Iowa's 2015 recruiting class may be light on blue chip prospects (outside of PA standout Michael Kemerer), but the class of 2016 is looking to more than make up for it. A few weeks after landing a verbal commitment from Kemerer's Young Guns teammate Kaleb Young, Iowa has added a standout OH prep wrestler, Alex Marinelli. As originally reported by our good friends at IAWrestle:
(You can also click here to see their interview with Marinelli.)
Marinelli, who attends the highly regarded St. Paris Graham high school in St. Paris, Ohio, is a 160 lb wrestler with a 98-4 record entering his junior season and is already a two-time state champion. Marinelli is very highly touted on the national scene as well -- Flowrestling ranks him as the #4 wrestler at 160 lbs (and 2nd best junior, behind super-recruit Mason Manville) and InterMat ($) has him as the #9 overall wrestler in the Class of 2016. Along with Kaleb Young (#25 in the Class of 2016), Marinelli gives Iowa two verbal commitments within InterMat's 2016 top 25, which is an excellent start to what could be a standout class for the Hawkeyes.
Of course, Marinelli's verbal commitment is also notable because it's not his first verbal commitment during the recruiting process -- he originally pledged his future to Ohio State four months ago. So what got him to flip from his local school (Columbus is just about an hour away from St. Paris, OH)? Because the heart wants what the heart wants, per The Des Moines Register's Andy Hamilton:
"It was a hard decision, but sometimes the decision that's hard is the best decision," Marinelli said. "It was a hard decision to make because my family and friends in Ohio wanted me to go to Ohio State and that was the easy thing. That was the easiest thing to do for my family, my friends and it made them happy and it made me happy, but ultimately what made me happiest was doing what's best for me, and that was Iowa.
"I have a poster of Carver-Hawkeye in my room," he said. "I look at it every day. It was tough to choose Ohio State and go away from that. Then I realized I've always had a love for Iowa. I've watched them since I was little."
That's an excellent testament to the still-powerful pull of Iowa's tremendous wrestling history and prestige. Ohio State has been on a tear when it comes to recruiting the past few years, so to pull an elite recruit out of their backyard -- an elite recruit that originally gave them a verbal commitment, no less -- is a tremendous achievement. (And while there's still a lot of time to go until Marinelli can make his commitment official -- he can't sign until November 2015 -- I feel pretty good about him sticking with Iowa based on his comments here.)
While the aura of Iowa wrestling and the lure of Carver-Hawkeye Arena (and Iowa's famously large and loud crowds) played a key role in luring Marinelli to Iowa, we should also tip our caps to Iowa assistant coach Ryan Morningstar.
Can't wait to get to Iowa and wrestle for these two! pic.twitter.com/WCCHuKOpvs— Alex Marinelli (@alexMM18) October 21, 2014
Morningstar was a somewhat controversial choice as assistant coach when Tom Brands tabbed him to replace Mike Zadick a few years ago. While his heart and dedication to the Iowa program have never been in doubt (he famously earned All-America status on a torn knee ligament while he was a wrestler at Iowa), he didn't have the sparking credentials of other ex-Iowa wrestlers. Nor was he a signature example of "the Iowa way" in terms of his personal style, which was strong on defense and low on leg attacks. One of the selling points to Morningstar's hire was supposed to be his age and his ability to relate to today's recruits. For the first two years of Morningstar's tenure, there was some grumbling that his skills didn't appear to be paying off in terms of helping Iowa land blue chip recruits, but considering the recent commitments of Kemerer and Young from the Young Guns club (a relationship Morningstar has worked hard to develop, apparently) and now Marinelli, it's fair to say that things are definitely starting to pay off now.
Marinelli projects as a 165 lb wrestler in college and he could be a middleweight anchor for the Iowa lineup. In a few years, Iowa could be looking at a middleweight lineup consisting of Michael Kemerer at 149, Kaleb Young at 157, Alex Marinelli at 165, and Burke Paddock at 174. It's foolish to predict anything too lofty until they actually wrestle some meaningful college matches, but on paper that looks like a very strong group for Iowa. Welcome to Iowa, Mr. Marinelli -- we're excited to see what you do in black and gold in a few years.