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.
|Pat Lugo||SR (RS)||5-5 / 149|
|Vince Turk||SR (RS)||5-7 / 149|
|Zach Axmear||SO (RS)||5-8 / 149|
|Cobe Siebrecht||FR||5-10 / 149|
THE KNOWN QUANTITY
Pat Lugo (5'5", 149 lbs, SR (RS), 93-30 overall, 23-10 (2018-19), 2019 NCAA All-American)
Pat Lugo transferred to Iowa from Edinboro with the goal of becoming an All-American and challenging for Big Ten and NCAA championships. After redshirting in 2017-18 while Brandon Sorensen finished his Iowa career, Lugo made his debut in the Iowa lineup last season -- and he managed to achieve one of those goals, making the podium at the NCAA Tournament. After knocking off Virginia Tech's Ryan Blees with a takedown in the second sudden victory period, Lugo fell to eventual NCAA runner-up Micah Jordan in the quarterfinals. But Lugo bounced back with a 4-0 win over Minnesota's Tommy Thorn in the Round of 12 to secure a podium finish.
The next step? Finishing higher up that podium this season. Lugo dropped a 6-3 decision to #3 seed Mitch Finesilver of Duke in the consolation rounds, then lost 11-9 to #8 seed Jarrett Degen (Iowa State) in the 7th place match. 8th place is still a podium finish, but Lugo wants better than that -- and Iowa probably needs better than that from him to win a team championship this year. Lugo finished 3rd in the Big Ten Tournament and the two wrestlers ahead of him, Rutgers' Anthony Ashnault (eventual Big Ten and NCAA champion) and Ohio State's Micah Jordan (eventual Big Ten and NCAA runner-up), are both gone this year.
While removing some of the fiercest challengers from the playing field this year will help, the key for Lugo achieving higher finishes at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments will be improvement in his own wrestling. Last year he seemed reluctant at times to take shots and when he did take shots, he often struggled to finish them, getting locked in stalemates with his opponents. Lugo seems to have a good motor, so he needs to make better use of that and attack early and often in a match; giving himself more chances ought to make it easier to finish more shots as well. An active Lugo is likely to be a winning Lugo.
IN THE WAITING ROOM
Vince Turk (5'7", 149 lbs, SR (RS), 49-18 overall, 14-4 (2018-19))
Zach Axmear (5'8", 149 lbs, SO (RS), 18-10 overall, 15-6 (2018-19))
Cobe Siebrecht (5'10", 149 lbs, FR), 0-0 overall)
Turk has spent his entire Iowa career until this season at 141 lbs, but with Max Murin (and potentially Austin DeSanto) tying things up at that weight, he made the move to 149 lbs to challenge Lugo for the starting spot. Lugo remains the starter after edging Turk at the preseason matches last week, but if Turk has some standout performances in open tournaments and Lugo falters or has some lackluster wins, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see Turk get some starting chances as well. As it is, his best opportunity to stake a claim for the starting gig may come at Midlands.
Axmear went 15-6 as a redshirt freshman last year, facing mostly lesser competition in open tournaments. He did dominate much of that competition, though, as 10 of his 15 wins came via fall or technical fall. Open tournaments will be his lot again next year, but he could factor into the battle for the starting lineup next year. Siebrecht is a true freshman from Lisbon who won a state championship at 138 lbs last year. A redshirt and competition in open tournaments is in his immediate future.
STANDING IN THE WAY
|Austin O'Connor||SO||North Carolina||34-6||2019 All-American|
|Brock Mauller||SO||Missouri||38-5||2019 All-American, 2019 MAC Champion|
|Boo Lewallen||SR||Oklahoma State||48-12||2018 All-American, 2018 Big 12 Champion|
|Jarret Degen||JR||Iowa State||55-20||2019 All-American|
|Max Thomsen||SR||UNI||86-26||2017 All-American|
|Brayton Lee||RS FR||Minnesota||5-0||26-7 while redshirting|
|Sammy Sasso||RS FR||Ohio State||6-0||19-2 while redshirting|
Half of the All-Americans from a season ago are out of the picture this year. Ashnault and Jordan, the top two finishers in 2019, have gradauted, while Mitch Finesilver (4th) and Princeton's Matthew Kolodzik (5th) are using Olympic redshirts. UNC's Austin O'Connor, the 3rd-place finisher, is the highest-returning finisher and the nominal favorite in the title scene. But this looks like a pretty wide open title race, with several potential challengers. Missouri's Mauller (6th) and ISU's Degen (7th) are the other returning All-Americans (along with Lugo, of course) and they'll be among the top contenders as well. BROCK MAULLER remains an absolutely incredible wrestling name, while Jarrett Degen's length and slightly funky style make him a challenging opponent.
Several other wrestlers figures to make their presence known at this weight, too. Okie State's Lewallen had his season cut short by injury last season, but he was an All-American (8th place) at 149 lbs in 2018. UNI's Max Thomsen finished 5th at this weight as a redshirt freshman in 2017, but he's come up just short of the podium the last two seasons, losing out in the Round of 12 each time. He'll certainly be extra-motivated to get back on the podium in his last chance to do so. Finally, a few highly touted redshirt freshmen could have a say in this weight as well, in Minnesota's Brayton Lee and Ohio State's Sammy Sasso. Sasso finished 3rd at Midlands last year while going 19-2 and he's off to a 7-0 start this season with four pins and two tech fall wins. He's an absolute phenom and he's going to be a big problem for everyone else at this weight.
|#6||Jarrett Degen||JR||at Iowa State||11/24/19|
|#14||Griffin Parriott||JR||at Purdue||1/12/20|
|#9||Sammy Sasso||RS FR||Ohio State||1/24/20|
|#15||Jared Verkleeren||SO||Penn State||1/31/20|
|#8||Brayton Lee||RS FR||Minnesota||2/15/20|
|#4||Boo Lewallen||SR||Oklahoma State||2/23/20|
Lugo should get an early test against Degen next weekend; he went 0-2 against Degen last year, dropping a 7-4 decision in overtime at the dual meet and an 11-9 decision at the NCAA Tournament. Degen's length gave Lugo fits last year, so we'll see if Lugo has devised any ways around that problem yet. Lugo's biggest test should come at the end of January when faces Sasso at the Iowa-OSU dual. Outside of Sasso, Lee and Verkleeren may be the top guys in the Big Ten at 149; Lugo should get a chance to wrestle all of them before the Big Ten Tournament, which could be beneficial.
WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN
Lugo finished on the podium last year in what was ultimately a stronger field, so I feel good about his ability to make it back on the podium this year. Can he finish higher than 8th place? Yes, although match-ups may be important -- we may not want to see Sasso or Degen turn up in his bracket. But as the previous section noted, Lugo is going to get a crack at a lot of the top challengers at this weight during the season, so we should get a good sense of how he stacks up against them before March rolls around. I think Lugo finishes in the 4th-5th range at the NCAA Tournament and 2nd or 3rd in the Big Ten.