Stiff competition shaping Iowa men’s wrestler Kaleb Young’s 2021-22 campaign

The 157-pounder has already faced five wrestlers that are ranked inside the top 11 nationally.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa’s 157-pound No. 12 Kaleb Young wrestles Illinois’ Joe Roberts during a wrestling dual between No. 2 Iowa and No. 21 Illinois at State Farm Center in Champaign, IL on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. Young defeated Roberts, 16-1, by technical fall. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini 36-3.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

The start of the 2021-22 season has been difficult for Kaleb Young. 

The Iowa men’s wrestler and senior currently boasts a 64.29 win percentage and a 9-5 record. The lowest win percentage Young has ever registered at the end of a season is 56.25. As a redshirt freshman in 2018, Young went 9-7.

Young wrestled at 165 and 174 pounds in 2018. He’s since switched his weight class to 157 pounds. 

Young has been in Iowa’s starting lineup since he made the switch to 157 in 2019. Since he became a 157-pounder, Young has never posted a season-long win percentage below 75. His career win percentage is 72.73.

Young has wrestled some stiff competition in 2021-22. Five of the 14 wrestlers he’s faced are ranked 11th or better nationally.

Despite the number of quality opponents he’s taken on, Young isn’t excusing his slow start.

“You’re in Division I college wrestling,” the three-time All-American said at a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon. “If you want to compete and be the best, then you should also know you don’t need a break-in period. You would think I would know that wrestling in my sixth year. I shouldn’t need to wrestle my way into the season . . . I had a couple setbacks, but we’re still building and rolling and getting better every day.”

Some of Young’s losses this season have been close. Young fell to now-No. 11 Quincy Monday via 9-5 decision. He also lost to No. 1 David Carr and now-No. 4 Brayton Lee via 6-2 and 4-3 decisions, respectively.

Young has also been blown off the mat twice this year. He lost to now-No. 8 Josh Humphreys via major decision. Now-No. 10 Ed Scott pinned Young in just one minute and ten seconds Dec. 21.

“Sometimes you have doubts and negativity,” Young said. “That’s something that everybody goes through. You need to focus on the positives, control what you can control. You don’t let stuff like that get you down.

“It’s kinda like water off a duck’s back,” Young added. “If you’re dwelling on the negatives, you’re not letting yourself build and focus on the things that are going good. So, we gotta put the bad behind us and focus on the good.”

Six of Young’s matches have been decided by six points or fewer. With just five regular season duals and two postseason tournaments remaining on the Hawkeyes’ schedule, Young is trying to find ways to win the rest of the hotly contested bouts he might find himself in this year.

“Something we’ve been focusing on is doing the little things,” Young said. “Being gritty, ending periods on top, putting hard rides on guys, not giving up easy points, wrestling in all positions. Something [assistant coach Ryan Morningstar] stressed is doing the little things, putting in that extra effort, not letting things go and leaving it up to a takedown at the end. But controlling the match and not relying on winning by one takedown. Working on building a lead, controlling positions and controlling the match.”

Young has qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of the last three seasons. Young has earned two automatic NCAA tournament berths and one at-large bid.

As Young tries to build his NCAA championship résumé or earn an automatic berth to the event, he’ll lean on what he learned while he struggled earlier this year.

“I think shape is probably one thing,” Young said. “Being able to wrestle the full seven minutes and more, if needed. That’s big down the stretch. Just knowing that you can hold up. You can go the whole match and put it on the line. I think that’s an important thing that comes from that.”

Young’s next opportunity to wrestle will come Friday evening as Iowa hits the road to take on Ohio State at the Covelli Center at 7 p.m.

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