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FIVE DAYS OF WRESTLEMAS: 157/165 PREVIEW

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Questions, questions, everywhere I see questions.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015-16 Iowa wrestling season officially gets underway on Saturday with one of the biggest events of the season: Grapple at the Gridiron, the outdoor dual meet between Iowa and Oklahoma State that's expected to the biggest crowd ever for a collegiate dual meet.  We're declaring that event WRESTLEMAS, so to get you up to speed for that event and for the season to come, welcome to FIVE DAYS OF WRESTLEMAS, a series of previews about the Iowa wrestlers -- as well as some of their most significant opponents -- as they try to bring some more championship hardware back to Iowa City.

Previously:

157

2015-16 Depth Chart and Eligibility Remaining
WRESTLER ELIG HT 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
157
Edwin Cooper SR (RS) 6-0
Patrick Rhoads SR (RS) 5-9
Logan Thomsen SO (RS) 5-8
Skyler St. John FR (RS) 6-0
Cole Erickson FR 5-10

THE KNOWN QUANTITY

Full disclosure: we are stretching the concept of "known quantity" to the breaking point with Cooper, given that his career record at Iowa is 12-5 and he's just 4-2 at 157 lbs.  But here we are anyway.  This weight was manned very ably for four years by Derek St. John, a four-time All-American, two-time NCAA finalist, and 2013 NCAA Champion. Last year Mike Kelly moved up from 149 to his more natural weight and was... OK.  Kelly went 23-12, highlighted by a 3rd place finish at Midlands.  Cooper was part of the three-way dance for the starting job at 149, but lost out to Grothus and then Sorenson.  He wrestled one match at 157 as a fill-in, beating Michigan State's Roger Wildmo, 6-5, but had a miserable performance at Midlands (0-2), though he was reportedly dealing with an illness at the time.  He took first place at his only post-Midlands event of the season, the Grand View Open, but he didn't quite beat a murderer's row of competition there.  Still, with a year to train and focus on 157, hope springs eternal that he'll take a leap this year -- he was a JUCO national champion (and runner-up), so there's certainly talent there.

THE POSSIBLE OPTIONS

Outside of Cooper, the main option for this weight appears to be a wrestler with a very familiar surname -- St. John.  Skyler St. John, in this case.  St. John wasn't remotely as heralded as his brother as a recruit, but he seems to share DSJ's ability to embrace the grind; although SSJ's best high school finish was state runner-up as a senior, he's earned praise for his efforts in the Iowa wrestling room and has seemingly made big strides since his prep days.  We should get an idea of how true that is this fall -- if not Saturday, then during some early season tournaments.

Other options could include Patrick Rhoads and Logan Thomsen. Rhoads wrestled 157 a year ago, aside from bumping up to 165 to face Oklahoma State's Alex Dieringer (he lost 20-8 to Dieringer), and went 8-3 at that weight. Two of those three losses were to his Iowa teammates and rivals at this weight (a 16-8 major decision defeat against Thomsen and a 4-3 loss to Cooper).  There's also been speculation that Rhoads could wrestle up at 165 this year.  Thomsen went 13-4 last year, though two of those losses happened up at 165.  He also got a sniff of the starting lineup when he filled in against Illinois' Jackson Morse (he lost via 12-1 major decision).

157 is a stress-inducing weight for Iowa this year, but the future looks bright -- as noted the other day, blue-chip recruit Michael Kemerer could man this slot next year (unless current 149 star Brandon Sorenson opts to move up instead) and there are a pair of other Top-20 recruits incoming in the next few recruiting classes (Kaleb Young and Luke Troy).

THE POTHOLES IN THE ROAD

The name to know here is Illinois' Isaiah Martinez, who went 35-0 last year, won the Big Ten and NCAA Championships, and absolutely steamrolled the field -- 24 of his 35 wins were at least via major decision and he had an NCAA-best 11 technical falls.  Oh, and he was a freshman.  He's poised to become the sport's new Next Big Thing -- if he's not already there.  At this point it looks like everyone else is fighting for 2nd place at this weight.

That said, there's some quality among the "and everyone else" category, too -- outside of I-Mar, 4/8 All Americans from a year ago return at this weight and another (Cornell's Brian Realbuto) is also back, albeit up two (!) weights at 174.  Kent State's Ian Miller, Virginia Tech's Nick Brascetta, Michigan's Brian Murphy, and Lehigh's Mitch Minotti are the key returnees and they're joined by some intriguing newcomers, including Penn State's Jason Nolf (a mega-recruit making his debut after a redshirt season) and Oklahoma State's Chance Marsteller (ditto).

THE KEY MATCHES

11/14/15: #15 Chance Marsteller, Oklahoma State (non-conference dual; Iowa City, IA)
12/4/15: #8 Cody Pack, South Dakota State (non-conference dual; Iowa City, IA)
1/8/16: #1 Isaiah Martinez, Illinois (B1G dual; Champaign, IL)
1/22/16: #13 Doug Welch, Purdue (B1G dual; Iowa City, IA)

While there are a lot of quality guys at this weight, whoever mans this spot for Iowa won't see too many of them during the regular season.  Although Cooper/Rhoads/St. John/Thomsen will get to test their mettle against Martinez (welp) and face some interesting early tests against Marsteller and Pack.

