Our Iowa Hawkeyes unofficially kick off their season tonight, Nov 1., at the HWC Showdown. This is a pay-per-view freestyle open showcasing our top wrestlers squaring off against some of the top senior level athletes. There’s a free eight bout undercard followed by the PPV nine bout main event. For more information please check out this announcement.
This isn’t our typical dual meet or tournament, so team points are irrelevant and considering we don’t have 10 guys going like a typical international dual, there’s really no concrete way to keep score, other than individual matches of course. For all intents and purposes, this is an exhibition to see how we stack up pre-season.
With that said, this is a star-studded open, especially for the opposing competitors featuring Olympic gold medalist Vladimir Khinchegashvili, world silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt, and 2x world medalists Nick Gwiazdowski and James Green.
We’re one week into official practices, so it’s encouraging to see these guys taking to the mat already, especially against some serious world-beaters. As I mentioned in the announcement, it’s quite telling that Tom and Terry Brands and Dan Dennis believe their guys are already competing at a high level and are ready to go. It speaks volumes and is a good sign with the start of the season supposedly starting in early January.
Furthermore, I think this will also be the tune-up that they probably won’t have before the B1G conference duals get underway. Since we were robbed of our championship run last year, it’ll be beneficial to hit the ground running from the get-go this year.
The undercard is free and starts streaming on Trackwrestling at 4PM CT
The main event starts at 6PM CT.
Main Card Key Matchups:
Spencer Lee vs Zach Sanders: How could I not pick our Hodge Trophy winner first up? Lee was on an all-time great, dominating, scorched-earth campaign run last year before our world shut down. With eight months off and no one to pulverize except his teammates (and former Olympic champ Henry Cejudo) I’m pumped to see him back at the style he’s best at.
However, Sanders is a 4x AA from Minnesota who placed 3rd his senior year. He’s qualified for the World Team Trials nearly every year since graduating and the thought of going against the premiere lightweight in the country won’t distract him one bit. He knows what Lee has with his leg laces and deep waist turns, so Sanders may try to kick things off offensively and not give our Hawk the chance to get in on his legs.
I want to see how Lee handles some early pressure from a savvy veteran that knows his best option of winning is to try and end the match early.
Jaydin Eierman vs Vladimir Khinchegashvili: Eierman is a 3x AA time transfer from Missouri. With Pat Lugo graduating, Eierman is stepping in to pick up those team points. Outside of the aforementioned Lugo, he’s been our most active wrestler in the off season, recently placing 5th at the Senior Nationals in early October.
Eierman is hands down one of the best 141lbers in the country and is starting to come into his own in freestyle, but he’ll have his hands full as he takes on Khinchegashvili who won a silver in the 2012 Olympics and captured gold in 2016.
Jaydin has the talent to eventually compete for a world team, but this will undoubtedly be the toughest match of his young career. It’s hard to see him coming away with the win, but a full-length match and a close score could go a long way to elevating him to the next level. This is the type of match that could set him up for a national championship run in March and qualify him for the team trials.
Michael Kemerer vs Tommy Gantt: If this match had taken place one year ago, there’d probably more doubt than there is now, but after seeing Kemdawg as a fully fleshed 184lber and the wrecking ball he’s turned into, the sky is the limit for him.
Tommy Gantt has been a steady contributor on the senior level since his AA days at NC State. He he’s captured titles at the Bill Farrell in 2018 and the Henri Deglane in France in 2019, but recently was upset at the Wrestling Underground even by David McFadden, 8-4.
With that loss still fresh, you can bet he’ll come at Kem early and often. Similar to Lee, he may have to weather an early storm, but if there’s anything we know about our Hawk, it’s that he’s always cool, calm, collected, and composed.
We haven’t seen Kem wrestle freestyle in 5 or 6 years, I can’t wait to see how he compares to a legit senior level wrestler.
Alex Marinelli vs James Green: Green has been the #1 ranked guy nationally at 70kgs for the past handful of years, but now is forced to bump up and challenge former college teammate Jordan Burroughs for the Olympic weight at 74kgs. In a recent interview with trackwrestling he goes onto say how much more comfortable he feels around his normal walking weight. With that said, it could give Marinelli just a little bit of size advantage if Green is still making adjustments.
Green is elite, but he also does not have as much experience going against guys bigger than him, this could feed into The Bull’s wheelhouse especially if Green wants to challenge Marinelli up high.
However, Marinelli needs to be prepared for Green’s speed and try to neutralize that with heavy hands and collar ties. If he’s able to move Green around and keep him off his legs he could pull off the upset similar to what Ryan Deakin did to him last year at the US Open.
