IOWA CITY — Aaron Costello and Max Lyon were training partners at one time.
The duo won state titles for Western Dubuque in 2017 before moving on to separate Big Ten programs.
They could take the same mat together again when third-ranked Iowa hosts No. 14 Purdue to open the conference dual season Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, starting at noon. Costello is a redshirt freshman heavyweight for the Hawkeyes (3-0), while Lyon is a sophomore and second-year 184-pound starter for the Boilermakers (2-0).
“I think it will be fun,” said Lyon, who is 9-2 with three major decisions and a pin this season. “I’ve been looking forward to it with all the friends and family and people I know are going to be in the stands. I’m over here by myself in West Lafayette.
“It will be nice to see everybody.”
Might even be more than both former Bobcats expect. The Western Dubuque faithful have already purchased 300 tickets, including their former head coach Paul Cleary, who said another 100 could attend. The turnout isn’t a surprise from a wrestling-friendly fan base.
“Western Dubuque fans always show out for events,” Costello said. “They continue to support people who have been through that school and its programs on to college careers and family and personal lives.”
Their pictures are prominently displayed in the Bobcats wrestling room. The community is excited to watch them possibly compete.
“I’m incredibly proud of both guys and our community has a lot of pride in them and are supportive,” Cleary said. “They’re great examples of hard work and determination. They are great student-athletes.”
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Lyon was a two-time state champion and three-time state finalist. He placed all four years, compiling a 187-8 career prep record. He was 18-15 last season as a true freshman, leading the Boilermakers 12 major decisions and 16 bonus-points victories.
“He’s got a different tick to him,” Costello said of Lyon. “He comes to work every day. I assume that continued. He has the mind-set of somebody who is going to get better.”
Costello took a different route, going 15-4 in a redshirt season a year ago. The two-time state finalist has stepped in for top-ranked Sam Stoll and has posted a 3-0 mark. Costello has outscored his opponents by a combined score of 16-2 and hasn’t allowed more than one point in a match as a starter.
“He’s always been super hard to score on,” Lyon said of Costello. “He stays in great position. We stopped wrestling together my junior year. I was afraid I was going to get hurt. He’s just so big and powerful.”
Costello admitted he was “green” when he stepped on campus and has developed the technique and toughness demanded at this level, crediting the coaching staff for his growth. Iowa Coach Tom Brands said he has matured and embraced the challenges of a seven-minute match. Brands is confident in Iowa’s heavyweight trio, including freshman Tony Cassioppi.
“Costello is wrestling from start to finish and expecting that he’s going to get his hand raised because he wrestles from start to finish very hard,” said Brands, who also noted, “We needed him. We need that depth at heavyweight. Even if Stoll was healthy, we needed that because he’s a fifth-year senior. He’s got a lot of wear-and-tear on him.”.
Stoll, an All-American and two-time NCAA qualifier, is expected to return. Costello enjoys the competition in the practice room and looks to take advantage of the current opportunity.
“It’s my spot right now and I’m going to continue to work every day to make sure it stays my spot,” Costello said. “I understand there are different factors to it but right now all that matters is the moment. I’m going to embrace it and I’m looking forward to Purdue.”
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Lyon is listed as either/or with Purdue redshirt freshman Jared Florell in the probable lineup. Lyon is unbeaten in both of the Boilermakers’ duals. He said he expects to wrestle Saturday.
Last season was a learning experience for Lyon.
“We had a good training cycle in the offseason,” Lyon said. “I spent time developing technique, getting tougher and stronger.”
Costello and Lyon were key components to an impressive Western Dubuque team that placed fourth at the state tournament. The Bobcats were 3-for-3 in the finals, getting a title from Bradan Birt, who was an NCAA Division III All-American last season for Millikin. Lyon was also a freestyle national champ and Costello was a freestyle All-American.
“Looking back, we all pushed each other,” Costello said. “We’re all supportive of each other. We’ve all come into different programs and the things that Coach Cleary taught us were instrumental in who we are today as wrestlers and people.”
They have been focused on individual goals and improvement. Costello said they had a brief exchange at an offseason tournament in Las Vegas, but don’t get many chances to talk. He said they might catch each other’s attention and share a brief smile, but Saturday will be all business.
“I don’t think you need to open lines of communication to know how people are doing,” Costello said. “I think he’s doing well there and he likes it a lot. I like it a lot here and everything is good.”
“I definitely keep tabs on Aaron,” Lyon said. “I look at flowrestling.com just as much as anyone else. I keep tabs on Bradan, too.”
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