A look into the 2014-15 Hawkeye lineup. I know we are eight months away from the start of next season, but I thought we could take a look now, and then revisit this post next fall. Starting off will be the known wrestlers who are returning to the lineup. The good news is since Iowa qualified all ten wrestlers for the national tournament, Iowa is returning a ton of experienced talent.
141- Josh Dziewa – Josh had his first season as a full time starter this year. The former top 20 high school recruit did little to make fans think he will be a dominant wrestler he was recruited to be, but what he does bring to the table is reliability for the 2014-15 season. Dziewa looked like he was going to live up to his potential as early as the Midland tournament when he defeated 2013 (and now 2014) All American Richard Durso of Franklin and Marshall twice. Confidence peaked for Hawkeye fans during the Minnesota dual at Carver when Dziewa upset Nick Dardanes 1-0 to give him his second win over a former All American. Shortly after Dziewa’s struggles in the bottom position caught up with him, and he had a 5th place finish in the Big Ten conference tournament, then went 2-2 in his first NCAA appearance.
While Dziewa had his moments when looked lost this season, there is certainly plenty of room for optimism. Hoping for Dziewa to completely live up to his expectation as a top 20 recruit may be a bit of a stretch now, but Dziewa did spend a lot of time ranked in the 9-13 range and even had a couple stints in the top eight this season. With a good off season Hawk fans can be hopeful that Dziewa ends up finishing on the stand one time in his career.
149 (or 157)– Brody Grothus – Brody had a very strong season for Iowa considering a year ago he was 0-4 in Big Ten duals and was beginning to be written off by some fans. Over the course of the off season Grothus changed his offensive strategy from throw first ask questions later, to work on setting up a shot and not forcing throws. The improvement was extraordinary and when you consider Grothus defeated the top four All Americans from this season, you can start dreaming that maybe Grothus will be able to put it all together now that he has had a full season as starter. He defeated NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis 3-2 and pinned 4th place finisher David Habat of Edinboro at the Midland tournament and that is when he earned his starting spot. He put it to good use defeating NCAA runner up Josh Kindig of Oklahoma State 9-5 and beat 3rd place finisher Eric Grajales in exciting fashion 17-14 in the duals.
Grothus ran into some trouble at Big Tens by failing to place losing to Grajales and Evrin of Illinois. At the NCAAs he ran into Kendric Maple which sent him to the backside of the bracket. He was able to pick up one more win before being eliminated by Ryan Lubeck of Wisconsin. The heartbreaking moment was knowing that Grothus had defeated Lubeck 8-4 and 2-1 during the season, and that loss eliminated any chance of Grothus finishing on the stand. So while Grothus had a really positive December and January against opponents, he struggled in the later parts of the season which shows there is still work for him to do. Grothus has beaten enough quality wrestlers that he should be considered a legitimate threat to achieve All American status next season, but he also has shown he has big potential to get bounced out of the tournament very early. A major factor in determining if Grothus returns as a starter at 149 will be whether freshman Brandon Sorensen, who defeated Grothus at the Midland tournament, decides to go to 149 instead of 157. There is no reason to write Grothus off, but the Hawkeyes will need him to produce if they want a chance to knock Penn State off of their incredible run.
165- Nick Moore – A lot of Iowa fans have watched Nick Moore grow up over the years. He is not the first of his family to wrestle for Iowa, his cousin Cliff won a national title in 2004. He also had a brother, Nate, who competed on the team, but he never really saw the lineup. Hawkeye fans had been talking about Nick Moore years before he even stepped on the mat as a Hawkeye. Dreaming he could provide something that his cousin did so many years ago, give Iowa another homegrown national champion. As a sophomore he got his first shot at the Iowa lineup full time and failed to reach the podium at nationals, even though he spent most of the year ranked around the top eight. As a junior people started expecting big things for Moore. For starters it appeared that his offense had found its way back to him after disappearing on him during his first two seasons. Moore was running through opponents and for the first time in his career he was able to notch a victory over a top five opponent, and all things seemed to pointing for Nick to finally do what fans had always dreamed he would do. After a runner up finish to David Taylor at the Big Ten conference tournament, Moore entered the NCAA tournament the #5 seed at his weight. Most were hoping he could score an upset to make the semifinals for a rematch against David Taylor, but before we knew what was happening Josh Veltre of Bloomsburg sent Moore to the consolation side of the bracket and Nick would be forced to win seven straight matches in order to place 3rd. Moore was able to wrestleback and win two matches over good opponents. He defeated a top 10 opponent Corey Mock of Chattanooga, and then beat a top 15 opponent Jackson Morse of Illinois and all appeared to be okay for the junior. Then he faced off against Cornell freshman Dylan Palacio and was eliminated from the tournament by a 8-1 defeat.
