Iowa wrestler Michael Kemerer determined heading into final year as a Hawkeye

After missing out on nationals the last two seasons, Michael Kemerer is determined to make his sixth year as a Hawkeyes count.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 174-pound Michael Kemerer wrestles Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero during a wrestling dual meet between No. 1 Iowa and No. 4 Ohio State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. No. 2 Kemerer defeated No. 8 Romero by decision, 6-1, and the Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes, 24-10.

Austin Hanson, Assistant Sports Editor

For Iowa wrestling’s Michael Kemerer, 2019-20 was shaping up to be a comeback season for the ages. After missing the entirety of 2018-19 with knee and shoulder injuries, Kemerer hit the mat in a new weight class for the Hawkeyes.

At 174 pounds, Kemerer finished the season 15-1. His only loss came to Penn State’s Mark Hall during the final round of the Big Ten Championships.

The body of work Kemerer had put together on the season earned him the second seed in his weight class for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to avenge his loss and compete for a national championship.

On March 12, his season was abruptly terminated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were in practice, and I’d kind of already been hearing about this stuff with the NBA, Big Ten basketball, and all that stuff,” Kemerer said. “We were in a practice and Moriah, Alex Marinelli’s wife, came in with the email. They kind of brought us in — it was toward the end of practice, they sat us down, told us what was going on. It kind of sucked the energy out.”

After coming to grips with the season’s brutal ending, Kemerer was contacted by the NCAA on April 19. He had been granted a sixth year of collegiate eligibility on account of his lost 2018-19 season.

His hunt for Big Ten and national championships can continue.

“I was pretty confident that I was going to get [the extra year],” Kemerer said. “I figured that the NCAA has probably got a lot on their plate right now. Whoever makes that decision might get delayed a little bit. I didn’t really know for sure when I was going to hear back. Once I did, it was great to hear, just another part of the process. I can check that box off and be ready to go for next season.”

With uncertainty swirling as the pandemic rages on, preparing for next season has been tricky for Kemerer — but he is determined to press on.

“Being an athlete and being in this situation, there’s not really much that’s in my control,” Kemerer said. “All I can do is prepare the best I can at a high level. Obviously. I’m preparing like we’re going to have a normal season and everything’s going to be the same as it’s been the previous years. If it’s not, then we’ll adjust. The biggest thing for me is keep training with what I can do.”

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Kemerer has done the best he can to prepare for the upcoming season under the current circumstances.

Gone is the luxury of training in Iowa’s state-of-the-art facility and being around all his teammates. Now, he’s doing things old-school like all the great Iowa wrestlers that came before him.

“It’s just a lot of independent stuff,” Kemerer said. “There’s running. If guys have weights you can get some lifting in. A lot of film, some mental training. You really got a lot of options. We have these nice facilities and everything that’s real great, but sometimes stuff like this happens. You realize you can get a lot better at the sport of wrestling without all the fancy stuff. People have done it before us, we can do it too if we have to.”

Once the pandemic subsides and the offseason training programs come to an end, Kemerer is looking forward to his own version of The Last Dance.

Iowa’s 2020-21 lineup will feature six seniors, including Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto, Alex Marinelli, and Kaleb Young. The Hawkeyes will again be the favorites for the national title next season, with these wrestlers leading the way in their finals seasons in an Iowa singlet.

“The goal is always to win an individual national title and a team national title,” Kemerer said. “We’ve had a lot of success, but we haven’t achieved either of those things yet. This is the last chance to do it. To get there is just going to take getting better every day and enjoying this last year of competition. I’m really looking forward to those last duals at Carver. When it comes time to win that national title with my teammates, that’s going to be the plan.”

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