Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

Do I think Iowa men’s wrestling can still win a national title this season? Yes. Do I believe the Hawkeyes will do it? No.

Senior 125-pounder Spencer Lee sitting out the remainder of the 2021-22 season to repair torn ACLs in his right and left knees seriously decreased the firepower of Iowa’s starting lineup.

Don’t get me wrong, the Hawkeyes’ backup 125-pounder, true freshman Drake Ayala, is good. But he’s not Spencer Lee.

Ayala has shown he belongs with the top dogs at 125 pounds, defeating two top-10 opponents in his first four matches. He’s gone 3-1 in the Black and Gold singlet this season.

If Iowa was going to win another team national title in 2022, however, Spencer Lee was going to have to earn some bonus points and probably win another individual NCAA championship.

Ayala probably isn’t ready to compete for a national championship just yet. But there is still a path to a team national championship that Iowa can walk.

First, Penn State has to underperform. I think that’s a given. Right now, if the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes each wrestle as well as they can, I think Penn State is the better team. The most recent National Wrestling Coaches Poll reflects that. Penn State rose to No. 1 and Iowa fell to No. 2.

Even so, Iowa still has a talented roster. The Hawkeyes boast nationally ranked wrestlers in all 10 weight classes. Six of Iowa’s 10 rated wrestlers have cracked the top five in their respective weight classes: 133-pounder Austin DeSanto, 141-pounder Jaydin Eierman, 165-pounder Alex Marinelli, 174-pounder Michael Kemerer, 197-pounder Jacob Warner, and heavyweight Tony Cassioppi.

Despite the talent, depth, and experience the Hawkeyes have, I’m not ready to crown them national champions just yet. But, like Jim Carey, I’m saying there’s a chance.

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