Our Hawkeyes enter the 2021 season ranked #1 across the board. NWCA, Wrestlestate, Trackwrestling, Flowrestling, Intermat, The OpenMat, everyone that is anyone has our squad sitting atop the mountain and for good reason.
We bring 10 All-Americans to the party, including 3x All-American and Missouri transfer, Jaydin Eierman. We look to run another perfect record for the 2nd consecutive year and punch the entire lineup into post season play, again, for the 2nd consecutive year. But with the truncated schedule of only NINE in-conference duals, it’ll be imperative we’re ready to go the moment we toe the line. Perhaps more than ever, we need to be firing on all cylinders from the first whistle, as an early stumble could drastically alter the seedings come tournament time.
We officially kick things off on Jan. 15 against #3 Nebraska.
A few notable notables:
- The Big Ten has thrown down the mandate of nine in-conference duals. No exceptions. Unfortunately, that means no Iowa State, no Oklahoma State, and no Midlands tournament. Now if a team is forced to miss a dual, can we fill that gap with another B1G school? We do not know, but I’m going to assume that’ll be nigh-impossible to pull off with little to no wiggle room. Thanks Big Ten.
- For a wrestler to qualify for the NCAA’s they must compete in a minimum of four matches. From what I’m gathering, the typical RPI and winning percentage requirements will also be waived.
- With no additional duals or open tournaments it’ll tough to find outside competition, thankfully each dual will have exhibition matches that won’t count for or against the team score but will go on their record
- There’s also rumors that the national tournament may reduce the qualifiers per weight from 33 to perhaps 24. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen.
- A handful of schools have backed out of the season, including Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, Lock Haven, and Penn.
- Lastly, this is a free year for all wrestlers, and it will not count against their eligibility clock. We’re going to see some goofy lineups throughout the season as teams look to get their best guys onto the mat without burning a year. That shouldn’t shake up our starting roster, but it could definitely play havoc with the competition. Perhaps the biggest take away from all of this is, we get this lineup for an extra year! Assuming they want to return, of course.
125lbs: #1 Spencer Lee (SR) 63-5
Our returning 2x champ and 2020 Hodge Trophy winner is looking to add a third title to his already impressive resume. Lee punched through last season and won his first Big Ten title and secured the #1 seed for the NCAA’s before our world collapsed. For months we were thinking Lee’s quest was lost, but with the extra year, he is back on track to be a 4-timer.
Lee ran his record to a perfect 18-0 and won 17 by the bonus variety. Lee has been one of the most dominate wrestlers we have ever seen, but there’s still room for improvement, specifically his conditioning and he’s well aware of that. He picked up running and over the summer he stated that in pervious years he was in the back half of the team runs, now he’s in the top 3 or 4 and trying to hold pace with the motor-machine, Austin DeSanto.
“You could argue that Spencer Lee is better than he’s ever been. That’s a scary thing.” -Tom Brands, during the Hodge Trophy Ceremony
The Competition: With Princeton and Cornell bowing out, we lose last year’s #2 seed, Pat Glory and 4th place finisher in 2019, Vita Arujau, respectively. Likewise, Nick Piccininni (OKST) and Jack Mueller (UNC) have both graduated, which makes the path to the promised land a bit easier.
The biggest question mark is whether former 133lb champ, Nick Suriano (RUT) is going to compete and if so, which class: 125lb or 133lb? Suriano is in Arizona training for an Olympic run under Mark Perry & Co, but he is still enrolled at Rutgers. He won the 133lb title in 2019 before taking an Olympic redshirt last season, but if he’s back he may drop down to challenge Lee and attempt to avenge his loss in the 2018 finals.
If Suriano doesn’t go, there’s literally no one in this field that Lee can’t bonus. The now #2 ranked Rayvon Foley (MSU) is the only returning All-American and Lee has pinned him in their two previous matches.
However, we need to keep our eyes on true freshman, Dylan Ragusin (MICH), who bulldozed his way to a silver at the 2020 Senior Nationals. Along the way he upset 2017 champion, Darian Cruz 7-6 and throttled former AA, Sean Russell before losing in the finals to Arujau.
Also, Penn State’s true freshman, and former Hawkeye prospect, Robby Howard will look to make noise in his inaugural collegiate campaign. He isn’t quite on Lee’s level yet, but we can’t sleep on him.
I won’t say 100% bonus rate or bust, but I will say NCAA title or bust. Anything short of that will give me a heart attack and would be detrimental to a team title.
Scheduled Matches // Record Against:
#14 Liam Cronin (Neb) Jan. 15
Patrick McKee (Minn) Jan. 22 // 2-0
Justin Cardani (Ill) Jan. 31
Dylan Ragusin (Mich) Jan. 31
Malik Heinselman (tOSU) Feb. 7 // 1-0
#4 Devin Schroder (PUR) Feb. 7 // 2-0
Robert Howard (PSU) Feb. 12-
#13 Michael DeAugustino (NW) Feb. 19
Eric Barnett (Wisc) Feb. 21
133lbs: #2 Austin DeSanto (SR) 69-17
DeSanto enters the fray this year ranked #2, though to be fair, he should probably be in the #4 or #5 range due to losses from returning opponents. He went 17-4 last season and even saw himself climb to #1 after upsetting Seth Gross in early December. Sadly, that didn’t last long as Gross got revenge a few weeks later in the Midlands finals. ADS got back on track and looked sharp until running into Roman Bravo-Young (PSU), in which he appeared to get injured and lost yet again to RBY and Gross in the Big Ten’s.
