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.
|Michael Kemerer||JR (RS)||5-9 / 174|
|Tristan McDonald||SO (RS)||5-11 / 174|
|Myles Wilson||FR (RS)||5-9 / 174|
THE KNOWN QUANTITY (sort of)
Michael Kemerer (5'9", 174 lbs, JR (RS), 82-8 overall, 4th NCAA Tournament (2018), 6th Big Ten Tournament (2018), 3rd NCAA Tournament (2017), 2nd Big Ten Tournament (2017))
We know what Michael Kemerer can do... at 157 lbs. He kicked ass and took names at that weight for two years, but it looks like he'll be slotting in at a different weight this year, two weights up the ladder at 174 lbs. And that introduces some uncertainty into the mix -- can Kemerer match (or, hopefully, exceed) his results down at 157? That's the gamble that he and Iowa are hoping pays off.
Strange but true: Kemerer has never wrestled past the quarterfinals at the NCAA Tournament. He was upset by Cornell's Dylan Palacio as a freshman, getting put on his back and pinned early in the second period in 2017. Last year a rough draw saw him facing eventual NCAA champion Jason Nolf in the quarters; Nolf prevailed, 6-2. Kemerer kicked ass in the consolation round both years, though; he went 5-1 total, with the only loss coming in the third place match this past season when he was forced to injury default. Kemerer has been very good in both of his seasons in the Iowa lineup; things just haven't quite come together for him in March.
Kemerer has also been one of Iowa's best bonus point guys; he earned bonus in 63% of his wins as a redshirt freshman and maintained that same bonus point clip as a sophomore last year. So once again the question becomes: can he do that up at 174 lbs? That's a crucial question and one we aren't going to know the answer to until the season gets underway. But the more intriguing question might be this: could Kemerer possibly be better up at 174? The rationale behind this move from Kemerer was that the cut to 157 had become too onerous for him and that he would be fresher, stronger, and healthier up at this new weight. (As far as why he's jumping two weights rather than just one... Iowa has Marinelli at 165 lbs and I'm guessing that the coaches and both Marinelli and Kemerer feel more comfortable with Marinelli at 165 and Kemerer at 174.) If Kemerer was able to be fairly dominant (at least until the NCAA Tournament) at 157 while dealing with a difficult weight cut, what might he be able to do at a weight where the weight cut should be a non-issue? That's an exciting possibility to ponder.
IN THE WAITING ROOM
Tristan McDonald (5'11", 174 lbs, SO (RS), 7-11 overall)
Myles Wilson (5'9", 174 lbs, FR (RS), 16-2 overall)
Should Kemerer need to miss any matches, McDonald or Wilson would be the likely guys to step in for him. McDonald has primarily competed at 165 during his Iowa career and has a career mark of 7-11, including several lopsided defeats. Wilson, a two-time state champion from Colorado, competed at 184 last year but could be an option at 174 (the official Iowa roster lists him there). Wilson went 16-2 during his redshirt year and while he didn't record any particularly notable wins, he did generally take care of business against everyone he faced and he notched bonus points in 44% of his wins. He's an intriguing prospect for Iowa to develop.
Wilson could have a difficult time cracking the Iowa lineup, though, with Kemerer set to man this spot for the next two years. After that the competition to replace him is likely to be very fierce, given that Iowa has landed commitments from several highly-regarded prospects in the 165-184 range: Zach Glazier, Abe Assad, and Patrick Kennedy. If Wilson continues to develop, though, he might be in the mix there as well.
STANDING IN THE WAY
Remember what we talked about a few paragraphs up above, about Kemerer perhaps being even better at his new weight? We might need that to be true for him to match (let alone exceed) his past results, because he's entering an absolutely brutal weight class this year. There are five returning All-Americans, including the entire top four: Arizona State's Zahid Valencia, Penn State's Mark Hall, Michigan's Myles Amine, and Missouri's Daniel Lewis. Valencia and Hall are, of course, the last two NCAA champions at this weight and they've been a cut above the pack: Hall's only loss last year was to Valencia in the NCAA finals, while Valencia's only loss two years ago was to Hall in the NCAA semis. Amine is hardly chopped liver, either: he had a pair of one-point losses to Hall last year and a pair of two-point losses to Valencia; he wrestled them closer than almost anyone else in the country.
The fifth returning All-American is Lehigh's Jordan Kutler, who finished 6th last year. Also: that was just five returning All-Americans from 174 lbs. This weight is also getting three wrestlers who were All-Americans at other weights last year: Kemerer (4th at 157), plus Virginia Tech's David McFadden (5th at 165) and (likely) Oklahoma State's Chandler Rogers (8th at 165). They're only going to add more landmines to the field at 174. And that doesn't touch on the guys who weren't All-Americans last year but who are very good: Mikey Labriola is poised to be Nebraska's next great middleweight/upper middleweight wrestler (following in a tradition established by guys like Jordan Burroughs, James Green, and Robert Kokesh), UNI's Taylor Lujan is fiesty, and Purdue's Dylan Lydy is good enough to make some of the top guys sweat. Come March, this weight is going to be an absolute bear trap at both the Big Ten Tournament (where it should be absolutely killer from the semifinals on) and the NCAA Tournament (where it ought to be great from the quarters on).
|11/24/19||#10 Dylan Lydy||Purdue||B1G||Iowa City, IA|
|12/1/18||UR Marcos Coleman||Iowa State||non-conf||Iowa City, IA|
|12/8/18||#7 Jordan Kutler||Lehigh||non-conf||Iowa City, IA|
|1/13/19||#20 Devin Skatzka||Minnesota||B1G||Minneapolis, MN|
|1/27/19||#14 Johnny Sebastian||Northwestern||B1G||Evanston, IL|
|2/3/19||#11 Mikey Labriola||Nebraska||B1G||Lincoln, NE|
|2/17/19||#16 Ryan Christensen||Wisconsin||B1G||Madison, WI|
|2/24/19||#8 Chandler Rogers||Oklahoma State||non-conf||Stillwater, OK|
Unfortunately, it looks like we're going to have to wait until March to see how Kemerer fares against the best of the best at this weight (pending who comes to Midlands this year; if Arizona State makes the trek we could see Kemerer vs Zahid, which would be worth the price of admission by itself). The only Top 10 guys Kemerer is set to face right now are Kutler and Rogers, both of whom are closer to the bottom of the Top 10 than they are the top. That said, if Kemerer intends to be a force at this weight, those are the types of guys he'll need to beat to get shots at the big dogs at this weight. Lydy will be a good early test for Kemerer and should give us a nice look early in the season at how Kemerer is settling into his new weight. The two most intriguing matches on here could be his tilts with Labriola (who could certainly be a Top 10 guy by the time he and Kemerer tussle in February) and Coleman (who's unranked as a RS frosh but comes into the season with a lot of buzz).
WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN
To catch (and, hopefully, surpass) Penn State for a national title, Iowa is going to need to take a page from their playbook and place multiple wrestler in the finals. On talent alone, Kemerer represents one of Iowa's best bets to do just that -- he might be the most skilled wrestler on the team aside from Spencer Lee. But he's at an absolute bear trap of a weight, especially at the top. Getting through guys like Valencia, Hall, Lewis, Amine, and McFadden to earn a spot on Saturday night is going to be an enormous challenge for Kemerer. Until we see how he looks at this new weight (and, really, until we see how he fares against those top guys), I'm not going to be able to have full faith in him making it that high on the podium. Right now I think he finishes around the middle of the podium at the NCAA Tournament (3-6) and in the top four at the Big Ten Tournament. If Kemerer hits the ground running at this weight, though, I'll happily revise these predictions upward.