Iowa's been adding talent eligible to compete in the 2018-19 season of late, either by transfer (Austin DeSanto and Jason Renteria) or by more traditional recruiting (Aaron Cashman), but Tom Brands & Co. are also working on the future of the Iowa wrestling program as well -- and they just landed a very big piece on Monday night. Patrick Kennedy, one of the top recruits in the Class of 2020, gave his verbal commitment to Iowa.
— Patrick Kennedy (@PatricKennedy00) June 19, 2018
Kennedy is a Class of 2020 recruit, meaning he still has two more years of high school remaining. So it's going to be a while before we see him suiting up in black and gold and prowling the mat in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But he's very much a talent worth getting excited about now. Kennedy is the highest-ranked recruit Iowa has landed since Spencer Lee gave a verbal commitment to the Iowa program a little over two years ago. Kennedy is ranked #2 overall in the 2020 class by InterMat, #5 by The Open Mat, and #8 overall by Flowrestling. That seems pretty good!
Kennedy hails from Kasson-Mantorville, a school not too far from Rochester -- or the Iowa border -- in southeast Minnesota. (It's also a school that already has a connection to Iowa wrestling: current Hawkeye Sam Stoll is an alum.) He's been dominant as a prep: after finishing 6th as a 7th grade and 3rd as an 8th grader (middle school kids are allowed to compete at the varsity level in Minnesota), he's won state championships as a freshman and sophomore while going 73-2 overall. He's fared well outside of Minnesota as well, earning Cadet freestyle All-America honors and, most impressively, winning the prestigious Super 32 freestyle tournament last fall. He's already been very dominant -- and he's only halfway through his high school career.
So what makes Kennedy so good? He wrestles a high-tempo, attack-heavy style that's inspired by some of familiar wrestlers from Iowa's past, as he told Hawk Central's Cody Goodwin:
Patrick Kennedy grew up in the southeast corner of Minnesota, less than 200 miles from Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. When he was very young, he and his dad mined YouTube for highlights of two legendary Hawkeye wrestlers — Tom and Terry Brands.
His primary takeaway: I want to wrestle like those guys.
“Watching a guy go out there and not care about what the other guy thinks and just getting after it — that’s fun to watch,” Kennedy told the Des Moines Register Tuesday morning. “I try to match it in some ways. I like to perform in front of people and put on a show.”
He put on a show at the Minnesota State Tournament last year, tech falling his way through the tournament before recording a 9-2 win in the championship match. Kennedy is a skilled wrestler with a lot of attacking prowess from neutral -- and he's not afraid to let loose.
Kennedy would be a welcome addition to the Iowa program at any weight -- you don't say no to talent like he's got -- but he's especially welcome because he's an upper weight, where Iowa has struggled somewhat to recruit high-end recruits under Tom Brands & Co. Or at least he might be an upper weight wrestler in college. Kennedy competed at 182 lbs last year, but as he told Goodwin, he did so to help the team -- and so he could challenge a quality opponent at 182 lbs. He said he normally weighs around 172-175 and he doesn't sound like he expects to grow much more, noting that he's only 5'8" and he can already a pretty good beard (heh). So it certainly seems possible that he could slot in at 174 or even 165 in college unless an unexpected growth spurt hits.
That would work out pretty well for Iowa from a roster management standpoint. Kennedy will be on campus in Iowa City for the 2020-21 season and Iowa could have open lineup spots at 174 and 184 that season. Rumors seem to be pointing toward Michael Kemerer moving up to 174 lbs this season; he's set to graduate after the 2019-20 season. Cash Wilcke appears to be the favorite to man the 184 spot but, like Kemerer, he's also set to graduate after the 2019-20 season. 165 shouldn't be available in 2020-21 (Alex Marinelli is set to be a senior that season), but may be available going forward. In any event, Iowa has the makings of a very stout lineup in 2020-21. It could look something like this:
125: Spencer Lee (SR)
133: Austin DeSanto (SR) / Jason Renteria (SR)
141: Austin DeSanto (SR) / Jason Renteria (SR)
149: Max Murin (JR)?
157: Kaleb Young (SR) or Nelson Brands (SO)?
165: Alex Marinelli (SR)
174: Patrick Kennedy (FR)
197: Jacob Warner (JR)
285: Aaron Cassioppi (SO)
That's five Top 10 overall recruits (Lee, Marinelli, Kennedy, Warner, Cassioppi), with a several more Top 50 overall recruits (DeSanto, Renteria, Murin, Young) to boot. There are still some question marks to sort out, obviously, but that looks like a lineup with a lot of firepower -- and a lot of potential to do damage in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, which is hugely exciting.
Obviously there's a long, long way to go until Kennedy can make things official with Iowa -- he won't be able to make a written commitment (i.e., sign a Letter of Intent) to Iowa until November 2019. And as we've seen in the past -- Gavin Teasdale, Justin Mejia, Jason Renteria -- recruits can be fickle and things can change quickly in the recruiting world. On the plus side, Kennedy sure sounds like a solid commitment -- he's been rumored to be an Iowa lean for a while and, as noted above, he's been hooked on the Brands brothers and Iowa wrestling for years. (Another key factor in Kennedy's decision? Mark Perry's presence at the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, as he explained to Trackwrestling's Andy Hamilton.)
So why announce a verbal commitment now? His explanation is pretty exciting, as he told Hawk Central's Cody Goodwin:
“I’m not really in this for the attention,” Kennedy said. “I didn’t really want to post anything about me committing for a while. I just wanted to go about my way. But committing early allows me to help the Hawkeyes build a team before I get there.
“I want (assistant coach Ryan Morningstar) and the Brands brothers to use me as a tool to get my future teammates in the room. I think committing early shows that I’m really committed to the program and I want the program to win.”
Hell. Yeah. Penn State (and Ohio State) have raced ahead of the rest of the college wrestling pack in recent years thanks to their peerless recruiting. Iowa has stepped up their own recruiting game in recent years, but there's still work to be done there. If Kennedy's presence attracts more blue chip talent to come to Iowa City, bring it on. Spencer Lee's commitment helped Iowa land Jacob Warner and Max Murin in the 2017 recruiting class and was also instrumental in persuading Austin DeSanto and Jason Renteria to transfer to Iowa. If Kennedy can have a similar effect, we could be in store for some very exciting recruiting classes at Iowa in the next few years. Welcome aboard, Mr. Kennedy.