IOWA CITY — Michael Kemerer underwent a transformation in the offseason.
He recorded his second straight All-American finish, placing fourth at 157 pounds. Kemerer was consumed by wrestling hard and improving to close the season. Soon after the season, he noticed he had become much bigger and the size came quickly.
He immediately decided that his days as a 157-pounder were done.
“Once I saw that I was big I was like ‘Hey, I’m going to embrace it,’“ Kemerer said Monday afternoon during Iowa’s annual media day at the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I’m going to train and lift hard and wrestle hard. That’s what went into it. Here I am and I’m ready to go.”
The Hawkeyes junior bumped up two weight classes and will take over the starting spot at 174 this season. Kemerer was 27-3 last season, giving him a 60-3 career mark as a 157-pounder.
Kemerer is noticeably bigger and said he feels good physically.
“The weight is not really a factor,” Kemerer said. “I’m just wrestling and training. Wrestling different guys, but the thing is to get better every day and that’s what I’m doing. I’m wrestling hard. I’m making sure I’m not waiting to get better.”
Rumors began to circulate in the summer. Kemerer said he didn’t have to have discussions with Iowa Coach Tom Brands, noting the coaches have the wrestler’s best interest in mind and trust that they know it as well.
“I didn’t really have to ask permission,” Kemerer said. “He knew that if it was the right thing for me, it was the right thing for me. It just kind of happened that way.”
Brands praised Kemerer for his work ethic, which extends into the classroom. He has noticed the increased size hasn’t slowed him down.
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“Yeah, he’s a big, strong man,” Brands said. “He’s someone that we work hard on every day to be the best that he can be. Doesn’t matter what weight class.”
Kemerer, a Big Ten finalist who finished third at the NCAA Championships as a freshman, faced tough competition, including Penn State national champ Jason Nolf. Now, he is ranked sixth in a deep division that includes Arizona State defending NCAA titlist Zahid Valencia and Nittany Lions 2017 champ Mark Hall.
“I’m excited to test myself against those guys,” Kemerer said. “Let it all hang out. So, it’s exciting for me. I love wrestling tough competition.”
WILCKE THE WOLF
Iowa Coach Tom Brands made an interesting analogy, regarding the Hawkeyes’ two-time NCAA qualifier Cash Wilcke. Unlike Kemerer, Wilcke is cutting down to 184 after two serviceable seasons at 197 pounds.
Brands said he believes Wilcke’s athleticism will be displayed more in the lighter class. He can use his quickness and explosiveness and will be able to manage matches better.
“He’s leaner, he’s meaner, hungry like a wolf, not a fat cat on the back of a couch on a sunny day in the window basking, being lazy, eating and feeding, all those things,” Brands said. “But he’s on the prowl, he’s on the hunt. He’s like a wolf. Long, lean legs, going after bunny rabbits, all kinds of things that are fun to eat. Can’t get away from you because you’re faster, stronger, leaner and meaner. That’s how I would describe Wilcke.”
Wilcke has won 40 matches in his first two seasons, going 21-8 a year ago. The move allows him to wrestle at a more natural weight and helps strengthen the lineup with redshirt freshman Jacob Warner at 197.
“I feel a lot better,” Wilcke said. “I’m moving a lot faster and a lot stronger. It’s a whole new ballgame this year.”
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Wilcke was impressive during last week’s wrestle-offs, almost doubling up last year’s 184 starter Mitch Bowman, who was a victory away from an All-American finish last year. Wilcke won, 9-5.
“Not to say he’s an automatic that he’s going to do better there, that’s up to him, but I like him there, plus it makes our team better,” Brands said. “He won a match Friday in a lopsided fashion against a guy who I think very highly of. Mitch Bowman was a round away from placing last year. That’s no slouching. That’s what I told Cash Wilcke after his match. I said, you beat a guy there that I think pretty highly of.”
Wilcke added, “It felt good to get down, wrestle a match. My offense worked a lot better. I felt I was getting to shots a lot quicker. A couple times I felt like I was already in on the legs before they were reacting. I’ve noticed that a lot in the room, too. The offense feels a lot cleaner this year.”
LUGO REPLACES SORENSEN
Pat Lugo has waited a long time for this opportunity. The two-time national qualifier at Edinboro transferred to Iowa before last season. He redshirted in his first year with the Hawkeyes, going 7-2 and preparing to take over for four-time All-American Brandon Sorensen.
“I’m excited,” said Lugo, who beat Sorensen once while at Edinboro. “It’s been almost a whole year since I competed for any team. Being a wrestler at the University of Iowa is a great experience. I love it here.”
He worked hard to improve his mat wrestling and weight management. Lugo said he learned from Sorensen’s toughness while in the room together. Even though he tried to gain perspective by watching from the stands, he wanted to be on the mat.
“It was very tough, because being in practice every day and not being able to compete you get that itch that you want to be out there helping your team as much as possible,” Lugo said. “It was a smart decision for me and the team for me to redshirt and to let Sorensen graduate and me to step in this year.”
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