Yesterday was a busy day of recruiting news for Iowa wrestling and, frankly, things have been pretty busy on the roster moves front since the end of the NCAA Tournament back in March. Tom Brands, Terry Brands, and Ryan Morningstar have been on a tear to improve the current roster -- and set up future Iowa rosters for success. So let's recap who's joined the Hawkeye wrestling room (or at least given a verbal commitment to do so) and speculate on some future lineups.
133 was the biggest hole in the Iowa lineup last year; it was the only weight that Iowa didn't qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Entering the 2018-19 season this weight isn't quite the biggest strength in the Iowa lineup (though that has a lot to do with the firepower Iowa has at 125, 165, 174, and 285), but it's far more interesting. Iowa picked up two big-time transfers in the span of a few weeks, adding Austin DeSanto from Drexel and Jason Renteria from Nebraska. Both DeSanto and Renteria were NCAA qualifiers last year, though neither made the podium. DeSanto's tournament ended in the Round of 12, one win shy of All-America honors, while Renteria's tournament ended before it even began, as he was unable to make the weight limit.
There's some controversy around both guys -- Renteria for his weight cutting travails and DeSanto for some unsportsmanlike behavior during the tournament -- but they're both excellent talents. If the Brands Bros. and the environment in Iowa City can fix their flaws, Iowa will have two more very talented lightweight wrestlers in their arsenal for the next 3-4 years. Neither Renteria nor DeSanto has used a redshirt season yet; whoever loses out in their battle for the starting job will almost certainly redshirt this year. It's also possible (if not probable) that one of them will move up to 141 lbs at some point during their Iowa careers. Renteria seems like the more likely choice, given the issues he's already had making weight at 133, but time will tell.
Class of 2018
Brands actually committed to Iowa long ago -- he verbally committed in February 2017 and even that was a simple formality; it was obvious Nelson would be wrestling for Iowa as soon as it became clear that he had inherited some of his father's (and uncle's) wrestling ability -- and that he was a strong prospect himself. Cassioppi switched his verbal commitment from Northwestern to Iowa a few months later, in July 2017. He's well positioned to slide in as Sam Stoll's replacement at 285 next year. Cashman was a late addition to Iowa's class, signing on in May of this year. After winning a Minnesota state championship as a junior, Cashman spent his senior year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, which may have depressed his recruiting profile slightly. He's an intriguing prospect for Iowa to develop at 133 or 141.
Class of 2019
Glazier was the first addition to Iowa's 2019 class, a senior from Minnesota who's hanging around the Top 30 on Flo's overall prospect list. Assad was the second addition to Iowa's 2019 class, coming just last month. He's a Top 15 talent and one of the better upper weight wrestlers in this class. Iowa has needed upper weight firepower for some time now and it looks like they're finally getting some, between Jacob Warner at 197 (set to make his debut this year) and the arrivals of Assad and Glazier next year.
Class of 2020
Finally, Iowa's also been putting in work on the 2020 recruiting class, which looks like it's going to be a bit bigger and more high-profile than the the 2019 (and 2018) class. The blue chip addition so far is Patrick Kennedy, a Top 10 overall talent who, like Glazier and Assad, will provide some major firepower for Iowa in the middleweight/upper weight range. And, of course, yesterday Iowa got some big additions for the lower weights, with Ybarra, a fast-rising prospect who's slotted for 141, and Schriever, a big-time in-state talent who looks to be the heir to either Spencer Lee or DeSanto/Renteria in a few years' time.
Speaking of Lee, there's little doubt that he's to credit for a lot of this turnaround for Iowa on the recruiting front, as well as the addition of high-profile transfers like DeSanto and Renteria. Iowa's recruiting had been trending up prior to his addition (they brought in Michael Kemerer and Alex Marinelli in the classes just before Lee), but Lee's arrival in Iowa City -- and, more importantly, his fantastic immediate success -- has just accelerated that process. Iowa only finished third at the NCAA Tournament this past season, but it was a night-and-day different performance than virtually any that Iowa has turned in since they last won a national title in 2010. Led by Lee they were exciting and they were fun to watch; they led every team in the country in bonus points at the NCAA Tournament. Selling the chance to be around a guy like Lee, and to be able to be a part of the success that he could (and hopefully will) lead Iowa to is a great sales pitch. That's even more true if you're a lightweight wrestler; Iowa already has the best lightweight coaches and training partners in the country thanks to the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, but the chance to train with Lee too makes it an even more enticing proposition.
A year ago, I was one of those who thought it would probably be best for Lee to redshirt as a true freshman last year, as much as I wanted to see what he could do in an Iowa singlet (and I wanted to see that very much). I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Lee was clearly capable of wrestling -- and wrestling at an extremely high level -- last year, as he showed us when he hit the mat in January and proceeded to tear through the entire country by March. That performance was eye-opening for us -- but also for recruits and other wrestlers around the country. I think Iowa probably lands some of the recruits they've picked up over the last six months without Lee's dazzling debut -- but not all of them. Lee kicked things up several notches for the Iowa program and it's been a blast to behold.
