IOWA CITY — Michael Kemerer reflected on the last time he spent such a long period away from wrestling competition.
Iowa’s two-time All-American guessed he was about 5 or 6 years old when he participated in other youth sports. Nothing in recent years compared to his experience off the mat, recovering from shoulder and knee injuries that forced him to miss all of last season.
Maybe there is one silver lining laced in this cloud that hasn’t resulted in a match since his fourth-place finish at the 2018 NCAA Championships.
“It makes more excited to wrestle than I’ve ever been before and I’m more appreciative of it,” Kemerer said at the Hawkeyes’ annual media day last week. “It was a different experience, for sure.”
Kemerer is expected to wrestle Jeremiah Moody in a series of Iowa intrasquad matches open to the public Thursday and Friday at the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Bouts begin at 3:30 p.m. both days.
About this time last year, the program announced Kemerer would not be in the lineup. He will be an immediate boost at 174 pounds, opening the season ranked second nationally by trackwrestling.com.
The hardest part of being sidelined was sitting idle, while his teammates battled in duals and tournaments.
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“You’re watching and can’t do anything about it,” said Kemerer, who wrestled 157 as a freshman and sophomore. “You want to go out there, whether it’s a dual meet we’re losing or at the nationals. You see we’re behind on the scoreboard, you want to be out there helping out.
“You have to watch someone else go out there and win your Big Ten title, win your national title. That’s tough because we’re competitors. We’re selfish. We want to win everything.”
Kemerer said he focused on finding ways to get better, despite spending time with his arm in a sling and sporting crutches. He watched video, helped coach others and whatever would help him grow without rolling around on the mat.
“Just a different approach to it,” Kemerer said. “A lot more on the mental side than the physical side because I couldn’t wrestle.”
Iowa Coach Tom Brands said the program’s training staff and medical professionals are some of the best in the country. They do what is best for the athlete and patience is a key in being able to fully recover.
“He never stopped working with his mind,” Brands said. “He’s a great example of how to do it right.”
No wrestling was torture, but necessary. Kemerer finally got to wrestle full speed in June.
“It was awesome,” Kemerer said. “I’d been thinking about it for a long time. My coaches and trainers really did a good job of holding me back and everything, but whenever they said you’re free to go, I was ready to go out there and kick some butt and wrestle hard. It was really exciting.”
The Hawkeyes suffered multiple injuries and didn’t get much postseason production at 174. Kemerer will be a big upgrade, even though he hasn’t had one match at that weight.
“People ask me who looks good, if you had to say one guy, the guy that comes to mind for me is Michael Kemerer,” Brands said. “He’s healthy, he’s strong. He’s a 74-pounder. That question has been talked about and that theme or topic has been talked about a lot with him. Is he a 74-pounder? Last year he moved up, and then he had the corrective surgeries. He’s a 74-pounder, and so if anybody looks good, he looks good from where he came from.”
Thursday's intrasquad pairings
Aaron Cashman vs. Spencer Lee
Paul Glynn vs. Gavin Teasdale
Carter Happel vs. Justin Stickley
Zach Axmear vs. Pat Lugo
Cobe Siebrecht vs. Vince Turk
Michael Kemerer vs. Jeremiah Moody
Sam Cook vs. Connor Corbin
Zach Glazier vs. Jacob Warner
Tony Cassioppi vs. Aaron Costello
Friday's intrasquad pairings
Austin DeSanto vs. Aaron Meyer
Happel/Stickley winner vs. Axmear/Lugo winner
Axmear vs. Kaleb Young
Joe Kelly vs. Alex Marinelli
Nelson Brands vs. Moody
Abe Assad vs. Cash Wilcke
Warner vs. Cook/Corbin winner
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