Tony Cassioppi vs Nick Gwiazdowski: Big Cass is coming off a stellar freshman campaign that saw him climb as high as #3 in the rankings, but in his three losses he struggled against the quicker and more athletic Mason Parris (once) and Gable Steveson (twice). Now, he finds himself up against a guy that is every bit his own size, but who also had the athleticism to take two in a row over Steveson in last year’s Final X to represent the US on the world stage for the third consecutive year.
With another eight months of training under his belt, I’m anxious to see where Cass is at. Mentally, his head is always in the game, but physically has he matured and muscled up enough to hang with the former 2x NCAA champ and world medalist?
Eierman is undoubtedly an underdog in his match, but Cass may have the biggest hill to climb of all the competitors this weekend. Similar to his teammate, a good showing here could give him the momentum he needs going into his sophomore season at Iowa.
Austin DeSanto vs Bryce Meredith: And here it is. My match of the night! We all know what ADS is, a bottomless jet fueled tank strapped into a SpaceX rocket blasting off at the speed the of insanity. ADS is going to bring it every time on the mat and so will this opponent.
Meredith is perhaps my favorite wrestler to never wear the Black and Gold. He’s a 2x Finalist from Wyoming that took the NCAA tourney by storm his sophomore year when he reached the finals as a #14 seed.
Meredith had not wrestled much freestyle before last year, likewise, we haven’t seen Desanto compete in this capacity, really at all. However, these are two guys that are all-go no-quit and want to put on a show.
Meredith is as funky as they come, whereas ADS sets an unbelievably high pace. There are going to be points and a lot of them. I’m setting the over/under at an absurd 18 points.
From my Hawkeye glasses, I want to see how ADS has matured offensively. Has he developed a secondary shot to compliment his dump? Will we see him attack the bigger Meredith up high and look for throws or will he be more tactful and attack low and try to win some scrambles?
Meredith wrestled 141 in college, so he has the size advantage. ADS will have to find the balance of aggressive and strategy, so he doesn’t shoot himself out and get caught underneath. Either way, it’ll be a barn burner of match.
Under Card Key Matchups:
I’m going to keep this short and sweet.
Patrick Kennedy vs Myles Wilson: Kennedy is Marinelli’s heir apparent at 165lbs and many consider him to be ready to go right now, if he can find his way into the lineup. The message boards have been blowing up all summer about him possibly dropping to 157lbs to challenge Kaleb Young, but that seems to be a long shot especially with him toeing off against the bigger Myles Wilson.
Wilson showed flashes while he filled in for Kemerer two years ago, before he himself was injured in his fifth match and missed the remainder of the season. He’s now entering his fourth year in the college ranks, so this will be a good barometer to gauge where both these guys are at.
Nelson Brands vs Abe Assad: Both these guys filled in last year at 184lbs before Assad finally won the spot and came away with a fourth place finish at the B1G championships. Brands was clearly undersized when he took over the starting spot from Cash Wilcke, but it the discrepancy clearly got to him and he wasn’t able to hang with the higher ranks of the class. The talent is clearly there for both these athletes, so this will be a good test to see how far they’ve progressed in the off-season. Has Brands finally bulked up to challenge? Has Assad worked on his offensive abilities? Against the top tier he struggled when getting caught underneath.
Jacob Warner vs Zach Glazier: Glazier looked great when wrestling unattached last year and while Warner went 20-4 and earned a #5 seed at the NCAA’s, he never seemed to quite hit his stride. All four of his loses were matches he could’ve and probably should’ve won and of the 20 he won, several were far too close for comfort.
Warner has the makings to be an NCAA champ, but he wrestles at the level of his opponents more times than not, and if he takes that approach against Glazier the underclassmen could come away victorious here.
Lineups- Main card:
Sarah Hildebrandt vs. Erin Golston
Spencer Lee vs. Zach Sanders
Austin DeSanto vs. Bryce Meredith
Jaydin Eierman vs. Vladimer Khinchegashvili
Pat Lugo vs. Matthew Kolodzik
Alex Marinelli vs. James Green
Precious Bell vs. Jordan Nelson
Michael Kemerer vs. Tommy Gantt
Tony Cassioppi vs. Nick Gwiazdowski
Jesse Ybarra vs Nodir Safarov
Justin Stickley vs Carter Happel
Bretli Reyna vs Cobie Siebrecht
Max Murin vs Mitch McKee
Kaleb Young vs Jeremiah Moody
Patrick Kennedy vs Myles Wilson
Nelson Brands vs Abe Assad
Jacob Warner vs Zach Glazier