In terms of how things could all shake out in terms of future lineups...
|125||Spencer Lee (SO)||Spencer Lee (JR)||Spencer Lee (SR)||Cullan Schriever (RS Fr)||Cullan Schriever (RS Fr)|
Austin DeSanto (SO)
Jason Renteria (SO)
Austin DeSanto (JR)
Jason Renteria (JR)
|Austin DeSanto (SR)||Aaron Cashman (RS Jr)||Aaron Cashman (RS Sr)|
Max Murin (RS Fr)
Vince Turk (RS Jr)
Max Murin (RS So)
Vince Turk (RS Sr)
|Jason Renteria (SR)||Jesse Ybarra (RS Fr)||Jesse Ybarra (RS So)|
|149||Pat Lugo (RS Jr)||Pat Lugo (RS Sr)||Max Murin (RS Jr)||Max Murin (RS Sr)|
Kaleb Young (RS So)
Jeren Glosser (RS Jr)
Kaleb Young (RS Jr)
Jeren Glosser (RS Sr)
|Kaleb Young (RS Sr)||Nelson Brands (RS Jr)||Nelson Brands (RS Sr)|
|165||Alex Marinelli (RS So)||Alex Marinelli (RS Jr)||Alex Marinelli (RS Sr)||Zach Glazier (RS So)||Zach Glazier (RS Jr)|
|174||Michael Kemerer (RS Jr)||Michael Kemerer (RS Sr)||Patrick Kennedy (FR)||Patrick Kennedy (SO)||Patrick Kennedy (JR)|
Cash Wilcke (RS Jr)
Mitch Bowman (RS Sr)
|Cash Wilcke (RS Sr)||Abe Assad (RS Fr)||Abe Assad (RS So)||Abe Assad (RS Jr)|
|197||Jacob Warner (RS Fr)||Jacob Warner (RS So)||Jacob Warner (RS Jr)||Jacob Warner (RS Sr)|
|285||Sam Stoll (RS Sr)||Aaron Cassioppi (RS Fr)||Anthony Cassioppi (RS So)||Anthony Cassioppi (RS Jr)||Anthony Cassioppi (RS Sr)|
Obvious caveat: this is all highly speculative! That's especially true as we get beyond the next few years. I think we have a pretty good idea of what Iowa's lineups will look like in 2019 and 2020. Spencer Lee, Alex Marinelli, Jacob Warner, and Sam Stoll/Anthony Cassioppi can be written down in ink at their respective weights. Lugo appears to be a lock at 149 as well and the only reason I wouldn't put Kemerer in ink at 174 is because we haven't seen it made official yet, but every indication is that that's where he'll wrestle this year (and likely next year as well). 133 and 141 look to be Renteria or DeSanto and Murin or Turk, respectively, while Kaleb Young and Cash Wilcke seem to be slight favorites at 157 and 184, respectively.
After that, though, we have to get a little more creative with our lineup predictions. There's been talk about Murin moving up to 149 when Lugo departs; doing that would make it possible to start both DeSanto and Renteria in 2021. 174 and 184 figure to be filled by some combination of Assad, Glazier, and Kennedy. Iowa's preference is not to start true freshmen, but we've seen them set that aside in the past (most notably for Spencer Lee last year). Iowa's 2021 lineup could be absolutely loaded, so if Patrick Kennedy lives up to the (considerable) hype, then it wouldn't be a surprise to see him starting as a true frosh that season. I pegged Assad and Kennedy to start out of the Assad/Glazier/Kennedy trio largely because those two have the most recruiting buzz at this point, but 2020-21 is three years away; things could (and likely will) change between now and then.
We're really getting speculative when it comes to 2021-22 (and 2022-23). Iowa looks like they could graduate five senior starters after the 2020-21 season -- that's a lot of turnover. Schriever and Ybarra could step in as RS freshmen at 125 and 141, while Aaron Cashman might finally have an opening at 133. (Incidentally, redshirts could extend the eligibility for Renteria and/or DeSanto as well, so one or both of them could conceivably be around for the 2021-22 season; if so, that would likely move Cashman and/or Ybarra to the bench.) I slotted Nelson Brands at 157 here mainly because Iowa doesn't have any other notable options there and it's the only way to get him, Glazier, Kennedy, and Assad all in the lineup at once. That said, I am not super-confident of Brands being able to get down to 157 (165 seems like a more natural weight for him) and it really looks like Iowa could have quite a squeeze at 165-184.
Long term-wise, 149 and 197 are the two weights where Iowa seems to need the most help at this point. 197 is not an immediate concern at all with Warner just a RS freshman, but they'll need to identify his successor at some point in the next few years. If Murin is able to succeed at 149, then that weight is also not much of an immediate need, though they'll need to bring in a guy in the next few years to man that weight after Murin. 157 should probably be on that list as well, if we assume that it might not be realistic for Nelson Brands to be effective at that weight. Iowa's top remaining target in 2019 is Brevin Balmeceda, 152 lb wrestler who could be Iowa's long-term answer at 149 or 157. He's a Top 20 overall talent -- and he goes to the same school (South Dade) that current Hawkeye Pat Lugo attended.
Overall, though, the future for Iowa wrestling looks bright. They're set to have lineups full of Top 30-50 talent over the next few years; for the next two seasons they're going to have 4-5 Top 10 recruits in their likely lineups. Penn State and Ohio State took over the wrestling world with their own lineups loaded with blue-chip talent; it now looks like Iowa is starting to catch up to them, which should make for some exciting team title races in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments -- and hopefully lead to some new hardware being added to the trophy cases in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.