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"We got the pants beat off us in the past," the Hawkeye wrestling coach said at the team's media day. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

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Wrestling season is back, which means the Wrestling Mailbag has also returned.

Are you excited?

(I am.)

The beginning of a new season always brings excitement and expectations and new stories to tell. The college season is underway, with competitions last weekend and upcoming.

For the Iowa Hawkeyes, last season's NCAA success has spilled over and created new expectations for this season. In addition to four returning All-Americans, as many as five new faces will don the all-black singlets this year as Tom Brands and company make a push back toward the top of Division I.

For Iowa State and second-year coach Kevin Dresser, a big step forward is expected. The Cyclones struggled through 2017-18, a season marred by wrestlers leaving and others struggling. But everybody is healthy and new, talented wrestlers are littered throughout the lineup. A fun year in Ames awaits.

For Northern Iowa, a talented team returns with the same goal — to perform in March. The Panthers have the talent to break into the top 10 in the team race, but have collectively stumbled in recent years, unable to reach their potential. We'll see if Doug Schwab and his team can reach their ceiling this winter.

There's more, still. Grand View seeks an eighth-straight NAIA national title. The many other small colleges are competing already, as well. International competitions occur throughout the year. The high school season here in Iowa begins with the first practice next week.

If all of that doesn't get wrestling fans here excited, I'm not sure what will. The season is back, you guys. As of this writing, it's been 235 days since the end of the 2018 NCAA Championships in Cleveland. We survived. Let's have some fun this season.

Now, then. On to the mailbag. We’ll do this every Tuesday, but feel free to send in your questions throughout the week and I’ll get to as many of them as I can. Let’s have some fun this season, you guys.

Please follow me on Twitter and I’ll keep you up to date on all things wrestling in the state of Iowa. Thanks for your help here, and for reading.

Multi-part question out of the gate. I love it.

Here’s my stab at the starting lineup for this weekend:

The only ones you’d switch are Warner at 197 and Stoll at 285 and that’s probably the lineup moving forward. The other names to watch are probably Vince Turk (and potentially Carter Happel) at 141, and Jeren Glosser at 157. 

Now, dark horses. From a cracking-the-lineup standpoint, I really think Glosser might push Young. The only thing separating them right now is an overtime takedown that Glosser very nearly scored on in their wrestle-off match. Young looked good, and may very well take the spot and run with it, but watch out for Glosser.

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From a will-surprise-other-people standpoint, I think Murin is in for a strong year. He is a big 141-pounder, and that’s a deep weight, but I think he could make some noise there at the end of the year. Same with Wilcke, now at 184. There’s a lot of good wrestlers at 184, but Myles Martin is the clear favorite, and it seems somewhat wide open after him. Cash could make a podium push, for sure.

Most likely to win a national title, outside of Lee, is probably Stoll. He’s the highest-returning place winner, and the weight is generally wide open. Until Minnesota’s Gable Steveson comes in and takes over, it’s anybody’s weight to win, I would think.

After him, probably give Marinelli and Lugo a nod. Those guys could really do well at their weights.

If I had to guess right now, I’d say seven All-Americans — Lee, Lugo, Marinelli, Kemerer, Wilcke, Warner and Stoll.

And three Saturday nighters — Lee, Marinelli and Stoll.

I think.

(These are both subject to change. Ask me again in mid-January.)

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Yes, Nelson Brands will redshirt. I’m excited to see him compete at some open tournaments this year. Iowa has a history of sending guys to the Lindenwood Open and the UNI Open and will surely bring a handful of guys to the Midlands. I’m curious to see how he competes at all of those.

Speaking of Brands …

Brands, for sure. He was great against Tristan McDonald, and held his own against Marinelli, despite losing a 6-3 decision that was much wider than those three points suggest.

Outside of Brands, I was really impressed with Young on the first day. He blew through Preston Stephenson and Jeremiah Moody by a combined 32-8. He looked aggressive and was just tough as nails.

