As we head into the 2016-17 season one thing is abundantly clear for the Hawkeyes, the 2012 #1 overall recruiting class is going to play a huge role if Tom Brands is going to take his team back to the top. This is the same sentiment that was echoed prior to the start of last season, but with four wrestler from that class earning All-American status it rings more true today.
For starters, all four wrestlers have now “proven it”. For Thomas Gilman (125) that means he has lived up to his rankings and his talk by finishing runner-up at the NCAAs (where he was also the tournament’s ninth high scoring individual). For Alex Meyer (174) and Sammy Brooks (184) it means they have gotten over that hump of earning their first All-American honor. After having a few low points to their season, they rebounded nicely to finish on the stand – both taking eighth.
Here is how the Hawkeye lineup looks to shake out:
125: #1 Thomas Gilman (SR)
133: #1 Cory Clark (SR)
141: #20 Vince Turk (RFR)/Topher Carton (SR)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen (JR)
157: #7 Michael Kemerer (RFR)
165: Alex Marinelli (FR)
174: #8 Alex Meyer (SR)
184: #6 Sammy Brooks (SR)
197: Steven Holloway (RFR)/Cash Wilcke (RFR)
285: #7 Sam Stoll (SO)
*Flowrestling rankings as of 10/07/16 – this article was published 9/29
The two wrestlers at the top of the lineup need little introduction. Both returning NCAA finalists, both have a good shot to finish the year as NCAA champions. Gilman’s path to a title seems a little clearer than Clark’s with the news that Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello is moving up to 133 – which in turn makes it tougher for Clark. These two have done nothing but produce for Iowa, and we shouldn’t expect a whole lot to be different this year.
The biggest lineup battle will probably be at 141, where the senior Carton will have to earn the spot over talented freshman Vince Turk. There has been plenty of chatter about how Turk has looked during his redshirt season – IA Wrestle included – but what remains to be seen is if Turk can fully transition his talent to the Division I level. Last year it was noticeable how much he struggled on bottom, but a lot can change between the first month through the first year a wrestler spends in a program.
Hawkeye fans also have come to expect a certain amount of production out of Brandon Sorensen since he took the spot over midway through his freshman year. Sorensen doesn’t necessarily light up a scoreboard, but his only losses in 2016 were in the Big Ten finals and NCAA finals. Even with the expected weight changes and incoming freshman Sorensen is expected to remain among the top tier of this weight.
The middle of the Iowa lineup will see some new blood after senior Edwin Cooper Jr. and Patrick Rhoads graduate. Michael Kemerer is the odds on favorite to win the spot at 157, despite possibly being better suited to 149 (we’ve been told he will certify at 149). At 165 Alex “The Bull” Marinelli seems like a popular pick to win the 165-pound spot despite having never wrestled a college match. Marinelli, who will also certify at 157, certainly has the talent and has been working in the room since this past spring.
Brands will likely play it safe with Marinelli, so don’t expect the redshirt to come off until he is truly tested at the Midlands.
That brings us back to Alex Meyer and Sammy Brooks, two wrestlers who have gone ahead and established themselves as threats to once again reach the All-American podium. The good news for Meyer is that both NCAA champion Myles Martin of Ohio State and NCAA runner-up Bo Nickal of Penn State have decided to change weights. The bad news for Brooks is that both should prove a handful up at 184 pounds. Brooks is known for his fast starts, so expect him to come out and light up the scoreboard.
The other lineup battle will be at 197, where a full sized Steven Holloway (for folks that listen to the podcast, they know how big Holloway has looked this summer) will be challenged by his fellow freshman Wilcke, who is probably more of a true 184 – and heir apparent to Brooks in 2017-18. Both wrestlers enter the season as unknowns and certainly have less buzz surrounding their potential compared to Kemerer and Marinelli. It’s hard for underclassmen to break into the upperweights, which makes this weight a key storyline to follow early on.
That leaves Stoll as the last to discuss in the preview, who will be coming off a knee injury to end last season. I’ll admit it, I became a Stoll fan the moment he walked out to “The Imperial March” theme (Darth Vader from ‘Star Wars’) in Carver-Hawkeye last fall. I think it is safe to say that Stoll became a bit of a fan favorite, especially with his aggressive performance on the mat. Stoll looked to be an All-American contender in 2016 before he suffered his injury, and his return to form will be critical to Iowa’s success.