Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Look at the 2016-2017 Iowa Wrestling Season So Far - Part 2

Earlier this week, I looked at the lighter weights on Iowa's roster and how they are performing so far this season. Now it's on to the big boys, who aren't quite as glamorous in their performances but may be more interesting as there are still a lot of things to be decided, and it's nearly impossible to tell where some of these guys will end up.

165 - Joey Gunther and Alex Marinelli
165 is the biggest question mark for Iowa this season. Gunther has been the starter and manged an undefeated record in the early meets, but the Midlands was his first real challenge, and he failed to impress as he went just 2-2 against less than elite competition. I think he's fairly borderline to make the NCAA Tournament, and if he does, I can't see him managing more than a single win there.

And then there is the true Freshman, super recruit, Alex Marinelli. He was considered the second best recruit in the entire class this year (of course the top recruit went to Penn State), so he entered with some fanfare. Maybe he was overhyped to me, but he's only been fine. At a tournament meant to showcase his talents like the Grand View Open, he only won two of his matches by decision. At the Midlands, he looked better, especially when he controlled Clark Glass of Oklahoma. He got outclassed by Isaiah Martinez of Illinois (no surprise there, I-Mar is awesome) and got pinned by Anthony Valencia of Arizona State. He took fourth place which is a great accomplishment for a true Freshman, but I'm not sure if he's going to be the first Iowa wrestler to go from high school to competing as a true Freshman under Tom Brands. He's already good enough to score points at the NCAAs, and he's only going to get better, but I have trouble seeing him as an All-American, so I'm not sure if it's worth burning that redshirt. We'll likely find out soon with Iowa facing Michigan, Oklahoma State, Penn State, and Ohio State in the month of January. If the redshirt gets pulled, it's going to happen this month.

Also, a special shoutout to Iowa's other true freshman at 165, Kaleb Young, who took fifth at the Midlands. He wrestles a fast pace and really pressures opponents. With Marinelli there, his future is likely at 174, so if he can add good weight, he could make an impact next year.

174 - Alex Meyer
Alex Meyer, like Brandon Sorensen, is going to wrestle close matches. Unfortunately, Meyer is not quite on Sorensen's level of winning those close matches. Stop me if you've heard this before, but Meyer was undefeated against mostly easy competition before going to the Midlands. He was disappointing at the Midlands as he only took fourth place. 174 is a weaker weight class this year, and Meyer can wrestle guys tough, but I don't see how he can have the consistency to be a top guy. He lost to two guys he has beaten before, but that's kind of the story with Meyer. He can compete with anybody, and he lets just about anybody compete with him.

184 - Sammy Brooks
The man with the mullet is now in one of the most stacked weight classes in NCAA wrestling. He had a solid performance at the Midlands, with a third place finish. He lost to Nate Jackson from Indiana but did manage to avenge that loss in the final match. Sometimes Brooks seems to fall too in love with big throws as he's got good lower body takedowns as well, and when he made that switch against Jackson, he took over the match. Brooks has wrestled the best at this weight class, and he's nearly impossible to blow out. He had a close match with the two-time NCAA defending champion, Gabe Dean a couple years ago, so there is nobody he should be afraid of, but consistency is key. He's the same guy he's been for the last two years. If you told me he was in the NCAA finals, I'd believe it, if you told me he wasn't even an All-American, well, I'd believe that too. Here's to hoping it's the former.

197 - Cash Wilcke and Steven Holloway
Everything I wrote about Joey Gunther above can basically be said about Wilcke. He might be good enough to make the tournament, but I can't see him making an impact when he gets there. The difference is that there isn't a super freshman breathing down Wilcke's neck.

However, that doesn't mean there are no other options. Steven Holloway has wrestled the beginning of this year at heavyweight despite having being a true 197. Now that Iowa's starter is back, Holloway could compete for that starting spot. He was very aggressive when wrestling at heavyweight, but just couldn't overcome the massive weight advantage that his opponent had. I'm not sure if he is better than Wilcke, but I wouldn't mind him getting some chances to prove himself during the second half of the year.

Heavyweight - Sam Stoll
Stoll made his debut at the Midlands, and it was about as well as could be reasonably expected. He beat two good, not great, heavyweights with Collin Jensen from Nebraska and Ross Larson from Nebraska, and he also got his first pin of the year in his third place match. His only loss was to top-10 ranked, Tanner Hall, from Arizona State, and part of that looked like a gas tank issue, which is to be expected since he hasn't been in any matches for over nine months. Still, he looked good in his matches, and outside of Kyle Snyder, he can compete with any of the top heavyweights in the nation. There's a decent chance that he puts up the most points at the NCAA Tournament out of any of the Iowa wrestlers I talked about today.

And that wraps things up. Overall, I would say Iowa is in fine shape. They are not going to be the favorites to win the National Title, but that doesn't mean that if they get guys peaking at the right time, that they couldn't pull off something special. I'm looking forward to the second half of the season.

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