The Weigh-In 197: The Next Big Thing

By RossWB on October 25, 2018 at 5:46 pm
Young Jacob Warner at work.

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Welcome to The Weigh-In, our extensive preview of Iowa wrestling heading into the 2018-19 season. We'll be doing weight-by-weight previews for all ten weight classes, as well as some full team breakdowns -- and maybe a few extra goodies as well. 

Previously: 125 | 149165 | 174 | 285 

Eligibility Remaining
Wrestler Year Ht/Wt. 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
Jacob Warner FR (RS) 6-1 / 197          
Steven Holloway JR (RS) 6-1 / 197          
Sam Cook SO (RS) 5-10 / 197          
Connor Corbin FR (RS) 5-11 / 197          

THE KNOWN UNKNOWN QUANTITY 

Jacob Warner (6'1", 197 lbs, FR (RS), 15-4 overall)

Iowa added two Top 10 overall recruits in the Class of 2017, but only one -- Spencer Lee -- actually made his debut for Iowa last season. As you may recall, it went pretty well. Iowa's other young stud stayed under redshirt all season, but now it's time to take the wraps off and see what he can do -- it's time for Jacob Warner to make his presence known at 197 lbs. Warner went 15-4 while redshirting last year, with two of his losses coming against another well-regarded freshman (Oklahoma's Jake Woodley) and a Top-10 talent in Princeton's Pat Brucki. His other two losses came against fringe Top 10 talent Christian Brunner (Purdue) and to teammate Cash Wilcke. Three of those four losses came at Midlands; the loss to Woodley came at the finals of the UNI Open. 

Warner's most eye-opening result came at an early season event when he laid a 16-7 major decision whupping on Willie Miklus, then of Missouri (now at Iowa State for his final season). Miklus was (and is) a top-5 guy and while he dealt with injuries for most of last season, Warner's emphatic win was definitely the sort of result that turned heads. Which made Warner's less-impressive run at Midlands seem so deflating -- after losing in overtime to Wilcke, Warner crashed out in the consolation bracket, losing back-to-back matches. He'll need to keep his focus sharper this season -- losses will happen for most guys in tournaments, so how you respond to those losses is crucial, especially when Iowa will likely need all the points they can muster to try and catch Penn State for a Big Ten or NCAA crown. 

But what makes Warner so exciting is that he's the sort of high-octane wrestler Iowa hasn't had in the upper weights in ages. Warner wrestles at a high tempo and looks to string attacks (and takedowns) together to wear opponents down. I can't even remember the last time Iowa had a takedown machine-style wrestler in the upper weights (Sam Brooks, I suppose?), but it should be a lot of fun to watch Warner go to work on guys. Penn State's team success has been built on their tremendous individual success in the middle weights and especially the upper weights; the arrival of someone like Warner is the first sign that Iowa is going to try and eat into that advantage. 

IN THE WAITING ROOM

Steven Holloway (6'1", 197 lbs, JR (RS), 26-22 overall; 21-9 at 197)
Sam Cook (5'10", 197 lbs, SO (RS), 12-6 overall)
Connor Corbin (5'11", 197 lbs, FR (RS), 14-4 overall)

Holloway was an intriguing under-the-radar signing when he joined the Iowa program, but his career-to-date has involved some unexpected tangents. The most notable diversion, of course, was his season in residency at 285; when Sam Stoll missed considerable time with two knee injuries a few years ago, Holloway was drafted to replace him. He was undersized in virtually every match he wrestled at heavyweight and unsurprisingly the results were not kind to him: he went just 5-13 as a fill-in heavyweight over the last two seasons. His days of spot duty at 285 are probably done now that Iowa has Anthony Cassioppi and Aaron Costello in place to wrestle there for the next few years, but his path to the mat at 197 now seems blocked by Warner. Hopefully he gets to shine in a few early-season tournaments. 

Cook, a Fort Dodge prep, made the move from walk-on fullback with the Iowa football team to Iowa wrestler last year with OK results to show for it; he went 12-6, albeit against mainly undistinguished competition. Like Holloway, Cook's path to glory will likely involve trying to show out in early-season tournaments and serving as valuable depth behind Warner. 

