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The 2017-18 season is in the books which means most of us have already begun looking forward to next year. With that we at IAwrestle will take a look at the group of wrestlers across the state of Iowa’s three Division I programs and bring you our top five wrestlers we are the most excited to see come off redshirt seasons.

1. Jacob Warner (Iowa) – 197

In 2017 Tom Brands landed the number one overall recruiting class which was headlined by two top ten ranked wrestlers, Spencer Lee and Jacob Warner. Thanks to the decision to pull Lee’s redshirt in January, we are left with a clear #1 wrestler we are most excited to see for the Hawkeyes.

With a 15-4 record as a true freshman, Warner opened up some eyes during the first month of the season after he cruised to titles at the Luther and Lindenwood Open. During that stretch he defeated Jordan Newman (Wisconsin-Whitewater), a returning national champion in Division III (and the eventual’s Division III wrestler of the year). In his second appearance Warner cruised to a Lindenwood title by winning 16-7 over Missouri’s Willie Miklus, who is now a three-time All-American for the Tigers.

Warner cooled off a bit in his second month, dropping a decision to Oklahoma’s Jake Woodley in the UNI Open finals (Warner beat Woodley at Lindenwood) and then dropped three straight matches at Midlands after reaching the semifinals. Still despite the perceived slump to close out his true freshman campaign, expectations remain sky high. Any wrestler that is talented enough to beat an All-American by bonus and place at the Midlands has a bright future.

The biggest question will be whether or not sophomore Cash Wilcke will indeed be dropping back to 184 pounds as expected to make room for Warner. That’s clearly the move that needs to be made to strengthen the team lineup going forward.

2. Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa) – 165

Heading into next season its hard to argue that Northern Iowa looks to pack a lot of punch returning all ten of the 2018 starters. This was a team that was good enough to finish runner-up their first year in the Big 12 despite not wrestling Bryce Steiert, who should return to the lineup at 165 pounds. It was a little bit of a shock when the news came out in the preseason that Doug Schwab had decided to redshirt his two-time NCAA qualifier. The upside being that the Panther lineup will benefit from his return over the next two season.

As noted this squad returns all ten starters, which means the return of Steiert will displace this year’s starter – Isaiah Patton. This past season Steiert compiled a 10-1 record, with his only loss coming to eventual NCAA champion Vincenzo Joseph in the Southern Scuffle finals.

The return should also add to growing list of All-American threats in the Panther lineup. The team has three current All-Americans: 2017 medalists Max Thomsen (149) and Drew Foster (184) to go along with 2018 breakout Jacob Holschlag (197). Additionally Steiert, Taylor Lujan (174), and Josh Alber (141) should all carry strong preseason rankings, and we will see if Jay Schwarm (125) continues his fast climb.

3. Austin Gomez (Iowa State) – 133

Lets face it, Kevin Dresser could use some impact wrestlers in his lineup and while the 2018 season revealed a potential budding stars – Ian Parker (141) and Jarrett Degen (149) – this is a team that will need even more production to continue the upward trend. There is a little doubt that Austin Gomez fits this role perfectly, and the 2018-19 season should see the Illinois prep push his way into the lineup.

One of the first things addressed by Kevin Dresser accomplished after being named head coach at Iowa State was drive over Gomez’s residence to re-secure the commitment of the nationally ranked lightweight. Injury held Gomez out of competition for most of the season, but when he was able to take the mat he tore through three different college opens going 8-0, which includes a win over last year’s starter Markus Simmons.

The potential impact of Gomez could create a string of quality lightweights for the Cyclones – with Gomez appearing right in front of Parker and Degen. We only got a limited sample of Gomez, but his national accolades in high school and on the USA Wrestling circuit have us thinking he is primed for a breakout season next year.

4. Pat Lugo (Iowa) – 149

Similar to UNI, the Iowa Hawkeyes will be returning a majority of their lineup – nine wrestlers and eight NCAA qualifiers. The only wrestler not returning is four-time All-American Brandon Sorensen, who finished in the top five nationally in each of his seasons. Enter Edinboro transfer Pat Lugo, who is looking to take over the reigns from Sorensen, and has many Hawkeye fans hoping for a small drop off at this weight.

After being a top ten ranked wrestler as a sophomore for Edinboro, Lugo announced that he would be exploring options at a new school for his last three years of eligibility. He went on to have a banner summer finishing runner-up at the Junior World Team Trials before ultimately landing in Iowa City. With Sorensen blocking his way, Lugo opted to redshirt in order for his eligibility to line up better for the team and compiled a 6-2 record, placing at his only tournament – the Midlands.

While Lugo is definitely a potential impact wrestler for Iowa, his path to the starting lineup is far from open. He will face some stiff competition from Jeren Glosser, who will also be a junior next season.

5. Marcus Coleman (Iowa State) – 174

Similar to Gomez, many Cyclone fans will be hungry to watch what local product Marcus Coleman is able to do in his redshirt freshman season at 174 pounds. Already regarded by his coach as the best option in the room at his weight, Coleman sat this year in redshirt mainly due to his team’s less-than-stellar postseason potential. The benefit of that will hopefully pay dividends for the Cyclones this coming season where Dresser said it best himself, “[C]ommon sense tells you that a 20 year-old Marcus Coleman is going to be a lot better than a 19 year-old Marcus Coleman and if both of them are considered freshman its a pretty easy decision.”

The reality is that 19 year-old Coleman was pretty dang good. His redshirt record was an impressive 24-2, with his only losses coming to UNI’s Taylor Lujan, which is certainly nothing to get down about. He finished his season by winning four straight opens: Lindenwood, UNI, Flash Flanagan, and the Duhawk Open.

Other names considered:

Max Murin (Iowa) – 141

Just missing out on our top five was 141-pound Hawkeye Max Murin. That isn’t to say that Murin potential isn’t exciting, but the reality is he will be entering into a three-horse race for the starting spot. This past year we saw Brands alternate between sophomore Vince Turk and freshman Carter Happel who each had their moments on the mat. After winning a late season wrestle off, Turk secured the post season spot, and he ran with it all the way to a 3-2 performance at the NCAA’s. Heading into next year Murin will be a strong threat to steal Turk’s spot, but it will likely be a dog fight.

By Ross Bartachek (@rossbchek)

Lead Editor of IA Wrestle