3x NCAA All-American and 2022 NCAA finalist Jacob Warner (right) (Photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Last week, we dove into the team scores from the 2022 NCAA Championships and found the top-25 teams with returning point scorers. Noticeably low on the list was Iowa, who was in 16th place as only 29.5 team points were returning in 2022-23. A drop-off was expected from a team that lost five wrestlers that earned All-American multiple times in their careers.
Of course, that exercise did not include Spencer Lee at 125 lbs, who would have been a title favorite if anywhere close to healthy. Another wrestler that was not mentioned was Real Woods at 141 lbs. Just yesterday, Woods announced he was headed to Iowa City as a graduate transfer from Stanford.
With Woods' addition, what could an Iowa lineup look like in 2022-23? Is his addition enough to vault the Hawkeyes back into title contention and threaten Penn State?
125: Spencer Lee/Jesse Ybarra
As stated above. If Lee is anywhere near close to 100%, the rest of the 125 lb field should be on notice. He has earned bonus points in just under 80% of his collegiate bouts and has a pair of Hodge Trophy's to show for it. I'm sure the Iowa coaching staff will use caution with Lee, so expect to see some does of Jesse Ybarra mixed in, whether to start the season or to spell him along the way. If Lee is back, Iowa should be able to let Drake Ayala redshirt.
133: Cullan Schriever
While losing Austin DeSanto will hurt, having Cullan Schriever waiting in the wings makes it less painful. Schriever went 15-5 with wins over three NCAA qualifiers and was fourth at the Southern Scuffle. He saw action in two duals, losing decisions to All-Americans Lucas Byrd (Illinois) and Chris Cannon (Northwestern). With another year in the Hawkeye room, Schriever may be able to reverse one of those decisions and challenge for a spot on the podium.
141: Real Woods
The top three finishers at the 2022 NCAA Championships at this weight class used the remainder of their eligibility this season. That means Woods is the third-highest returning placewinner. One of those that finished above him, Grant Willits (Oregon State), has a 2-4 record against the new Hawkeye. However preseason rankings shake out, Woods should be on the shortlist of potential title contenders.
149/157: Max Murin/Wyatt Henson/Bretli Reyna/Caleb Rathjen/Sebastian Robles/Cobe Siebrecht
So before Woods' transfer was made public, Wyatt Henson was penciled in as a possible successor to Jaydin Eierman at 141. With an 18-2 record and a fifth-place finish at the Southern Scuffle under his belt, as a true freshman, it's easy to see why. Now with Woods in the fold, does Henson fight it out at 141 or bump up.
The incumbent at 149 is Max Murin, who has now finished in the NCAA Round of 12 on three occasions. At this point, there's no reason to believe Murin would move up to 157 lbs, but with seven months until the start of the season, he should have ample time to build himself up, if that's in the cards. Otherwise, he should be in the AA mix in a 149 lb weight class that features a possibility of seven returning podium finishers.
At this time, there is no clear-cut solution at 157 lbs. Reyna, Rathjen, and Siebrecht are all talented 149's who may use this as an opportunity to jump into the lineup. Sebastian Robles was at 157 last season and went 11-5, but didn't see any action in duals.
In today's new era of the transfer portal and almost a form of free agency in college sports, maybe Iowa lands a transfer here.
165: Patrick Kennedy
Losing a leader like Alex Marinelli is never good, but having Patrick Kennedy waiting to take over is a good problem to have. Kennedy was a massive recruit for Iowa and should be ready to step in and challenge for a spot on the podium immediately. Last season, Kennedy went 17-3, with two of his three losses coming to AA's Marinelli and Peyton Hall (West Virginia). The Marinelli loss was via a single point and Hall's came in sudden victory. Along the way, Kennedy downed four eventual national qualifiers.
174: Nelson Brands
With Michael Kemerer out for the first half of the year, Nelson Brands helped fill in this year and went 5-1. Brands has past NCAA experience in 2021, as he took one for the team and moved up to 184. 174 looks like the suitable weight for Brands, so expect him to be ranked conservatively at the beginning of the year, yet move up quickly.
184: Abe Assad
After the top-tier of competition at 184, the rest of the weight class looked up for grabs in Detroit. It wouldn't have been shocking to see someone like the 18th seeded Abe Assad walk away with All-American honor or go 1-2. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, it was the latter and Assad left empty-handed. That doesn't mean Assad won't be a podium contender in 2022-23. He likely will.
197: Jacob Warner
One of the few known commodities in the Iowa lineup next year is the three-time All-American Jacob Warner. Warner was the lone national finalist for the Hawkeyes and did so from the #6 seed. He's been the model of consistency for Iowa, three times earning a #5 seed, before last year's performance. Like 184, there is a lot of parity at this weight, so getting back to the title bout is not a given.
285: Tony Cassioppi
We're operating under the assumption that Gable Steveson (Minnesota) will not return in 2022-23, which leaves 285 lbs wide open. Though he finished seventh last year, Cassioppi has beaten many of the major players at this weight, multiple times (Cohlton Schultz x2, Greg Kerkvliet x3). His biggest hurdle is Mason Parris (Michigan), as he's 0-3 career against the Wolverine star. Once again, Cassioppi is a good ace-in-hole to have closing out dual meet and it's hard to see him not having a high finish at nationals.
In last week's returning point-scorers article, the Hawkeyes had a total of 29.5 returning points. If we throw 20 (conservatively) in there for Spencer Lee and give them Real Woods' 12.5 he compiled while taking sixth place, they are all the way up to 62 points. That would have put them 10 points ahead of Cornell for fourth place and just 2.5 points behind Arizona State. I'll go under the assumption that Schriever, Kennedy, and Brands, should push them ahead of the Sun Devils.
The 2022-23 season already is interesting.