Today we conclude our Division I preview series by taking a look at the first half of the potential Iowa Hawkeye lineup. A couple of things to mention before you begin reading that this a preview of who I think will start for the Hawkeyes on their first day of competition (the Kinnick dual). This is not to say that someone else won’t emerge to take a starting spot. The two toughest weights to figure out were 141 and 157 and I don’t think Brands will truly know his starter until after Midlands. Nothing is written in stone yet, but for now this appears to be a good bet for what the Hawkeyes will look like vs Oklahoma State.
125: Thomas Gilman JR.
Credentials: 2015 NCAA All-American 4th (125), defeated NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello 2-1.
Challenger: Perez Perez True FR
I can’t imagine a world where Thomas Gilman will not be the starter for the Hawkeyes at 125 pounds after he put together a fourth place finish in his first full season as a starter for Iowa. Gilman has been every bit as good as advertised, going 47-9 in the last two seasons. This past season Gilman reached the Big Ten finals, and the NCAA semifinals, and so far he has managed to knock off some of the top guys at his weight – including owning a win over NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State).
Along with his toughness Gilman brings plenty of “personality” to the Hawkeye’s lineup, often times giving himself a bad reputation among other fan bases. Many have come before Gilman, but it’s apparent that he likes and thrives on being the villain.
The lone backup at this weight was Phil Laux, but he has since transferred to Northwestern leaving a hole behind Gilman and the once highly touted depth at 125 is no more. California wrestler Perez Perez could be an option, but he is just an incoming freshman.
Nico Megaludis, Penn State – 3x NCAA All-American
Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State – 2015 NCAA and Big Ten Champion
Conor Youtsey, Michigan – 2015 NCAA All-American (6th), 5th in the Big Ten
Tim Lambert, Nebraska – 2x NCAA qualifier
The Big Ten is full of good wrestlers at this weight. As mentioned the returning NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello will be the wrestler with the largest target on his back, though Hawkeye fans can take solace in knowing that Gilman holds multiple wins over the Buckeye when you factor in freestyle. Nico Megaludis (Penn State) is a two-time NCAA finalist and is coming off a redshirt and he isn’t likely to be a push over either. In 2013, Megaludis defeated Gilman 4-1 in a dual. Outside of those two – who are considered national contenders, the Big Ten has a bunch of other All-American caliber wrestlers which will mean Gilman will need to remain sharp all season.
133: Cory Clark JR
Credentials: 2014 NCAA All-American 5th (125), 2015 NCAA Runner-up (133).
Challenger: None (Paul Glynn True FR)
In all likelihood, Cory Clark will step into a leadership role for the 2015-16 season, as he is not only the Hawkeye’s highest returning All-American, he is also tied with Nathan Burak with most appearances on the stand. Ever since Clark stepped on to campus and had the legendary wrestle off with Matt McDonough, Hawkeye fans have expected greatness from him, and with a 52-10 record to show thus far, he is meeting expectations.
Last season Clark managed to start off strong ripping off 14 straight wins, including a Midlands title, before being upended by Johnni DiJulius of Ohio State. Clark’s biggest issue was staying consistent, losing a couple more matches before a third place finish at the Big Ten championships. He went on to have a great National tournament, before ending runner-up to Cody Brewer (Oklahoma). Clark can wrestle with anyone at this weight, including the returning champion, and as long as he stays patient and wrestles his match (cliché I know), he could be on top of the podium this March.
Ryan Taylor, Wisconsin – 2015 NCAA All-American (7th), Big Ten runner-up
Jordan Conaway, Penn State – 2015 NCAA All-American (8th@125), 3rd (@125) in the Big Ten
Rossi Bruno, Michigan – 2015 NCAA All-American (8th), 7th in Big Ten
Johnni DiJulius, Ohio State – 3x NCAA qualifier, 4th in Big Ten
Zane Richards, Illinois – 2x NCAA qualifier, 5th in Big Ten
Cody Brewer is the only wrestler expected to be ahead of Clark which should make him the preseason #2 in all of NCAA. The problem is the Big Ten is ridiculously stacked at this weight. All-American Ryan Taylor (Wisconsin) returns for his junior season, while Jordan Conaway (Penn State) and Rossi Bruno (Michigan) are back for their senior seasons. Veterans DiJulius and Zane Richards (Illinois) have each previously handed Clark a loss. Much like Gilman, Clark will need to come prepared each time he steps out on the mat against his Big Ten brethren.
141: Topher Carton JR
Credentials: 32-12 career record in two seasons for Iowa.
Challenger(s): Brody Grothus SR, Logan Ryan RsFR, Vince Turk True FR
What a fun weight that this has turned out to be for the Hawkeyes. In the previous two weights I was able to talk about what each wrestler has shown so far, but with this weight it is more of an unknown, and yet fans are starting to feel more comfortable with it.
Coming in Carton lacked in experience to point to that he was something fans were able to hang their hat on and tapping him as “their guy”. Carton’s biggest accomplishment might be Tom Brands declaring him the most improved wrestler at last year’s media day. The other veteran presence here should be Brody Grothus, and with Brody being completely healthy and this time cutting down to 141 with more than 10 days notice, he will hopefully be able to take the mat at this weight. If Brody can for sure get down to 141 I think he becomes the favorite to win the spot, but it will most likely be mid-December at the earliest before we know.