A healthy ADS is right there with the best, but the elite of this class have turned him into a one-trick pony because he continually looks for his signature move, the fireman’s carry. By keeping space and not giving up that elbow, they have largely neutralized Austin’s intense pace, high-end motor, and go-to move.
However, if he has developed a secondary attack he’s as dangerous and explosive as anyone in this field. He’ll get a few tune ups before colliding with the #1 ranked Stevan Micic (Mich) and from there on out it won’t get any easier.
Austin has a shot at a title, but he must jump levels and find that secondary move. At this point in his career, it may be now or never.
The Competition: 3x AA Stevan Micic (Mich) is back from his Olympic redshirt and rightfully sits on the 133lb throne. He owns 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place finishes in his previous trips to the post season and holds a 2-1 record against our Hawkeye. The other major conference threat is of course, RBY. ADS needs to find a way to win these matches and lock up the #1 seed in the B1G’s to avoid having to battle through both of them in the Big Tens. #6 Sammy Alvarez (RUT) is another guy to look out for in the conference tournament.
The out of conference title contenders also include 2019 finalist #3 Daton Fix (OKST) and #5 Micky Phillippi (Pitt). All these guys are buzz saws with serious horsepower. But whoever comes out of the B1G’s will undoubtedly gain the #1 seed. Austin needs to find the best version of himself for the entirety of the season.
Scheduled Matches // Record against:
Alex Thomsen (Neb) Jan. 15
#23 Boo Dryden (Minn) Jan. 22 // 1-0
#25 Lucas Byrd (Ill) Jan. 31
#1 Stevan Micic (Mich) Jan. 31 // 1-2
Jordan Decatur (OSU) Feb. 7 // 2-0
Travis Ford-Melton (PUR) Feb. 7 // 1-0
#4 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) Feb. 12 // 2-2
#12 Chris Cannon (NW) Feb. 19
Kyle Burwick (Wisc) Feb. 21
141lbs: #3 Jaydin Eierman (SR) 89-14
Eierman is without a doubt, the guy I’m most excited to see hit the mat this season. The highly regarded Missouri transfer redshirted last year after coming to Iowa. Elite wrestlers impact and alter the trajectory of a team and Eierman is that type of wrestler.
He faces a tough road ahead, especially in March, but he’s the type of guy that can ignite a title run. He himself may not bring in future top-level recruits, but his team points could jettison our program to its 24th team title and the first since 2010 and that’s what will keep the proverbial ball rolling for the future. Tom and Terry Brands want to see Iowa back on top, and Eierman is a key piece to that puzzle.
He recently finished 5th at the 2020 Senior Nationals, then promptly re-focused and took out the reigning 2016 Olympic gold medalist, Vladimer Khinchegashvili, 4-1, at the HWC Showdown on Nov. 1.
Jaydin is quick, he’s strong, he’s funky, and he’s one of the best scramblers in the world. His resume is full of impressive wins, but it’s lacking one thing: an NCAA Championship. His ultimate goal is Olympic gold, but before that he must qualify for the team trials and winning an NCAA title will do just that.
Eierman isn’t our prototypical smash mouth Hawkeye brawler, so enjoy the zaniness while we have him. He’s going to put on a show.
The Competition: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) is a 2x champ and the gold standard of the 141lb weight class but will sit out the season. But that doesn’t make this field any less explosive. Including Eierman, there are SIX returning All-Americans, albeit some of them are folding in from other weights.
Leading the way is #1 ranked Nick Lee (PSU) followed by Spencer Lee’s nemesis, #2 Sebastian Rivera (RUT), who left Northwestern in the off-season. Rivera wrestled 133lb last year and apparently is moving up yet again.
Rounding out the remaining AA’s is: #4 Chad Red (NEB), #5 Dom Demas (OK), and #8 Kaid Brock (OKST). Plus, I’d be remiss to skip on #5 Ian Parker (ISU) who was last year’s 4th seed along with #7 Real Woods who was seeded 3rd.
Also, we should keep an eye on the talented true freshman and former ISU and Iowa target, Anthony Echemendia (tOSU). He defected from Cuba in 2018 and has quickly risen through the ranks. If you’d like to read more about his incredible journey, please check it out here.
The top 4 ranked guys are all from the Big Ten and whoever wins that will gain the #1 seed for nationals. Should Eierman pull it off he could force Rivera and Lee to duke it out on the opposite side of the bracket. This field will be a battle of attrition and Eierman could set himself up nicely with a perfect run through the conference tournament.
Scheduled Matches // Record Against:
#3 Chad Red (Neb) Jan. 15
Brent Jones (Minn) Jan. 22 // 1-0
#23 Dylan Duncan (Ill) Jan. 31 // 1-0
Drew Mattin (Mich) Jan. 31
Anthony Echemendia (tOSU) Feb. 7
#24 Parker Filius (PUR) Feb. 7
#1 Nick Lee 149lbs (PSU)) Feb. 12 // 1-0
Frankie Tal-Sharhar (NW) Feb. 19
Trey Escobar (Wisc) Feb. 21