116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Tony Cassioppi will get a head start on competition this season.
While the other nine starters for top-ranked Iowa prepare for the season opener against Princeton on Nov. 19 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Cassioppi will have a tournament already under his belt.
Cassioppi and senior teammate Myles Wilson will represent USA Wrestling at the United World Wrestling U23 World Championships on Nov. 1-7 at Belgrade, Serbia. Cassioppi will compete at 125 kilograms, while Wilson won the 86kg spot.
“I’m just excited to have that opportunity,” Cassioppi said during the program’s annual media day Wednesday. “I’m worried about going overseas and how that will affect my season.”
Both won titles at UWW U23 Nationals in May. Cassioppi dominated the field 45-0 to reach the finals against Northwestern’s Lucas Davison. He won the best-of-3 series, 2-1, recording a pin and 13-5 decision.
Cassioppi has balanced his work in freestyle and folkstyle. He said he isn’t concerned about either discipline.
“Wrestling is wrestling,” said Cassioppi, a two-time All-American who placed third in last season’s NCAA Championships. “I’m not that worried about it. I’m experienced in both styles. It doesn’t really bother me that I’m wrestling freestyle right now or wrestling folkstyle.”
Iowa Coach Tom Brands expects them to be ready to step on the mat when they return. Cassioppi smiled when Brands asked him if he was going on vacation.
“Every one of these guys, they love the mat,” Brands said. “These guys love the mat. That's the difference between maybe some years in the past where we've had guys that they tried to get out of practice as soon as possible, and these guys, we've got to kick them out of the room. We love it. It's a blast. It's a blast up there in second floor Carver-Hawkeye Arena.”
One thing that is noticeably different is Cassioppi’s frame. He has continued to transform into a more sculpted and leaner physique. Cassioppi told media that he consumes as much protein as 50 eggs in a day.
“I’m just trying to be the best wrestler I can be,” Cassioppi said. “Just pay more attention to how I’m fueling my body and what I’m doing for it.”
Competition at 184
All 10 starters return from last season. Most will reclaim their starting spots. One of the weights to monitor will be 184 pounds.
The Hawkeyes have strong candidates with 2020 NWCA All-American Abe Assad, 2021 NCAA qualifier Nelson Brands and Wilson, who is expected to settled in at 174 and 184.
“We have a lot of depth there, and I'm not a predictor, never have been, and we give them all neck-and-neck-and-neck,” Tom Brands said. “Whoever else wants to throw their hat in that ring at that weight class.”
Assad went 22-7 in his freshman season, placing fourth at the Big Ten Championships. He earned the 11th seed at the national tournament that was canceled.
The younger Brands stepped in as the starter as a sophomore last season. He finished 8-6 and also placed fourth at the conference tournament. Brands qualified for the national tournament as the 12th seed.
Wilson, a two-time Colorado state champion, is a senior. He is 20-5 overall, which includes his redshirt season, and 5-3 as a starter.
Season ticket sales
Iowa staff announced Wednesday that the athletics department has already reached a record number of season-ticket holders for the 2021-22 wrestling season.
The Hawkeyes have sold 11,600 season tickets. The milestone comes as no surprise to Tom Brands with general public being welcomed back into CHA to watch “Spencer Lee and company” perform.
“We do it in a way that is exciting,” Brands said. “We do it in a way that we are performance minded, that we are entertainers, that it is about scoring points and about getting the job done at the end of the day. Any way you've got to get the job done, you do that with attitude, accountability, work ethic, pizzazz and all the things that go with Hawkeye wrestling.”
Iowa led the nation in attendance for a 14th straight season in 2019-20, setting a record with an average of 12,568. It also marked the 12th season the Hawkeyes averaged 8,000 or more per dual and the first NCAA program to draw more than 10,000 for each home dual.