Like Warner, Connor Corbin redshirted as a freshman last season, and went 14-4 while competing unattached. Three of those four losses came against teammates (Warner, Holloway, and Cook), with the other loss coming against Woodley. He's the exact same eligibility as Warner, so finding time for him in an Iowa singlet looks tricky. But he showed some nice flashes last year and practicing with a guy like Warner can only help; hopefully Corbin sticks around to provide more depth at 197. 

STANDING IN THE WAY

The good news is that both NCAA finalists from last year are gone. The bad news is that there are four other returning All-Americans at 197 (including the wrestlers who finished 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 8th). Oh, and Bo Nickal is joining the fray at 197, moving up from 184 after dominating those ranks for the past few seasons. Nickal immediately becomes the title favorite at 197; he was too big, too strong, and too slick for nearly everyone else at 184 the past few years and most of those advantages figure to apply at 197 as well.

Ohio State's Kollin Moore, a two-time All-American (2017-3rd, 2018-4th) is the other big threat in the Big Ten; he's another high-tempo, takedown-heavy wrestler, so a match between he and Warner could really light up the scoreboard. But outside of Moore (and Nickal), the Big Ten doesn't have too many fearsome faces at 197; the next highest-ranked wrestler from a B1G squad (per Flo) is Purdue's Christian Brunner, ranked #11. Warner should be able to make plenty of noise in the Big Ten this year. 

197 has a lot of depth on the national scene, though. Kent State's Kyle Conel, the surprise story of the NCAA Tournament, is back for his senior season and ready to build on a breakout tournament that saw him finish 3rd and beat Moore twice. He can be a big move/"go big or go home" guy, which can make for some exciting matches -- and might be the best way to beat a guy like Nickal. 197 is also particularly loaded in the state of Iowa -- it's quite possible that Iowa, UNI, and Iowa State could all have Top 10-ranked competitors at this weight; Iowa native Willie Miklus (preseason #5) is wrapping up his career at ISU after several years at Missouri, while UNI's Jacob Holschlag is preseason #4 after finishing 5th at last year's NCAA Tournament. Okie State's Preston Weigel, Princeton's Brucki, and Stanford's Nathan Traxler are all guys outside the Big Ten who could make some noise this year as well; at minimum, they all figure to be in the thick of things for All-America honors. 

KEY MATCHES

DATE OPPONENT TEAM CONF LOCATION
11/9/18 #2 Kyle Conel Kent State non-conf Kent, OH
11/16/18 #7 Patrick Brucki Princeton non-conf Iowa City, IA
11/24/18 #11 Christian Brunner Purdue B1G Iowa City, IA
12/1/18 #5 Willie Miklus Iowa State non-conf Iowa City, IA
12/8/18 #10 Chris Weiler Lehigh non-conf Iowa City, IA
1/27/19 #19 Zach Chakonis Northwestern B1G Evanston, IL
2/3/19 #17 Eric Schultz Nebraska B1G Lincoln, NE
2/24/19 #6 Preston Weigel Oklahoma State non-conf Stillwater, OK

(rankings via Flo)

Welcome to the Iowa Hawkeyes, Jacob Warner -- hope you survive the experience. Warner is absolutely getting thrown into the fire from day one with Iowa's schedule -- he'll face Conel in Iowa's season-opening dual at Kent State and he'll face Brucki, Brunner, Miklus, and Lehigh's Weiler in his next four matches -- all Top 10-level talent. We'll definitely know by Midlands how Warner stacks up to many of the top guys at this weight, at least early in the season. The back half of Warner's schedule is much lighter -- he's set to face just one Top 10 opponent (Weigel) after Midlands. 

WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN

There are a lot of things to be excited about with Iowa wrestling this year, but seeing just what Jacob Warner can do is pretty high on my list. Again, it's been a while since Iowa had an upper weight prospect quite as exciting as Warner, from a talent perspective and just from a "makes matches fun to watch" perspective. I think he's going to be a fan favorite in CHA in short order. Figuring out where he fits into the big picture at 197 is a little trickier. I see him nabbing a Top-3 finish at the Big Ten and breaking onto the podium at the NCAA Tournament, although whether that's in the 4-5 range or down around 7-8 is hard to say at this point. 

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