IOWA CITY — Iowa qualified all but one weight for the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
The hole will likely be filled by a new face, who brings national tournament experience with him.
NCAA qualifier Austin DeSanto received a release from Drexel after the season and announced Sunday that he will transfer to Iowa to wrestle for Hawkeyes Coach Tom Brands.
“I thought about it for a while,” DeSanto told trackwrestling.com’s Andy Hamilton. “This whole week I thought about what I’m about and this opportunity and what I want to do with them and how hard they wrestle and how hard they train. That’s what I’m about. That’s what I want to become and I think they can get me to the point where I can become a national champ. That’s why I chose them.”
DeSanto will be reunited with Iowa’s Spencer Lee, who won the NCAA title at 125 in March. They made headlines wrestling each other in the Pennsylvania state finals. Lee won the first state finals meeting, but DeSanto handed Lee his only high school loss in their final match as seniors, scoring a takedown in the final seconds against Lee, who was wrestling with a torn ACL.
The duo will be a formidable 1-2 punch at the front of Iowa’s lineup and each have three years of eligibility remaining.
“In my mind it’s awesome because I get a really, really good training partner to work with and so many other training partners who are going to make me better,” DeSanto told trackwreslting.com. “They have a lot of lightweight workout partners. It’s going to be awesome.”
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Last season, DeSanto posted a 30-7 record at 133 pounds and earned the seventh seed at the NCAA tournament, reaching the quarterfinals and missing the podium by one win. He posted 18 bonus-point victories and his aggressive, high-paced offensive attack helped tally 11 technical falls.
The true freshman scored five team points and his addition to the Iowa lineup in the only weight Iowa failed to qualify would give the Hawkeyes 90 national tournament points back from the third-place finish in March. The returning total is second-best to defending champion Penn State’s 117 and almost 13 more than runner-up and Big Ten champion Ohio State.
DeSanto, of Reading, Pa., was apparently impressed by the Iowa crowd while visiting during the recent United World Wrestling World Cup. Iowa hosted the event that culminated with Team USA winning gold in the international dual competition.
“The fans were really cool,” DeSanto told trackwrestling.com. “They didn’t let Spencer walk five steps without someone wanting an autograph or a picture.”
Iowa has received a boost from transfers the last two years. Former Edinboro two-time 149-pound NCAA qualifier Pat Lugo transferred before last school year. Lugo went 7-2 for Iowa during a redshirt season, placing fourth at the Midlands Championships. He is expected to step in and replace four-time All-American and NCAA finalist Brandon Sorensen at 149.
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