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IOWA CITY — Jaydin Eierman admits he wasn’t always a fan of freestyle wrestling, even though his technique seems like a natural fit.
Oh, he had plenty of success, earning All-America honors twice at national championships in Fargo, N.D., in high school. But, the undefeated four-time state champion from Columbia, Mo., still considered himself more of a folkstyle competitor.
It wasn’t until the midway point of his college career that the four-time All-American really began to take freestyle seriously.
“My first senior-level tournament I went to the U.S. Open and didn’t place and I went 0-2 at the Trials,” Eierman said. “The next year I’m in the finals of the U.S. Open and the World Team Trials. I’m like, ’OK, this can really benefit me.’
“It has just taken off from there.”
The 2018 national team member and 2021 NCAA finalist will be one of 11 wrestlers with Hawkeye ties to compete in this weekend’s U.S. Senior and Junior Nationals at Xtream Arena in Coralville. Action begins with Greco-Roman on Friday.
Eierman will compete in the 143-pound (65 kilograms) division of the men’s freestyle tournament Saturday. His passion for freestyle is evident now.
“It’s great to compete in front of our fans again,” Eierman said. “I just love freestyle. I love wrestling so I’m excited to get back on the mat.”
Eierman competed in the U.S. Open here in October, placing fifth. He ended about a year hiatus from competition with that event. To make matters tougher, a battle with COVID-19 in August left him with just a few weeks to prepare for the senior tournament.
He has made strides during the college season that included a Big Ten Conference title and strong training leading up to this weekend.
“My wrestling improved dramatically over the season,” said Eierman, who defeated Georgian Olympic champion Vladimer Khinchegashvili at the HWC Showdown in November. “I feel like I’m a completely different wrestler than I was in October.
“Now, I have a season of training behind me. My style transitions well so it wasn’t a big dramatic change in styles for me.”
Eierman has lofty goals for his post-collegiate career. Those were delayed slightly when he didn’t attend the Olympic Team Trials. He discussed it with Iowa coaches Tom and Terry Brands and his dad, Mike Eierman. He needed the time to regroup after a tough loss in the NCAA finals.
“I needed to take a little break,” Eierman said. “I took about a week off to let my body heal. I was a little banged up so I needed to recover from that and get my mind right.”
He will be in the same bracket as fellow HWC member Pat Lugo, who has had freestyle success the last year. The two could cross paths, trying to win a title.
“I’m excited if it does,” Eierman said. “Lugo is a great guy. We’re obviously both in there training hard, so it will be fun out there. We’ll always be friends. We just have to go out and do what we were trained to do and that’s to wrestle.”
Lugo and Eierman are joined in the Senior level by HWC member Jeremiah Moody and Hawkeye All-America heavyweight Tony Cassioppi. Jesse Ybarra, Cullan Schriever, Leif Schroeder, Bretli Reyna, Andrew Simaz, Gabe Christensen and Zach Glazier round out the Hawkeyes who will compete in the Junior division on Sunday.
The top five placewinners at each weight will advance to the 2021 World Team Trials at a later date.