THE REASONABLE EXPECTATION

If Iowa can qualify this weight for the NCAA Tournament and win a match or two, I'd be pretty satisfied.  Those expectations seem fairly low, but Cooper, Rhoads, et al. haven't done enough yet to warrant higher expectations and the quality of competition (both in the Big Ten and nationally) is pretty fierce this year.  If it turns out that Cooper has made The Leap in his senior year or SSJ is really DSJ 2.0, then we can revise expectations accordingly, but for now I'm not comfortable going any higher.

165

2015-16 Depth Chart and Eligibility Remaining
WRESTLER ELIG HT 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
165
Burke Paddock FR (RS) 5-11
Joey Gunther FR 5-10
Jeremiah Moody FR 5-9

THE KNOWN QUANTITY

Sorry -- I can't even fudge any of these guys as a "known quantity."

THE POSSIBLE OPTIONS

Iowa has had a top recruit manning this weight for several years -- from one year of Mike Evans (a top-5 recruit) to three years of Nick Moore (a top-15 recruit).  Despite that, Iowa  hasn't had an All American at this weight since 2010, when current Iowa assistant Ryan Morningstar gritted out a 7th place finish on a bum leg.  So that's been disappointing.

Burke Paddock appears to be the main option at this weight, a redshirt freshman out of New York who was a two-time NY state champion and pinning machine (198 of his 301 career wins came via fall).  Paddock wrestled up a weight at 174 last year, going 19-5 and finishing first at the Maryville Kaufman Brand Open.  That said, there weren't any names of significant among those 19 wins and he was wrestling at 174, not 165, where he's expected to compete this year.  It's hard to know what to expect from him, frankly.

Outside of Paddock, one of the names listed up in 157 (likely Rhoads) could also see action here.  Uncertainty abounds!

Like 157, the future at this weight is bright -- so bright it's gotta wear shades.   Alex Marinelli, the #3 recruit in the 2016 recruiting class, signed with Iowa yesterday and he looks like an absolute star in the making.  He'll be a huge boost for Iowa's lineup when he arrives in a year (or two, if he redshirts next yeaR).

THE POTHOLES IN THE ROAD

Four of last year's All Americans return, including last year's national champion, Alex Dieringer.  (Another returning All-American, Ohio State's Bo Jordan, has moved up to 174 lbs.) If Isaiah Martinez isn't the Next Big Thing in wrestling yet, it's only because Dieringer is.  Dieringer's the current pound-for-pound king and a two-time NCAA champion poised to become a three-timer this year.  (FUN FACT: if Dieringer wins a title this year, the only man to ever beat him at the NCAA Tournament will be Derek St. John, who outlasted him in the NCAA semis in 2013.)  Dieringer is a freakishly strong wrestler with explosive offense and excellent mat wrestling skills -- he doesn't really have any holes in his game.  He is going to wreck shop again this year.

Like 157, this weight is pretty much Dieringer and everyone else, but there's still plenty of quality in the "everyone else" category.  Wisconsin's Isaac Jordan will be the odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten (especially with his cousin, Bo Jordan, up at 174), although Nebraska's Austin Wilson is solid.  As is Stanford's Jim Wilson (no relation, as far as I know).  This is also a good weight for wrestlers from schools with North in their name -- North Carolina's Ethan Ramos, Northern Iowa's Cooper Moore, and North Carolina State's Max Rohskopf all rank in the top-7 nationally here. Even Iowa State has a good wrestler at this weight, #10 Tanner Weatherman.

THE KEY MATCHES

11/14/15: #1 Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State (non-conference dual; Iowa City, IA)
11/29/15: #10 Tanner Weatherman, Iowa State (non-conference dual; Ames, IA)
12/10/15: #9 Anthony Perrotti, Rutgers (B1G dual; Iowa City, IA)
1/8/16: #19 Steven Rodrigues, Illinois (B1G dual; Champaign, IL)
1/10/16: #16 Johnny Sebastian, Northwestern (B1G dual; Evanston, IL)
1/15/16: #2 Isaac Jordan, Wisconsin (B1G dual; Madison, WI)
1/24/16: #7 Austin Wilson, Nebraska (B1G dual; Lincoln, NE)

Iowa's weak schedule has meant that several Iowa wrestlers have fairly uninspiring slates this year, short on quality match-ups.  That won't be the case at 165, where Iowa could see five top-10 opponents and seven top-20 foes.  Things get started with a bang against Dieringer this Saturday; I would consider it a huge success if Paddock (or whoever) can hold Dieringer to a major decision in that match.  Beyond that, Weatherman and Perrotti will provide good early tests and January brings several big-time opponents at this weight.

THE REASONABLE EXPECTATION

See: 157 -- qualifying for the NCAA Tournament and winning a match or two would be a solid accomplishment this year, given the uncertainty for Iowa at this weight and the strength of the field.  But who knows, maybe Paddock is going to really hit the ground running as a RS freshman -- that would certainly be a very nice surprise.