Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Technically, I’m supposed to fill this space with words that detail the reasons why the Iowa men’s wrestling team won’t win a national championship.

I’m probably supposed to talk about Iowa being No. 2 in the latest NWCA Poll. I’d presumably build my hypothetical argument around now-No. 1 Penn State being too much for Iowa to handle.

Those are the words I was directed to type into this box. Even so, I’m not going to do that.

I pitched this piece and now I’m editing it. So, I’m going to leverage that to my advantage and say what I actually think.

The reporter I’m debating somehow answered the question this very story poses with both yes and no as his answer. Chris Werner cheated in this competition. I guess he can’t be wrong if he picks yes and no at the same time.

So, I’ll give a more straightforward and honest answer. Yes, I believe Iowa can still win an NCAA team title this year.

Senior Spencer Lee is out for the year. We know that. Still, the Hawkeyes have found a viable replacement for Lee in true freshman Drake Ayala.

The Hawkeyes don’t need all 10 of their starters to win individual national championships to claim a team title. They just need all their starters to qualify for the 2022 NCAA Championships.

Winning a national title is about amassing as many points as possible. To do that, wrestlers have to win matches. The more wrestlers the Hawkeyes have in the tournament, the more points they can score.

Iowa certainly has the horses it needs to win enough matches and score enough bonus points to win a team national championship too.

All 10 of Iowa’s starters have winning records. Iowa’s lineup features 10 nationally ranked wrestlers. There isn’t another team in the country that can say all its starting wrestlers are nationally ranked — not even Penn State.

We’ll learn a lot when Iowa and Penn State wrestle each other at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Jan. 28. Until then, I like the Hawkeyes’ odds to repeat as national champions in 2022.

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