By Ross Bartachek, Photo by Cam Kramer
Early in the year, and right around the time we were learning that the 2020 Olympics weren’t going to be pushed to 2021 wrestlers and coaches started making their moves. Traditionally these happen after the Olympic Trials, but with this being a far-from-normal Olympic cycle we saw both club coaches and atheletes make their changes pre-Olympic’s. One of the bigger changes was the Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s change at the helm that saw Mark Perry head to ASU and Sunkist leaving an opening in Iowa City.
Prior to the hire of Daniel Dennis, we speculated who the new HWC coach would be. Lucky for us Dennis was on our list.
It didn’t take long for Iowa Wesleyan head coach Shawn Contos to make a splash as he filled out his coaching staff with three former University of Iowa Wrestlers. Contos tapped Jake Kadel, and recent graduates Cash Wilcke and Steven Holloway to fill out his staff. The big news was stealing Wilcke, who had reportedly accepted a different college coaching position.
Given the changes the NCAA has made this article feels like a lifetime ago. For starters the Eierman transfer still wasn’t officially announced, and Kemerer will still waiting on the official confirmation that he would be granted a medical hardship year for missing the 2019 season. Both of those were confirmed, but the biggest twist made since this article was the NCAA decision to essentially grant 2021 as a freebie, meaning every single one of Iowa’s seniors in 2021 has the option to come back for 2022. This is a huge deal considering Iowa is expected to start six seniors – and all of them are All-Americans.
Tackling a revised Lineup glance is a bit of a bear. You would have to know for certain that guys that by the end of this year have already been in college wrestling for five years would need to return to school for a sixth year. In the case of Kemerer, who is already on his sixth year due to medical hardship, would be returning for a seventh year (can you say Doctor Kemerer?)
Top 5 Iowa High School State Performances – 2/24
This is a fun one to look back on as we enter the new year of the 2021 high school season, taking a look back at some of the biggest performances at last year’s state tournament. Cael Happel cemented his legacy as one of the all-time Iowa high school wrestlers, Drake Ayala was utterly dominant, Aiden Noonan with potentially the biggest upset of history, Brandon Paez running the gauntlet to win as a freshmen, and Ben Kueter winning 3A’s 160-pound title as a freshman.
As mentioned up top, one of the biggest moves of the offseason was when Mark Perry decided to leave his alma mater to take a coaching position out west at Arizona State. Perry is constantly labeled as being one of the biggest names in almost every major head coaching vacancy. It was obviously a hit to lose a coaching talent like Perry, though the move did allow former Olympian Dan Dennis to return.
The 2020 state tournament saw the opportunity for four wrestlers to close out their careers as four-time state finalists. Two of those wrestlers ended their senior seasons with state titles – Happel and Cody Fisher. Allard was shockingly upset in the finals, and according to Andy Hamilton was the first potential four-time state champion to lose his bid for four titles in the state finals. The fourth wrestler in this group was Ben Monroe, whose only lost came to eventual state champion Graham Gambrall, took third in his senior campaign.
It was a rough start to the month of April for Hawkeye fans who were still dealing with the fact that they were not going to be able to see their team potentially win the first NCAA team title in a decade, but they also lost HWC coach Perry to ASU, followed a week later by the departure of Gilman to Penn State’s Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.
This was something fun the IAwrestle team put together. What if the state champions in each class were to face off against one another in a dual format. The winning class getting the title of toughest class in Iowa. This was our take on what a dual between those three classes would have looked like.
The state of Iowa is blessed with a lot of talent at the moment and the Class of 2022 is no exception. This piece took a look at some of the biggest names in that grade and their accolades. At that point, they were only halfway through their high school careers. Some have since gone on to rack up even more accomplishments in the past nine months.
Finally, we have our top freshmen to watch at the IHSAA state tournament. Every year this is one of my most favorite pieces to put together. It’s always fun to try and spot the next great Iowa high school wrestler from the very start of their rise to the top.