The other two unknowns here are incoming true freshman Vince Turk out of Illinois and redshirt freshman Logan Ryan. Ryan was recently reinstated to the team after being suspended earlier this spring. Turk has emerged as an interesting candidate, with enough “room talk” to speculate whether or not he will be the first wrestler to not redshirt under Brands, though with Grothus officially in the picture I would have to imagine the redshirt stays on and the streak continues.
Jimmy Gulibon, Penn State – 2015 NCAA All-American (5th@133), 6th in Big Ten (@133)
Anthony Ashnault, Rutgers – 2015 NCAA All-American (8th), 5th in Big Ten
Anthony Abdin, Nebraska – 4th in Big Ten
This weight clears out a ton from 2015, with only two of the top 12 NCAA place-winners returning for this season. Both Big Ten finalist have graduated, which means that really anyone from any team can come out and make a name for themselves. Iowa has a quadruplet of wrestlers that are all very intriguing and fans will probably be keeping an eye on the early season opens as that is the most likely place Brands is going to send his wrestlers to see who will be his starter.
Credentials: 2015 NCAA All-American 4th (149), defeated 2014 NCAA Champion Jason Tsirtsis 3-2.
Challenger: Tagen Lambotte RsFR
Coming off a season in which he was named the freshman of the year at 149 pounds is certainly something that Hawkeye fans should feel encouraged about when they look at their 149 pound wrestler, Brandon Sorensen. Sorensen was outstanding, going 40-6 in his first year and was the first freshman to win 40 matches in two decades.
After finishing runner-up at the Big Ten tournament, and fourth at the NCAA championships, Sorensen will be tabbed as one of the top returning wrestlers for the upcoming season, and to add another feather to his cap he does own a win over former NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis. This past season we saw Sorensen put up some takedowns on some very good wrestlers, and we saw that he has the ability to ride anyone. The biggest obstacle to overcome is getting out from underneath against other guys who are tough on top.
With Grothus deciding to move down to challenge for the 141 spot, and Edwin Cooper moving up to 157 last year, this could be a situation where Kansas prep Lambotte will be able to serve as the All-American’s back up. Lambotte saw limited action as a freshman, but has been lauded for his work ethic. Having a hard-nosed, gritty wrestler like Lambotte behind Sorensen should provide some great depth.
Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern – 2014 NCAA Champion, 2015 NCAA All-American (3rd), 2x Big Ten Champion
Zain Retherford, Penn State – 2014 NCAA All-American (5th), Redshirted in 2015
Hunter Stieber, Ohio State – 2x NCAA All-American Alec Pantelo, Michigan – 4th in Big Ten, NCAA qualifier
Sorensen, Retherford, and Tsirtsis are the cream of the crop of this weight on paper, but there are some interesting names. All three of those guys are threats for botht the Big Ten and NCAA title. Depending on what Ohio State does, Micah Jordan or Hunter Stieber could be at this weight, and Alec Pantelo of Michigan was solid in his debut season. Hunter Stieber will most likely be the guy here for OSU, but after having double arm surgery will he be the same guy he was before he redshirted?
157: Logan Thomsen SO
Credentials: 12-4 in his first year of official competition.
Challengers: Patrick Rhoads SR and Edwin Cooper SR
This weight class looks to be a bit of a mystery now that Brody Grothus is indeed heading to 141 pounds to try and be the starter at that weight. What we are left with is a trio of wrestlers who all picked up a start at some point during the dual season.
I am going to go ahead and select Thomsen as my preseason favorite to win the spot. Last season he was 1-1 with teammate Patrick Rhoads, but in the second meeting Thomsen won by major decision. Edwin Cooper, who competed for the starting spot also picked up a win against Rhoads, so seems like a good pick for the preseason #2 pick at this weight. I hesitate to say Rhoads is out of the race, because Brands did give him the start at 165 pounds during the Oklahoma State dual. This should be an interesting battle. I give Thomsen the benefit of the doubt for being a natural 157-pound wrestler, where Cooper is trying to move up.
One name that seems to be gaining momentum online is Skyler St. John, brother of former NCAA champion Derek, who missed a good chunk of 2015 with an injury. Word is that St. John is progressing very well and displays a lot of the same qualities that made his brother Derek a nightmare to wrestle. I wouldn’t declare Skyler a no-doubt contender, but there is a little evidence he could be in the race.
Isaiah Martinez, Illinois – 2015 NCAA and Big Ten Champion, undefeated as a freshman
Brian Murphy, Michigan – 2015 NCAA All-American (7th), 5th in Big Ten
Jason Nolf, Penn State – 2015 Southern Scuffle runner-up, 3x state champion
This weight returns two All-Americans, Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) and Brian Murphy (Michigan), but that is about it for top performers at the 2015 NCAAs. It will also add super freshmen Jason Nolf (Penn State). Since we don’t have a clue who will be the starter, it’s tough to try and gauge what the conference expectations should be.