Caring may be creepy -- but it's also important. In college wrestling, recruiting is no less important than it is in college football or college basketball. To that end, with July 1 marking the more or less official start of the 2015 recruiting period (coaches can now officially contact seniors from the 2015 class), I decided to check in Ross at the excellent IAWrestle website (yes, another Ross B. writing about Iowa wrestling -- we're everywhere!) to get his early take on Iowa's recruiting this year: what they need, who they might land, and what would make this a great class.
1) Do you think this will be a bigger class for Iowa? By my count, Iowa has 9 seniors departing (Bobby Telford, Mike Evans, Nick Moore, Mike Kelly, Josh Dziewa, Ethan Owens, Matt Gurule, Walt Gilmor, and Jeremy Fahler), which includes four likely starters and several out-of-state wrestlers. Scholarship money is a carefully guarded secret, of course, but does it seem like Iowa will be adding several names this year?
ROSS: This group could graduate 5 starters as Kelly could be the man at 157. Though I am not sure the 2015 class will be as big as this senior class was. This current group of seniors was a #1 overall recruiting class. If you look at the five year recruiting cycle Iowa typically has two really strong years (top three class), two other good years (top ten), and one "weaker" class(15-25). I think Iowa would be hard pressed to land three top 15 wrestlers like they did with Evans, Dziewa, and Moore, but that won't mean this will be a bad class.
2) What are the key weights that Iowa needs to target this year? It looks to me like Iowa's bigger need might be among the middleweights (157, 165, 174) -- would you say that's the case? What other weights might Iowa be targeting in this class?
ROSS: The three weights mentioned are where I would target. Good news is at 174 has Alex Meyer who can immediately step into 174's top ten next year (hopefully he's an instant All-American favorite). Burke Paddock is in that range (165-174) too, but but I think he most likely end at 174. Iowa could address 157 by bumping a guy like Sorensen, but we haven't seen Iowa address the middleweights 157-174 as heavily the last few years, so I think they will correct that over this year and the next.
3) Who are some names for Iowa fans to be familiar with at the lower weights (125, 133, 141)? Which guys does Iowa have a good shot at landing?
ROSS: Iowa is absolutely stacked at those three weights with Clark, Gilman, and Laux going to occupy the lower two weights for at least three years. Iowa really addressed 141 this past recruiting class (which is probably part of the reason we "missed" on Max Thomsen, who gave a verbal commitment to UNI) with Logan Ryan and Seth Gross. As far as some names Iowa should have a good chance with -- Nolan Hellickson (125) and Keegan Shaw (133/141) seem like two guys they should have a fair shot with in state. They're both from Southeast Polk and Shaw is the nephew of former Iowa wrestler Jessman Smith.
If it were me, I would hold out on the 141 guys this year, as I think Lisbon's Carter Happel (soon to be junior - 2016 recruiting class) will be in that range and I think he could be a really good talent.
4) Who are some names for Iowa fans to be familiar with at the middle weights (149, 157, 165, 174)? Which guys does Iowa have a good shot at landing?
ROSS: Fredy Stroker from Bettendorf, IA (I mean Iowa has as good a chance as every other school at this point) and Dayton Racer from Apple Valley, MN. Everyone in the Big Ten is still pushing for Stroker, and Iowa has a few things to put them in Fredy's favor -- a couple high school teammates (Ryan brothers) are already at Iowa and Iowa is looking hard for a 149/157 to pair with Brandon Sorensen. Stroker should be at least 145 (could even be 152) for the upcoming season, even though you will see him compete at 138 for Fargo this month.
Racer is new Hawkeye Seth Gross's former teammate and could fit into a 157/165 role very nicely. A couple other names would be Chase Straw (157), and Isaiah Patten (165). Iowa should have a shot with, and they could help fill the middleweights.
5) Who are some names for Iowa fans to be familiar with at the upper weights (184, 197, 285)? Which guys does Iowa have a good shot at landing?
ROSS: Cash Wilcke (Ida Grove, IA) for 184. Wilcke could be a real solid addition to replace Sammy Brooks at 184, and really all three in-state universities should be after his services. Lance Benick (MN) and Ryan Parmely (Delhi, IA) come to mind for the 197/HWT spot. You really shouldn't see Iowa add a heavyweight after adding Stoll and Bradley. If Iowa signs Parmely it's because he is intent on being a Hawkeye (which remains a possibility). Iowa may still be looking for 197 depth even after adding Broc Berge two years ago. Iowa should still be considered in the mix for Minnesota prep Lance Benick, as Iowa tries to solidify 197 going forward.
6) What, in your opinion, would make this a good class for Iowa? Who are a few of the key guys that they could land and really improve the quality and depth of the lineup going forward?
ROSS: Stroker is a huge talent and considering that he could be paired with Sorensen and is from Iowa, I feel like a lot of fans (and the coaching staff) are pinning their hopes on landing him. He is the belle of the ball so to speak, and to me he needs to be the corner stone of this class. Getting Cash Wilcke would be phenomenal for upperweight depth.
Iowa is fairly stocked at 125/133 and HWT so they don't need to add big names at those three weights. I think realistically a recruiting class with just Stroker as the headliner should be something to feel good about as it addresses the middleweights which Iowa needs. If they are able to add in Benick with Stroker and Racer, you are looking at very strong class. Stroker and Benick would give Iowa two top ten pound-for-pound wrestlers, which could very easily put them in contention for a top-rated recruiting class.
Fargo is coming up this month and there will be a lot of prospects in action and I fully expect Tom Brands and Ryan Morningstar to be working some recruits over, probably saying something like, "Hey, did you happen to notice the four guys I coached onto a World Team this summer?" I don't work for Flowrestling, but this is as a good a time as ever to let you know if you want to see the best 2015, and 2016 recruits have to offer, I suggest watching Fargo. You never know what highly rated out of state guy will end up with a change of heart and end up considering Iowa. Just think not that long ago, heavyweight Sam Stoll had never even considered Iowa and now he is one of the biggest recruits in the 2014 class.
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Thanks, Ross! Again, if you're not in the habit of doing so, you should definitely be checking out IAWrestle. Ross also has some more in-depth takes on Iowa's recruiting targets -- here's Part 1 and here's Part 2.
As Ross noted, Iowa has done a solid job of addressing the lower weights and the upper weights (or at least heavyweight) in the last few weight classes, so the focus this year should definitely be on the middle weights. There are some very promising names at those weights (Stoker, in particular, looks like he would be an absolute home run pick-up), so hopefully the Brands boys and Ryan Morningstar are able to snare a few of them. Personally, I think being able to land a Stoker or a Benick is a huge deal for Iowa; Iowa's ability to develop and improve wrestlers is hardly in doubt, but it never hurts to start with blue-chip talent, either. In recent years, we've seen mega-stud recruits like David Taylor, Ed Ruth, and Logan Stieber come in and dominate from day one. Last year alone we saw guys like Adam Coon, Zain Retherford, and J'Den Cox make huge splashes as true freshmen. Not every mega-stud recruit will be that good that soon and not every mega-stud recruit will necessarily pan out into a college all-star... but they're certainly worth a shot.