116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A bond may have formed between Iowa wrestling and Army, Iowa State hosted the Harold Nichols Open and Michigan may have itself an NCAA champion to plug in its lineup. This is the Wrestling Weekend That Was.
Army to the rescue
Army Coach Kevin Ward didn’t expect to be at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Black Knights were scheduled to dual Iowa State Saturday and compete at the Harold Nichols Open in Ames the next day.
As Ward conducted his team’s final workout on the eve of the dual, he was approached by his assistant Scott Green. He was told that Iowa Coach Tom Brands was looking for a team to replace Oregon State, which experienced travel issues that included delays, missed flights and mechanical problems. The dual was pushed back a day, but the Beavers still couldn’t make it.
“We were walking out getting on the bus and I was like call him back and see if this is a for sure deal,” Ward said. “I talked to the team. I said, ‘guys I’m not going to do it unless you guys want to do it.’ They said, ‘Hell yeah. Let’s do it.’ I said, ‘call them back (and) it’s on. We’re going.’
“Thirty minutes max from start to finish and we had a deal.”
Less than 48 hours later, Army was wrestling one of the most storied programs in a hallowed venue for the sport. Iowa was appreciative of the effort to make the schedule change on short notice.
“It’s cliche to give them praise and thanks but I give them praise and thanks,” Brands said. “It is not unnoticed. It does not go without saying that we do owe them a lot of gratitude.”
Ward said logistically that it was a simple change. The biggest challenge was wrestling the No. 1 team in the country in front of the largest crowd the Black Knights will see outside of the national tournament.
“To be honest with you, the decision was pretty easy,” Ward said. “We were here. We were going to wrestle. Now, you have the opportunity to go wrestle the defending champs. I’m really proud of the guys for not hesitating.
“At the end of the day, these guys in a few years are going to have to make much tougher decisions than traveling a couple hours to wrestle a really tough opponent. I’m proud of the way they said yeah.”
Brands said he struggled with the warm feelings for an opponent after a lifetime of always competing. You have to be ready to battle, but this was a different situation.
“That is where some of this stuff gets hard for me,” Brands said, “but there may have been a little bit of a blossoming of a relationship, at least in my mind, with this, because it was not easy to do what they did.”
Brands said Iowa plans to return the favor, heading east for a road dual in the future. Army can “roll out the red carpet” for a home dual against Iowa, according to Brands.
“I appreciate them reaching out,” Ward said. “(Brands) said it’s huge. We’re going to return the trip. We’ll see you at West Point next year.
“I’m glad it worked out. I appreciate them thinking of us and calling us and excited these guys got the opportunity to compete here.”
It was almost California Baptist
Army was not the only program considered to replace Oregon State. California Baptist, coached by former Hawkeye and Cedar Rapids Prairie prep Lennie Zalesky, was booked for a dual and tournament at Iowa State this weekend as as well.
Iowa’s staff called Zalesky as another option. Brands said that Zalesky was ready to step in, if needed.
“We called both those coaches,” Brands said. “They were both ready. You’re going to see Cal Baptist on our schedule. That came to fruition in the talks when we were arranging this.”
Harold Nichols Open
All three of the state’s NCAA Division I programs were represented at Iowa State’s Harold Nichols Open on Sunday.
Northern Iowa crowned nine champions in total, including six in the open division. All-American Parker Keckeisen led the way with a technical fall and two major decisions, winning the 184 bracket. Keckeisen outscored his opponents, 50-13, in three matches.
Former Lisbon prep Cael Happel continued his strong start for the Panthers. The four-time state champion won the 141 title. He posted three decisions to improve his record to 6-1, opening with a third-place finish at South Dakota State’s Daktronics Open.
Union Community duo Derek Holschlag and Adam Ahrendsen also won titles for UNI. Holschlag won the 157-pound crown in the open division. Ahrendsen was first at 197 of the freshman/sophomore division, recording two pins in three matches.
Iowa State had three runner-up finishers in each division. In the open division, former Center Point-Urbana prep Caleb Fuessley was second at 125. He was joined in the finals by Cam Robinson at 149 and heavyweight Ethan Anderson.
Iowa crowned four champions in the tournament. Drake Ayala (125), Wyatt Henson (141), Patrick Kennedy at 165 and heavyweight Aaron Costello won gold. Ayala made his debut, winning in the freshman/sophomore division and Henson won his second straight tournament in the same division.
Kennedy and Costello competed in the open division.
Nick Suriano to Michigan
Flowrestling.org’s Christian Pyles reported Sunday that two-time NCAA finalist and national champion Nick Suriano was planning a return to college wrestling, joining the University of Michigan.
Suriano began his career at Penn State. He transferred to Rutgers after his freshman season. Suriano was a 125-pound runner-up, losing to Iowa’s Spencer Lee, 5-0, in the 2018 NCAA finals. He rebounded the next season to win the 133-pound title in a wild overtime bout with Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix.
Suriano spent time focusing on freestyle. His weight class is uncertain, but Pyles projected him back at 125.