Iowa's dominant 2019-20 wrestling lineup featured just two senior starters, Pat Lugo at 149 lbs and Michael Kemerer at 174 lbs. And now one of those two will be back in the lineup next year, as Kemerer announced over the weekend that he received a sixth year of eligibility to compete next season.
Kemerer's additional year of eligibility comes as little surprise -- but it is reassuring to have it confirmed. The official Iowa release explains the logistics behind the decision:
Officially, it is a clock extension resulting from a redshirt year during his initial year of enrollment (2015-16), and a hardship waiver, resulting from an injury that caused him to miss his junior season in 2018-19.
Injuries prevented Kemerer from competing during the entire 2018-19 campaign, in what would have been his junior season; this decision just gives him that year of competition back to use during the 2020-21 season. Kemerer has had a bit of a snakebit career at Iowa, as a late season injury impacted his sophomore season in 2017-18 (he did the bare minimum at the Big Ten Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but only managed a
6th 4th place finish at NCAAs that season) and, as noted, injuries scuttled his entire 2018-19 year. When fully healthy, Kemerer has looked like one of the best wrestlers in the country, no matter what weight he was at; he finished 3rd at 157 lbs as a redshirt freshman in 2016-17 and appeared on pace to improve on that finish this year at 174 lbs before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kemerer's return means that Iowa will return nine of 10 starters next year from a team that went 13-0 this season and posted impressive tournament-winning performances at Midlands and the Big Ten Tournament. They'll be favored to dominate against next year and Kemerer will once again be relied upon to be one of the biggest guns in their lineup. Kemerer's return also means Iowa's 2020-21 lineup will be absolutely stacked with seniors; he should be one of six senior starters, along with Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto, Jaydin Eierman (a transfer from Missouri who sat out this season), Kaleb Young, and Alex Marinelli.
Despite his excellence as a wrestler during his years at Iowa, Kemerer has yet to stand atop the podium at either the Big Ten or NCAA Tournaments during his years in the black and gold. Mainly that was a result of a few other outstanding talents at his weights; he had Jason Nolf to contend with when he was at 157 lbs and he had Mark Hall to deal with at 174 lbs this year. Kemerer and Hall split the two matches they had during the season, with Kemerer winning at the dual meet and Hall winning at the Big Ten Tournament. Hopefully Kemerer can climb that last step on the ladder and become a Big Ten and NCAA champion at Iowa -- that would be a phenomenal way to end his story at Iowa.
Regardless of how it ends, though, we're thrilled to have Kemerer back to compete for another year. He's been one of the most exciting and dominant Iowa wrestlers to watch over the past 4-5 years, so it's great to get another opportunity to watch him do his thing on the mat. Welcome back, Kemdawg.