Other quick thoughts: It was good to see Wilcke be more offensive on his feet. Aaron Cashman wasn’t at all afraid of Lee when they wrestled. Tony Cassioppi is super strong. Lugo was good. DeSanto was good. Warner was good. Murin was good.

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This is interesting. Put simply, Iowa has to outscore Penn State to win a title, which will be a hard thing to do. Like Tom Brands said during media day, “It’s going to take all 10 weight classes.”

So let’s do the math. Using Trackwrestling’s preseason rankings, Iowa has the following:

  • 125: Lee, 1
  • 133: DeSanto, 9
  • 141: Turk, 11
  • 149: Lugo, 9
  • 157: Young, 16
  • 165: Marinelli, 4
  • 174: Kemerer, 6
  • 184: Wilcke, 10
  • 197: Warner, 8
  • 285: Stoll, 1

Penn State has this:

  • 125: nobody, yet
  • 133: nobody, yet
  • 141: Nick Lee, 4
  • 149: nobody, yet
  • 157: Jason Nolf, 1
  • 165: Vincenzo Joseph, 1
  • 174: Mark Hall, 2
  • 184: Shakur Rasheed, 5
  • 197: Bo Nickal, 1
  • 285: Nick Nevills, 2

So, Iowa has the advantage at 125, 133, 149, and 285. Penn State has the advantage at 141, 157, 165, 174, 184 and 197. 

For the Hawkeyes to realistically close the gap and win this year, they need to extend their leads at 133 and 149, and close the gap/overtake their Penn State opponents at the other weights.

Specifically, 133 is deep, but DeSanto is capable of making the podium, which is more points. Even more, 149 is wide open, and Lugo is capable of a top four finish, which is more points.

If Young, Murin (or Turk) and Wilcke all make pushes for the podium, that’s more points. If Kemerer and Warner can improve their standing, that’s more points. There’s also the bonus point factor. That goes a long ways, as last year showed.

Currently, Trackwrestling has Penn State scoring 114.5 and Iowa with 76.5 — their rankings are akin to NCAA tournament scoring. That may fluctuate throughout the year, but for now, that sounds about right.

It’s also important to note that none of this is taking into account who Penn State will field at 125, 133 and 149. They have capable wrestlers at all three weights, and it will be interesting to see who emerges and how they fare. Because that’s more points for a team that already begins with a sizable lead.

It’s not unreasonable to think Iowa can close the gap this year, but it’s going to take a lot of work.

My guess is David Carr will redshirt. Talking to him at media day, he made it seem like he’ll redshirt unless he goes and wins the Southern Scuffle, or at least contends with the likes of Jason Nolf and Hayden Hidlay. Only then would coach Kevin Dresser seriously consider pulling the redshirt.

It’s interesting, though. Iowa State probably has a team that will be in the top 20, and if everything goes well in March, maybe top 15. Carr has the talent to elevate the Cyclones even further, maybe into the top 12 or top 10 this year. But in talking to Dresser about redshirts in the past (about Austin Gomez and Marcus Coleman, among others), he said he’d only seriously considering pulling a redshirt if it meant his team could go win an NCAA trophy.

I don’t see that happening this year. It doesn't help that Carr lost at the Cyclone Open this past weekend. Dresser no doubt wants Carr in the lineup for as long as he can get away with. Iowa State is shaping up to be pretty good in the years ahead, and I’m sure he’ll want Carr part of that. 

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Wish I knew, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t really pay that much attention to the American Wrestling League Draft last weekend. It looked like a cool deal at Airliner in Iowa City. I’ll circle back and watch the even later this month. Looks like a neat deal.

I didn’t forget about you, Scott. And the answer is yes, because Spencer Lee can only score, at maximum, 30 teams points if he pins his way to an NCAA title in any of the next three years. The Cyclones will surely field a team that scores more than 30 points — perhaps even this year.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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