It was a tough loss to swallow for Hawkeye fans. Moore had won four Iowa high school state titles and it finally appeared that he had found his footing in college only to miss the podium yet again. For most this would be a sign that Moore just can’t keep it together enough to be a factor at NCAAs, but I think he provides a secret weapon for the Hawkeyes for next season. Iowa finished in 4th place this year in the team standings and they only scored a handful of points from Moore. What could be a huge factor in the 2015 team title race is that Iowa could go from scoring just a few points at 165, to getting 20 points from Nick Moore. You are reading that correctly. Even though Moore has yet to finish on the stand, I think he will be a legitimate contender for the 165 NCAA title and he should be the favorite to win the Big Ten conference title. Moore will be entering his final season as a Hawkeye, and what better time to step up and be a leader than his last year.
174- Mike Evans – Has been one of the most consistent Hawkeyes over the last three seasons. As a freshman he cut down to 165 and while he failed to reach the podium, he was one of the anchors in that lineup. As a sophomore and junior at 174 he has placed 6th each of the last two seasons and going into this season he will be one of four wrestlers considered the favorite for the title. Evans will have some tough competition at the top from Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh, Minnesota’s Logan Storley, and Penn State’s Matt Brown, but Evans has beaten each of them at least once in his career. Evans and Bobby Telford are tied for returning All American honors with two each, and Evans will definitely be a captain and a leader for next year’s squad.
197- Nathan Burak – Nathan really came out of his shell and emerged victorious when it counted this March. After finishing 5th at the Big Ten conference tournament, Burak was looking like a long shot to most as an All American candidate. He was a surprise quarterfinalist at 197 where he fell to Virginia Tech’s Chris Penny. He was able to pick up one more victory in the round of 12 to secure his All American honors and finished 8th on the podium to cap off a great sophomore campaign.
Coming into the offseason I originally thought next year may be a battle for the 197 starting spot between Burak and redshirt freshman and the #38 recruit Broc Berge. Thanks to his great finish in March, Burak may have created some separation from Berge and the 197 spot should be his to lose. 197 only graduates runner up Nick Heflin and 6th place finisher Chris Penny, so Burak will have his work cut out for him to make the stand again, but the Hawkeyes will need his points next season.
HWT- Bobby Telford – Telford is coming off a career high 4th place finish at nationals and will look to be one of the top wrestlers in the nation. Telford has always been a strong member in the heavyweight class finishing 5th as a freshman. He was on his way to the stand as a sophomore when an injury derailed his efforts and he had to medically forfeit from the tournament. As a junior Telford came out swinging scoring an upset over the freshman phenom Adam Coon of Michigan – whom defeated Telford on two separate occasions this season – to reach the semifinals. He was defeated by runner up Tony Nelson in the semis and battled his way back to the consolation finals and lost to Mike McMullan of Northwestern to finish 4th.
I look for Telford to do “big” things in his senior year. After Volunteer assistant coach Ben Berhow joined Iowa, we saw Telford finally be able to overcome Nelson (we also saw Nelson lose more matches this season than he had in the previous season). I think it can’t be overstated that having another full year to work and develop with Berhow is going to be a huge asset for Telford and the Iowa wrestling team.
Check out Tony and Tim’s article on the WAAAAY too early look at 2015 NCAA Wrestling Tournament and feel free to drop your comments below.