Iowa Hawkeyes

Early 2020-21 outlooks for Iowa, Iowa State and UNI wrestling

Hawkeyes poised to be national title contenders again

Iowa's Alex Marinelli grapples with Bucknell's Zachary Hartman in a 165-pound semifinal match at the Midlands Championsh
Iowa’s Alex Marinelli grapples with Bucknell’s Zachary Hartman in a 165-pound semifinal match at the Midlands Championships in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa Hawkeyes produced a memorable season that propelled them back atop college wrestling.

Iowa rolled to an unbeaten dual season, a Big Ten Conference dual crown and conference tournament team title with a whopping 157 1/2 points. The Hawkeyes didn’t get the chance to cap it with their first national championship since 2010, but they should be a strong contender again next season.

Iowa is expected to return nine starters next season and about 135 points from its Big Ten Championships haul, including this year’s Hodge Trophy finalist Spencer Lee and two-time conference champion Alex Marinelli.

The Hawkeye lineup should remain mostly intact with the exception of 149-pounder Pat Lugo, who earned a conference crown and the top seed at the NCAA tournament as a senior this year.

Lee had an amazing undefeated season, thrashing 18 opponents by a combined score of 234-18 and going the distance in only five bouts. He has been a dynamo in duals and at the national tournament.

His big-point ability has and will be a continued boost for Iowa.

Lee and Austin DeSanto have been an explosive 1-2 punch. DeSanto was ranked No. 1 for part of the season and was looking for his second straight All-America finish. He will give Iowa another contender in what will likely again be a talented 133-pound weight class.

Marinelli joined Lee and Lugo as top seeds at the NCAA tournament and will vie for a championship after two straight All-America performances. He will lock down the 165-pound spot, giving Iowa another legit title contender.


Marinelli was 20-1, avenging his only loss in the Big Ten finals against Penn State two-time NCAA champ Vincenzo Joseph.

Assuming Michael Kemerer receives his medical hardship waiver for missing the 2018-19 season with an injury, he would return as a sixth-year senior. Kemerer was a Big Ten finalist this season and would be the highest-ranked 174-pounder back. He was 15-1, tallying three pins, three technical falls and four major decisions.

Iowa should be aided by a knack for bonus points from the likes of Lee, Kemerer, Marinelli and heavyweight Tony Cassioppi, who will return after going 20-3 and earning the third seed at the NCAA tournament.

The Hawkeyes’ balance and depth potential is just as strong. All-Americans Kaleb Young (157) and 197-pounder Jacob Warner also will be back. So will two-time NCAA qualifier Max Murin (141) and national qualifier Abe Assad at 184.

Jaydin Eierman, a three-time All-American at Missouri, transferred to Iowa this season, opting to take an Olympic redshirt. He is expected to either vie for the spot at 141 or slide into the 149-pound spot opened by Lugo’s graduation.

Gavin Teasdale (133) and Nelson Brands, who started part-time at 184, could play a factor in the lineup as well.

Iowa will be loaded for another run next season.

Iowa State

Iowa State is intriguing.

The Cyclones made big strides in the final months to earn a runner-up finish at the Big 12 Championships, advancing nine to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

The Cyclones were staring at a possible top-10 team finish powered by third-seeded 157-pound freshman David Carr.


Carr went 18-1, returning from midseason knee surgery to become Iowa State’s first freshman conference champion since 2014. He was a title contender this season, which should also hold for next year.

Outside of 2019 Big 12 champ Chase Straw (165), the Cyclones return everyone else. All-American Jarrett Degen (149) will be a leader, joining Sam Colbray, who started at 184 and cut to 174 this season, Ian Parker and heavyweight Gannon Gremmel.

Parker positioned himself for an All-America finish, going 22-3 and winning the Big 12 title at 141. Gremmel had a strong second half, reaching the conference finals, which should springboard him into next season.

Alex Mackall (125), 133-pounder Todd Small and Marcus Coleman, who bumped up to 184 and switched spots with Colbray, qualified for the national tournament.

Even more intriguing are a couple weapons that didn’t compete this season. Austin Gomez was a national qualifier at 133 in 2019 and former Davenport Assumption prep and freshman Julien Broderson redshirted this season.

Gomez was sidelined due to effects from concussions. If he can return to form, he gives the Cyclones another All-America candidate and big points scorer. It could also allow Iowa State Coach Kevin Dresser options. It’s possible to see Gomez, Parker, Degen and Carr move up a weight, filling the hole left by Straw.

Broderson went 20-4 at 184, but could be inserted at 197 next season, competing with Joel Shapiro.

Iowa State continues to rebuild, but the foundation might be in place.

Northern Iowa

UNI may have been hit as hard as anybody by the cancellation of the NCAA tournament.

The Panthers will say goodbye to four talented seniors who helped rejuvenate the program. All-Americans Max Thomsen (149) and 174-pounder Bryce Steiert, four-time NCAA qualifier Taylor Lujan, who entered the NCAA tournament as the top seed at 184, and NCAA Division I’s pin leader Jay Schwarm (125) leave big shoes to fill.


UNI returns five NCAA qualifiers, including talented 141-pound freshman Michael Blockhus and heavyweight Carter Isley. Blockhus won 22 matches this season, while Isley ended the season ranked 14th with a 20-10 mark.

Jack Skudlarczyk will return after making the national field at 133.

The Panthers have a lot of question marks. Jacob Holschlag, a 2018 All-American at 197, missed the 2018-19 season with an injury and had a comeback this season thwarted by another injury. He received a waiver and could be the anchor for UNI.

Keegan Moore hasn’t been a factor since transferring to UNI from Oklahoma State after qualifying for the NCAA tournament as a Cowboy freshman. He might be able to break through with the upper weights opening up.

UNI also has a group of talented youngsters ready to break through to go along with 125-pounder Brody Teske, who transferred in after starting the season as a freshman for Penn State.

The Panthers have a lot of questions going into next year, but the answers could be lined up for head coach Doug Schwab.

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