IOWA CITY — Joey Gunther is heavier, happier and a little less hungry.
The University of Iowa sophomore has made a “smooth” transition to a bigger weight class.
“I’m lifting, eating more, so that’s nice,” Gunther said last week at the team’s annual media day. “I’m not worried about my weight as much, coming into the season. It’s been nice not having to cut as much weight and stuff.”
Gunther, an NCAA qualifier at 165 pounds last season, will open the season at 174 when the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes host North Dakota State, Buffalo and Iowa Central Community College for the Iowa City Duals on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, starting at 10 a.m.
Gunther finished 20-10 last season, going 2-2 at the national tournament after starting 13 of 15 duals. He was 18-5 at 165 during his redshirt season. With the expected addition of highly-touted redshirt freshman Alex Marinelli, 165 could have been a logjam. Gunther bumped up and has earned the starting spot.
“I feel stronger,” Gunther said. “I haven’t felt a problem with the weight difference, yet, wrestling with bigger guys like Alex Meyer. I’m feeling good.”
Gunther won a close wrestle-off with another redshirt freshman, Kaleb Young, who is listed as the 165 starter with Marinelli sitting out early. Gunther posted a 4-2 overtime victory over Young. He was positive about the performance but plenty of work remains.
“I wrestled well,” Gunther said. “I’d like to score more points, more takedowns. I’m working on it. It’s a work in progress.”
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Iowa Coach Tom Brands said he thinks Gunther fits the weight better but that doesn’t mean Young is going away.
“They’ll sort it out as we go,” Brands said. “We definitely like the maturity of Gunther and how he’s grown from his first year to now. That’s kind of a message to the entire team. When I say the entire team, I mean the guys that are going to be in there.”
Iowa could see more of a fluid lineup Friday. Paul Glynn and Phil Laux are both listed at 133, while All-American Michael Kemerer and Keegan Shaw are both listed at 157. Glynn won a wrestle-off, but Laux won a Luther Open title in a bracket that Glynn finished third.
“With three dual meets, you have that luxury,” Brands said about multiple wrestlers seeing action. “There are some weights we want to see different guys. We also have a tournament down in Lindenwood (Mo.), so you know what, we are going to figure it out. Probably already there most of the way.
“It will be a good opportunity for our guys to get in the lineup in front of the home fans and figure out who is our guy.”
The Iowa City Duals include some new faces with NDSU and Buffalo. Brands said the Bison have five ranked wrestlers and could lift the redshirt off a couple talented freshmen and Buffalo has a few ranked wrestlers. It’s a slight change from giving NCAA Division II and III and NAIA programs an opportunity to compete at CHA.
“Division-I matches are important,” Brands said. “We’re getting left out of the rankings at the end of the year because of not having enough Division-I opponents. Cash Wilcke was case in point last year. We need more Division-I matches.”
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