is by far and away the top tier, but I’d lump Venz, Rasheed, Geer, and Lujan into tier two. Wilcke is firmly knocking on the door and he even upset Venz in their dual last year. If he can find some consistency, he can enter the fray with this second grouping.
197: Jacob Warner (SO)
#7 Jacob Warner: entered into his redshirt freshman campaign and delivered what very few new starters can: a record of 21-6 and a 7th place finish at the NCAA’s. Many people thought he’d be an immediate title contender, and at times he wrestled like it, but there were reports of illness and injury throughout the season, especially early on. With a full off season of recovery, I want to see that second year jump and him elevate his game.
He enters this season #7, which is justified. Thankfully, Warner is going to get an early opportunity to climb up the rankings, but he doesn’t face the toughest schedule so it’s imperative he holds serve with the top guys.
Similar to a lot of other young wrestlers, Warner simply struggled at times last year, but he also showed brilliance and perseverance. He took an early knock in the NCAA’s, but ultimately battled back. He wrestled seven times going 5-2…which is damn impressive. Warner is strong on his feet and a fantastic rider, but he needs to get to his offense earlier in matches. I like his chances if he gets the opening TD.
On the Schedule:
#3 Patrick Brucki (Princeton) – Dec. 8
#10 Eric Shultz (Neb) – Jan. 18
#1 Kollin Moore (OSU) – Jan. 24
#2 Kyle Conel (PSU) – Jan. 31
The Competition: With Bo Nickal (PSU) departing this undoubtedly becomes Kollin Moore’s (OSU) weight class to lose. Moore is a 3x AA and finally broke through to face Nickal in the 2019 finals before dropping the match 5-1. Until someone else steps up to the plate, Moore is the face of 197lbs.
#2 Kyle Conel (PSU) is former AA from Kent State, but hasn’t been on the mat in over a year due to injury. And in his debut this season he was less than stellar against an unranked Mark Penyacsek. If Conel returns to form he’s a serious threat, but that’s a big if at this moment. Other names include: #4 Nick Reenan (NCST) and#5 Jacob Holschlag (UNI), who’s coming off a redshirt season and placed 5th in 2018. Also, #6 Tanner Sloan (SDSU) teched Warner at the Midlands last season 19-3, he’s uber talented and could be a treat to Moore.
285: Tony Cassioppi (RSFR)
#12 Tony Cassioppi: Big Cass is here to kick some ass! The prolific pinner is about to make his Hawkeye debut and he’s gunning for Ed Banach’s career record of 73. Cass if a former Junior Triple Crown winner (freestyle, folk, and Greco National Champ) in 2016 and 2017. Last year he went 20-2 while wrestling unattached and tallied up an absurd 15 pins. The offense is there. The ability is there. But so is a learning curve. In his two loses he got smoked by two guys currently above him, #2 Matt Stencel (Central Mich) and #9 Jere Heino (Campbell), at last year’s Midlands.
Thankfully Cass is going to have several opportunities to climb the rankings and exact his revenge. He could bump into both of them at the Midlands in late December. Big Cass has the ability to find his way onto the podium this year, but it’s going to take a hell of a run to do so. This is a loaded class.
On the Schedule:
#20 Gannon Gremmel (ISU) – Nov. 24
#6 Trent Hillger (Wisc) – Dec. 1
#13 David Jensen (Neb) – Jan. 18
#10 Chase Singletary (OSU) – Jan. 24
#1 Anthony Cassar (PSU) – Jan. 31
#4 Mason Parris (Mich) – Feb. 8
Gable Steveson (Minn) – Feb. 15*
*Steveson is currently suspended*
The Competition: Former AA, #9 Tanner Hall (ASU) is back from redshirt, along with last year’s AA’s #2 Stencel (Central Mich, 7th) and #3 Jordan Wood (Lehigh, 4th). #5 Tate Orndoff has already vaulted up the rankings knocking off Hall and Wood to open up the season.
Last year’s runner-up, Gable Steveson (Minn) is currently serving a suspension due to an on-going investigation. Currently there’s no timetable for his return and that’s if he returns to the Minnesota lineup in general, but if he does, he will be a heavy favorite to meet Cassar in the finals. Speaking of Cassar, the PSU product is the returning champ that was cleared for another year of competition by way of medical waiver. He enters as the favorite and the odds will sway even further in his favor if Steveson doesn’t return.
Iowa enters as the #2 ranked team across all major rankings. This represents the highest preseason ranking since 2015. Naturally, Penn Stat retains the #1 slot and rightfully so. They have three guys currently sitting at #1 (Joseph, Hall, and Cassar) and another two in the top three (#2 Conel and #3 Lee). Between those five, that’s already a stupid amount of tournament points they can potentially grab, then throw in the likes of #4 Roman Bravo-Young and the rest of their unproven young guns. Well, you get the point.
But the door is cracked, now it’s time for our workhorses to get to work and kick it open and push through. We have the talent on this team to not only contend, but to win the whole damn thing, but it’s going to take a total team effort . We need to push five guys into the finals (looking at Lee, DeSanto, Young, Marinelli, and Kemerer) to keep pace and the other five have to find a place on the podium. Obviously the higher the better. Bottom line, we need 10 AA’s. The other key to success is bonus points. We really crapped the bed last year in this regard and we need our guys to step it up, especially in the opening rounds in March. This is where our five finalists and guys like, Warner and Cass need to snag as many points as possible as early as possible.
If we can do these three things, we will win our 1st NCAA title in a decade. This is going to be a fun ride folks. Sit back, bite your finger nails off, and enjoy the show! GO HAWKS