Iowa coach Tom Brands reacts after the Hawkeyes clinched third place in the team race at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
At the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, the Iowa wrestling team’s lone question mark centered on the 133-pound spot. It was the lone weight the Hawkeyes failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships in March, and no immediate help appeared to be coming.
Three months later, the Hawkeyes have not only addressed their lineup’s only need, but they have decidedly solved the problem for both the short- and long-term, too, as a couple of transfers and an additional 2017 recruit have announced their decisions to join the program.
The latest came Sunday, as Jason Renteria announced his plans to transfer to Iowa. Renteria spent his true freshman season at Nebraska, but received a full release after the 2017-18 season. He will come to Iowa City with three years of eligibility remaining.
"I fell in love again with the school," Renteria told the Des Moines Register on Sunday. “Coming back and being on an official visit, I thought it was something special.“
Renteria was a one-time Iowa commit. He was a four-time state finalist and two-time state champ for Oak Park and River Forest High School, out of Illinois. He was Flowrestling’s No. 32 overall recruit in the 2017 class, and the seventh-ranked 132-pounder in the country, according to Intermat.
But the July before his senior season, Renteria backed out of his commitment. He ultimately signed with Nebraska and wrestled as a true freshman, going 8-4 overall and taking fifth at the Big Ten Championships at 133 pounds. He qualified for the 2018 NCAA Championships, but infamously missed weight and didn’t compete.
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A couple of months later, Renteria asked and received a full release from Nebraska. Iowa immediately pursued the talented lightweight. Renteria said Iowa coach Tom Brands called him an hour after he received a full release, and the next morning, both Brands and Iowa assistant Ryan Morningstar were at his door to talk.
"First off, we just connected again — we talked; we both apologized for the way it went down the first time," Renteria said. "But we started talking, and we both had a second chance at something we wanted the first time. Nothing was going to screw it up this time."
Renteria was also contacted by Ohio State and Fresno State, but the Hawkeyes fully captured his interest. He took a visit this past weekend and worked out win Spencer Lee, Iowa’s NCAA champion. Before he left Iowa City, he informed Brands that he’d be back as a member of the program.
"In the end, I wanted to be back in Iowa," Renteria said. "I came down for the visit, saw everything, and then Spencer Lee and I worked out — we rolled around for an hour and 15 minutes and we just clicked. We were learning from each other from the start to the end, and we enjoyed every second of it."
Renteria is the latest 133-pounder to join the Iowa wrestling program. Austin DeSanto, an NCAA quarterfinalist for Drexel this past season, announced he was joining the Hawkeyes in late April. A month later, Aaron Cashman, a 2017 recruit who spent his senior year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, also committed to Iowa, and projects at 133 pounds.
It remains to be seen how Tom Brands and Co. will balance this depth moving forward. All three wrestlers are talented and capable — though Cashman could probably use a year to add some muscle; he recently wrestled at 57 kilograms at the Junior freestyle world team trials — and all three still have a redshirt year to use.
"Whatever weight they need me at, I’ll be at," Renteria said. "Preferably, I’d like to go 133, but if they need me at 141 or 149, I’ll make the commitment to getting bigger."
Just a few months ago, it seemed like the 133-pound lineup spot was the lone question mark for the Hawkeyes heading into the 2018-19 season. Now, it may very well be the deepest spot on the team's roster.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.