Iowa Hawkeyes

American Wrestling League: The Beginning comes to Cedar Rapids on Friday

Cory Clark among four former Hawkeyes and one Cyclone on two teams for new pro organization

Iowa's Cory Clark turns to the crowd after defeating South Dakota State's Seth Gross in the 133-pound championship match of the 2017 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, March 18, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa's Cory Clark turns to the crowd after defeating South Dakota State's Seth Gross in the 133-pound championship match of the 2017 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, March 18, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Wrestling slowed down for the holiday weekend. We will take a different approach this week, looking at an upcoming event and reflecting on Iowa’s win over Purdue in this Weekend in Wrestling:

American Wrestling League invades Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids will be the site of the newly formed American Wrestling League, a professional wrestling league for America’s top amateur wrestlers to continue their careers.

The AWL’s inaugural event will be Friday at the U.S. Cellular Center, beginning at 7 p.m. It is an attempt for wrestlers to compete after graduation, while trying to reach mainstream fans and grow the sport.

“This is a game-changer for wrestling that puts our best wrestlers in the spotlight and allows us to innovate and reach new audiences,” AWL Founder Wayne Boyd said. “We plan to put a team in every state.”

Some of those involved also produced the Agon events in recent years, holding Agon V at the U.S. Cellular Center. The event was enjoyable and produced some exciting matches. It was simple and true to the sport.

The AWL opener will consist of two teams and 10 freestyle matches. According to Andy Hamilton of trackwrestling.com, Boyd said wrestlers could make $2,500 to wrestle with a chance for a $5,000 bonus to the winner. The teams captained by World Champions Kyle Dake and David Taylor have some local flavor.

Former Hawkeyes Cory Clark, Tony Ramos, Brandon Sorensen and Sammy Brooks will compete. Former Iowa State NCAA champion Kyven Gadson will wrestle as well. Clark and Ramos are slated to wrestle each other at 134.5 pounds.

Hawkeyes handle Purdue

Iowa opened the Big Ten Conference dual season with a decisive 26-9 victory over what is considered an up-and-coming Purdue team coached by former Hawkeye Tony Ersland, a Humboldt native who was a member of NCAA title teams from 1995-97.

Iowa presented a lineup with five reserves and still managed to win seven matches. Included in those victories were decisions by Mitch Bowman at 197 and Carter Happel 149. At the moment, Bowman is a reserve at 184, weighing in at 182.5 according to Iowa Coach Tom Brands in the post-meet news conference. Happel saw action as the 141-pound starter last year and still is in a three-way race for that spot, which is currently controlled by redshirt freshman Max Murin.

Bowman toppled 12th-ranked Christian Brunner, 7-5, wrestling for Jacob Warner, who hasn’t made his debut yet. Happel beat Parker Filius, 2-0, wrestling for two-time NCAA qualifier Pat Lugo.

“It shows how good our depth is,” Happel said. “We’ve got really strong backups. Tom preaches you’re a heartbeat away from the lineup any given week. This week I needed to fill a spot and went out and got the job done, like some other guys. I think we’re doing really well, so far this year, filling in spots where some guys might be wrestling at the end of the year.”

Questions continue

The Iowa lineup has been a source of numerous questions. All-Americans Michael Kemerer and Sam Stoll have yet to see the lineup. Redshirt freshman Warner still is waiting to make his first official appearance in the black-and-gold singlet.

A minor panic set in with questions about the absence of NCAA champion Spencer Lee and Lugo on the mat against Purdue. Apparently, Lugo is banged up and being allowed to rest. Lee’s situation was unclear, but Brands said both were fine and both figure into the Hawkeyes’ future.

Stoll and Warner are not a surprise but Kemerer is concerning to Hawkeye fans. Brands doesn’t discuss injuries and will certainly exercise patience in returning anyone who isn’t 100 percent healthy and doing what is best for the individual. You can read between the lines and won’t know when they will return until they actually step on the mat. There won’t be a hurry with reserves having success in early-season duals.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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