The 2018-19 college wrestling season is edging ever closer (Iowa's season gets underway a week from Friday with duals against Kent State and CSU-Bakersfield), but the unofficial beginning of Iowa's season is this week, with the return of the wrestle-offs, featuring red-hot intra-squad action. This year's wrestle-offs will take place on Thursday and Friday this week:
Thursday: 3:30 PM CT at the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex inside CHA
Friday: 3:30 PM CT at the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex inside CHA
Per the UI, there are 19 matches set for Thursday and 9 matches set for Friday, although no formal schedule or brackets have been released yet. EDIT: Todd C. at Iowa Wrestling Blog has come through with a tentative schedule for Thursday and Friday.
Iowa has had wrestle-offs in the past, though they stopped doing them for a few years. They returned last year, and it's good to see making another appearance this year. As in the past, this year's wrestle-offs are free and open to the public, which makes them a good way to help build excitement about this year's team. The main purpose of the wrestle-offs is to help settle lineup decisions at weights where there are multiple options, and Iowa has several of those this year -- 133, 141, 157, and 184, for instance. (It's not a coincidence that none of those weights have been featured in our Weigh-In preview series.) Wrestle-off results aren't always conclusive in terms of who will be the starter at a given weight, but they're still an important data point in the decision-making process.
So here's a few thoughts on each weight and what we might see at wrestle-offs:
125: Can they have Spencer Lee just scrimmage with Thomas Gilman? That would probably be more interesting than watching him maul the likes of Perez Perez. (Sorry, Perez.)
133: This weight should have one of the most interesting matches of the wrestle-offs: Austin DeSanto vs Jason Renteria. Iowa's two high-profile transfers are battling for the starting job at this weight, so a bout here should give us an idea of who has the upper hand in that battle.
141: This is another weight with a wide-open battle for the starting job and one where wrestle-off results could prove very important. The two favorites here appear to be Vince Turk and Max Murin, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see this weight come down to a showdown between them. That said, I'm also curious to see if Carter Happel, the forgotten man in the scramble at this weight, can make some noise, too.
149: There isn't much intrigue in the identity of Iowa's starter here -- barring a massive shock (or injury), it's going to be Pat Lugo -- but this will be a rare opportunity to see him compete in an Iowa singlet since he spent last season under redshirt.
157: How does Kaleb Young look at 157? Wrestle-offs should be our first chance to try and answer that question. Young has floated between 165 and 174 the last two seasons, but Kemerer's move to 174 has opened up a spot at 157 and word is that Young is moving down to grab the starting job there. Jeren Glosser could be his main competition at the weight, although there's a chance we could see Jeremiah Moody cutting down to 157 to compete for the starting job as well, which would be an interesting wrinkle. We might also get a first look at Nelson Brands in the Iowa room at this weight.
165: Iowa doesn't have many 165ers (especially if Moody really does compete at 157), so there may not be much to see from Alex Marinelli here. Maybe we can get a sense of how his knee is holding up -- is he still wearing a big brace? How's he moving?
174: This will be a chance to finally see what Michael Kemerer looks like at 174, which should be fun.
184: This is the final weight where wrestle-offs figure to be instructive in determining a starter. Mitch Bowman manned the weight last season, but Cash Wilcke is moving down from 197 to challenge for the starting spot here. There's been a widespread belief among Iowa fans that 184 is a better weight for Wilcke than 197, so this figures to be our first indication of whether that's true or not.
197: Jacob Warner made his Iowa debut at last year's wrestle-offs, but this year's appearance might be even more exciting since he's slated to be a part of the Iowa lineup this year and could be one of the biggest new additions this season for the Hawkeyes. The competition at 197 probably won't be as fierce with Wilcke down at 184 this year, but seeing Warner in action will still be worth it.
285: Finally, the big fellas. It wouldn't surprise me if Stoll was held out of action here while he continues to recover from getting shot in the leg over the summer, but if he does compete, we could get to see how Iowa's biggest true freshman addition this year, Anthony Cassioppi, fares against big Sam.
In other news, time and TV/streaming information has been updated for the upcoming season for Iowa. You can find the full details at our schedule page or on Hawkeye Sports. Four dual meets will be aired on BTN: 11/24 vs Purdue (12 PM CT), 1/13 vs Minnesota (12 PM CT), 1/18 vs Rutgers (8 PM CT), and 1/25 vs Illinois (8 PM CT). Given Iowa's lackluster schedule, those picks make a fair amount of sense -- Iowa-Minnesota is a traditional rivalry and should be one of Iowa's better dual meets this season and Rutgers could produce some very high-profile match-ups. I would have preferred to see the Nebraska dual on BTN rather than the Illinois or Purdue duals, as the Iowa-Nebraska dual ought to be more competitive, but so it goes.
It's a little surprising that the Iowa-Iowa State dual isn't on BTN in a year when BTN could air it (since the dual is in Iowa City), but the fact that they're opting not to air it may say a lot about the one-sided nature of that rivalry at present (or maybe they just have a busy day of programming on 12/1). Reminder: Iowa's likely biggest dual meet of the season (against Oklahoma State) cannot be on BTN because it's in Stillwater, OK, this year.
At present, all of Iowa's duals or tournaments are scheduled to be aired on BTN or BTN Plus and/or Flowrestling with the exception of the Iowa-Nebraska dual and the Iowa-Oklahoma State dual. I would guess the latter will be announced for Flo eventually (most, if not all, Oklahoma State home duals have aired on Flo for the last few seasons), but I can't say why the Iowa-Nebraska dual isn't listed by either BTN Plus or Flo yet. We'll have to wait and see on that dual, although there's plenty of time to sort things out -- the dual isn't until 2/3.