Welcome to The Weigh-In, our extensive preview of Iowa wrestling heading into the 2019-20 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.
|Max Murin||SO (RS)||5-8 / 141|
|Carter Happel||JR (RS)||5-8 / 141|
|Justin Stickley||SO (RS)||5-6 / 141|
|Aaron Meyer||SR (RS)||5-8 / 141|
|Cam Shaver||FR (RS)||5-8 / 141|
THE KNOWN QUANTITY
Max Murin (5'8", 141 lbs, SO (RS), 33-13 overall, 17-10 (2018-19), R12 NCAA Tournament 2019)
Murin made his Iowa debut last year as a redshirt freshman, to generally good results. He went 17-10 overall with a 7th place finish at the Big Ten Tournament and narrowly missing a podium (All-America) finish at the NCAA Tournament, where he lost in the Round of 12. For the most part, Murin beat the wrestlers he was "supposed" to beat (those ranked lower than him) and struggled to beat the wrestlers he wasn't "supposed" to beat (those ranked higher than him). His best wins were probably over Illinois' Mike Carr, who was ranked in the Top 10 for most of the season; Murin beat him 3-1 at the Big Ten Tournament and again 4-3 at the NCAA Tournament.
So the mission for Murin this year is twofold: beat more of the wrestlers he's not "supposed" to beat -- and pick up more bonus points. Just six of his 17 wins last season featured bonus points, so he'll need to widen the winning margin in some of those matches -- take a comfortable decision and turn it into a major decision, or work on getting turns to rack up nearfall points for a technical fall or a possible pin. As far as turning more losses into wins goes, the good news is that Murin was fairly close in a lot of his matches last year. Six of his 10 losses last season came by three or fewer points. Turning those close losses into wins is the next step. Doing that will require Murin to improve his finishing; he struggled to finish shots last year, particularly against better opponents. Improving the variety of his attacks from neutral and finishing those shots more quickly (rather than letting an opponent counter them into a stalemate) will be vital for Murin taking his success to the next level this season. He's now rocking a pretty filthy mullet, which is usually a good sign for wrestling success.
IN THE WAITING ROOM
Carter Happel (5'8", 141 lbs, JR (RS), 38-14 overall, 5-4 (2018-19))
Justin Stickley (5'6", 141 lbs, SO (RS), 17-13 overall, 6-4 (2018-19))
Aaron Meyer (5'8", 141 lbs, SR (RS), 24-19 overall, 5-4 (2018-19))
Cam Shaver (5'8", 141 lbs, FR (RS), 3-4 overall)
Meyer is the younger brother of former Iowa starter Alex Meyer. Stickley arrived at Iowa as a 125er and filled in for Spencer Lee during Lee's freshman year (and Stickley's as well) until the second semester, when Lee came out of redshirt (and mowed through the field at 125 lbs). He went 3-4 in duals that year and 2-2 at Midlands. He's since bulked up to 141 lbs, where he went 6-4 a year ago, though most of those wins came against lesser competition. Shaver redshirted last season while going 3-4 against lesser competition.
Happel has seen spot duty each of the last two seasons (he went 1-2 in duals in 2018 and 1-0 in duals last year) and that figures to be his role again this season. He's a solid wrestler, but not quite good enough to crack into the starting lineup at Iowa.
STANDING IN THE WAY
|Luke Pletcher||SR||Ohio State||91-20||2x All-American (133 lbs)|
|Nick Lee||JR||Penn State||65-11||2x All-American|
|Dom Demas||SO||Oklahoma||41-10||2019 All-American, 2019 Big 12 Champion|
|Grant Leeth||JR||Missouri||32-6||2018 All-American (149 lbs)|
|Mitch McKee||SR||Minnesota||72-36||2019 All-American|
|Kyle Shoop||SR||Lock Haven||109-39||2019 All-American|
|Chad Red||JR||Nebraska||52-26||2x All-American|
|Tariq Wilson||JR||NC State||44-15||2018 All-American (133 lbs)|
Like 133, this is another weight that's seen some significant departures from a year ago. Two-time defending NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) put his bid to win a third straight national title on hold to take an Olympic redshirt and contend for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Last year's 3rd place finisher -- and recent Iowa transfer -- Jaydin Eierman is also taking an Olympic redshirt. Last year's runner-up, Ohio State's Joey McKenna, has graduated.
The other five wrestlers to make the podium last year are back, though, led by Oklahoma's Dom Demas (4th) and Penn State's Nick Lee (5th). Minnesota's Mitch McKee (6th), Lock Haven's Kyle Shoop (7th), and Nebraska's Chad Red (8th) are also back, so there is a fair amount of returning depth at this weight. They're also being joined by a trio of notable wrestlers from other weights. Ohio State's Luke Pletcher, a two-time All-American at 133 lbs, moved up to 141 lbs to replace McKenna, and he's already made an impact, defeating Demas 2-1 a few weeks ago. NC State's Tariq Wilson, an All-American at 133 lbs in 2018, has also moved up to 141 lbs to add to the bevy of challengers at this weight, as has Missouri's Grant Leeth, who's moving down from 149 lbs (where he was an All-American in 2018, before injuries kept him off the mat last season).
All of which is to say... there's a real thicket of challengers at 141 lbs this year. In the absence of Yianni, McKenna, and Eierman, there's a decided lack of clear-cut favorites in the field. Demas was the highest-returning placer, but he's already lost once. Pletcher is largely unproven at 141 and tends to wrestle a lot of close matches against top opponents. Nick Lee became a more consistent wrestler last year, in terms of upping his bonus points and avoiding head-scratching losses, so he could be right near the top of the challengers list. But any of the other guys listed above are quite capable of putting together a good set of results at the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament and winning the whole thing (or at least placing highly).
|#15||Ian Parker||JR||at Iowa State||11/24/19|
|#1||Luke Pletcher||SR||Ohio State||1/24/20|
|#3||Nick Lee||JR||Penn State||1/31/20|
Overall Iowa's set to face half of the Top 10 at 141 during duals this season, which should give us an excellent sense of how Murin (or whoever ends up manning this spot) fares against the best of the best at this weight. A match with Tristan Moran is the highlight of the 2019 portion of the schedule, while back-to-back-to-back matches with Red, Pletcher, and Lee look like a huge test for Murin. That late season tilt with McKee could be key for seeding as well.
WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN
At this point, Max Murin looks like the main option here. But the uncertainty at 133 could have a spill-over effect on this weight, too; if Iowa opts to go with Gavin Teasdale at that weight, then Austin DeSanto could move up to 141 to challenge Murin for the starting job at this weight. Moving to DeSanto to 141 isn't all that far-fetched -- he mentioned it as as possibility when he transferred to Iowa from Drexel -- and if the cut to 133 has been at all onerous for him, getting to compete at 141 could result in an even more energetic and action-packed DeSanto (if such a thing is even possible). That's all speculation at the moment, of course. Whoever gets the nod here will have a difficult path to navigate, both at the Big Ten level and the NCAA level. I think shooting for a Top-5 finish in the Big Ten and a podium finish at the NCAA Tournament are worthy (and attainable) goals for this season. Until we see if Murin has been able to improve or if DeSanto can have a big impact at 141, it's hard to project better results than that.