This past weekend Iowa Hawkeye assistant coach Ryan Morningstar appeared on the nationally broadcast Takedown Radio to catch up with our own Tony Hager and more on the state of the Hawkeye program. It should be noted that Morningstar’s comments came prior to his team’s dual with Minnesota, in which the Hawkeyes walked away with a 24-10 victory. Among the topics of particular interest related to Iowa lightweight Austin DeSanto.
The segment with the Hawkeye coach actually kicked off with DeSanto, with the show host comparing DeSanto to Thomas Gilman. The latter was an All-American for the Hawkeyes, but maybe more importantly played a big role in the identity of his team that he competed on. Gilman was especially viewed a “wrestling heel”, or in other terms a villain that opposing fans love to hate.
“First of all I think Thomas Gilman was Thomas Gilman and Austin DeSanto is Austin DeSanto,” Morningstar said, “DeSanto has done a really good job. To me he has got one instance he has really got a bad rap for. Everyone knows what we are talking about.”
That bad rap comes from the days before DeSanto wrestled for Iowa, last season at Drexel. In a match at the NCAA tournament DeSanto attempted a move against his opponent, Stevan Micic of Michigan, known as the Kimura, which is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu move. The hold is considered especially dangerous as it can lead to injury.
However in listening to Morningstar’s discussion with DeSanto on the move that took place last March, we can glean a little more perspective on what was going through DeSanto’s mind when he was attempting the move.
“I went through this when we recruiting him and I just blatantly asked him what was the deal with (the Micic match) and he said ‘If I wanted to break the kid’s arm, I could have broke his arm. I was trying to score points. There was time left on the score board. I was trying to get him to his back.'” Mornginstar said, “It wasn’t something that he was trying to do maliciously and hurt (Micic)…He’s got a bad rap from that.”
After finishing his freshman year at Drexel DeSanto sought out a new home to finish his college career, eventually landing in Iowa City where he really bonded with the culture, staff, and team. Morningstar added that since DeSanto has joined the program he has quickly become one of their own and his passion is welcomed by the rest of the wrestlers on the team.
“He’s a good kid and people on the team love him. He wrestles hard, he’s very intense, and wrestling is very important to him. He fits in well with us and we love him on the team. The guys embrace him and they love intensity he brings to the room.”
One wrestler in particular DeSanto has bonded with is his fellow Pennsylvania native Spencer Lee. Morningstar compared their relationship to that of their predecessors Gilman and Cory Clark.
“During the year they don’t wrestle as much. In the preseason they wrestled quite a bit. As the year goes on they will wrestle once a week or once every ten days. It’s kind of like Gilman and Clark relationship where they work on things together and they are very open with their conversations on positions. They definitely help each other and raise each other’s level.”
Another topic that came up focused on Lee and his Midlands finals loss to Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern. The loss was the first for Lee on the year, and the first since he lost to Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State in the Big Ten finals. Morningstar mentioned that his wrestler will learn from that loss and make the necessary adjustments going forward.
“He’s a professional so its not like all of the sudden (Lee) is going to start training a different way. Look where you made your mistakes and move on. He’s doing that. It’s not like he wasn’t training with urgency and now he is training with urgency. He’s a professional. He knows what he is doing, knows what he needs to work on, he knows what he needs to do to get better, and he knows what he needs to do to turn that match around.”
On his final thoughts regarding the team the Hawkeye assistant said that Iowa’s best wrestling is still ahead of them, and right now the goal is mirror last year’s team, who were able to put together a fantastic run at the NCAA tournament to place third.
“Our best wrestling is definitely ahead of us,” Morningstar added, “That was the case last year. Our best wrestling was towards the end of the year and that’s what we are pushing for (again). We’re getting ready to go for our best performance to be at the end of the year. That is the way it has got to be right now because we haven’t had our best performances.”