Opinion | The Iowa men’s wrestling team’s lineup will shake up in 2022-23

The Hawkeyes will need to replace five starters in 2022-23, including 133-pounder Austin DeSanto, 165-pounder Alex Marinelli, and 174-pounder Michael Kemerer.


Ryan Adams

Iowa’s Spencer Lee wrestles North Carolina State’s Jakob Camacho during the red pool championship match-up of the National Collegiate Duals between Iowa and North Carolina State at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, FL on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. Lee defeated Camacho by decision 6-1. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolfpack 19-15.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Throughout my three-year tenure at The Daily Iowan, I’ve examined the Iowa men’s wrestling team’s lineup more times than I can remember — though it’s worth noting that I can’t count very high. I’ve done preseason, in-season, and postseason breakdowns of the Hawkeyes’ 10 starters.

I’ve never struggled to craft hypothetical Iowa men’s wrestling lineups. With staples like seniors Austin DeSanto, Jaydin Eierman, Alex Marinelli, and Michael Kemerer on the roster, it was pretty easy to assume which weight class each wrestler would be competing in.

Now, Kemerer, Marinelli, Eierman, and DeSanto are gone, leaving gaping holes in the Hawkeyes’ lineup. I’ll try to predict how Iowa head coach Tom Brands will fill those openings. But, as I’ve been told before, predictions usually only prove how wrong you are.


125 POUNDS: Spencer Lee, RS Sr.

This one is a layup. Lee has been Iowa’s starting 125-pounder since his true freshman season in 2017-18.

Lee is a three-time national champion, two-time Hodge Trophy winner, and a four-time All-American. He missed the 2021-22 season to have torn ACLs in his right and left knees surgically repaired.

Though Lee and the Iowa men’s wrestling program have yet to officially announce that he’s received a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA, it seems like an absolute certainty that he’ll be back in the Black and Gold singlet in 2022. In a post-NCAA Tournament meeting with reporters on March 19, Brands said he expects Lee to be back in 2022-23.


133 POUNDS: Drake Ayala, So.

 I know Ayala was inserted into Iowa’s lineup at 125 pounds in place of Lee last year. But I don’t think the sophomore-to-be will be forcing Lee to move up a weight in 2022-23.

Ayala is actually three inches taller than Lee, who is 5-foot-3. Because Ayala has a larger frame than Lee, it’d probably be easier for him to bump up 133 pounds and thus replace DeSanto, who finished his Iowa career a four-time All-American.

Ayala went 16-8 in 2021-22. Brands pulled his redshirt soon after Lee was injured. Ayala beat foes as notable as Purdue’s Devin Schroder, Missouri’s Noah Surtin, and Northwestern’s Michael DeAugustino.

Ayala struggled toward the end of Iowa’s 2021-22 campaign. He was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after just three matches.

Ayala was reportedly slowed down by a torn left shoulder labrum.


141 POUNDS: Cullan Schriever, So.

Schriever appeared in two of the Hawkeyes’ duals in the 2021-22. He went 0-2 in the two matchups he wrestled.

Schriever participated in two Big Ten duals and five tournaments last year, posting a 15-5 overall record.

Schriever, a 5-foot-6 Mason City, Iowan, competed at 133 pounds last season. I think the Hawkeyes will ask him to bump up a weight class in 2022-23 despite his small stature.

Schriever was a three-time state champion in high school. He was also a Fargo Cadet Freestyle Champion in 2016.


149 POUNDS: Max Murin, RS Sr.

 When the now-graduated Eierman transferred to Iowa from Missouri, Murin was bumped up a weight to accommodate for the now-four-time All-American.

It seems likely that Murin will remain at this weight for the remainder of his Hawkeye career — even if doing so means he’ll probably have to face Cornell’s three-time national champion Yianni Diakomihalis at some point. Diakomihalis is currently riding a 75-match win streak.

Murin is 20-10 as a 149-pound wrestler. He’s never wrestled his way to All-American status — though he was named an All-American in 2019-20 after that year’s NCAA Tournament was canceled because of COVID-19.


157 POUNDS: Cobe Siebrecht, Jr.

Siebrecht cracked Iowa’s starting lineup a few times in 2021-22. He went 1-2 in the three duals he competed in. Siebrecht’s overall record in 2021-22 was 5-2.

Siebrecht won the 149-pound division at the Luther Open in Decorah, Iowa.

Siebrecht’s 5-foot-10 frame seems to make him likely to move up to 157 pounds and replace now-graduated senior Kaleb Young, who earned All-America status three times during his Hawkeye career.


165 POUNDS: Patrick Kennedy, So.

At a post-NCAA Tournament meeting with reporters, Marinelli gave Kennedy a shoutout. He said Iowa will be “reloading,” not rebuilding in 2022-23 thanks to wrestlers like Kennedy.

Kennedy went 17-3 in 2021-22. He also won the Last Chance Open’s 165-pound division.

Kennedy’s most impressive feat of last year was his runner-up finish at the Luther Open. Kennedy lost the tournament’s first-place match to Marinelli, 3-2.

Because he gave Marinelli a run for his money, I’m confident Kennedy can compete with anyone next season.


174 POUNDS: Nelson Brands, Sr.

 Nelson Brands was part of Iowa’s NCAA Tournament lineup in 2020-21. He wrestled that entire season at 184 pounds.

In 2021-22, Nelson Brands wrestled just five matches. He competed in place of the then-injured and now-graduated Kemerer. Nelson Brands went 5-1 in place of Kemerer, who wrestled his first match of the 2021-22 season on Jan. 7.

Kemerer was the Hawkeyes’ first five-time All-American. “KemDawg” was also a Big Ten Champion in 2021.


RELATED: Injuries mar Iowa men’s wrestling team’s run at 2022 NCAA Championships


184 POUNDS: Abe Assad, Jr.

For two of the last three seasons, Assad has been Iowa’s 184-pound starter. He missed the 2020-21 season with an injury. Nelson Brands filled in for Assad while he was hurt.

Assad is 36-17 as Iowa’s 184-pound starter. Like Murin, he’s never wrestled his way to All-America status — though he was named an All-American after the 2019-20 NCAA Tournament was canceled.


197 POUNDS: Jacob Warner, RS Sr.

Warner was Iowa’s lone national finalist in 2021-22. He lost to Penn State’s Max Dean via 3-2 decision in the NCAA Finals.

Warner was named Mike Howard Most Valuable Wrestler at the Hawkeyes’ postseason banquet.

Before he even wrestled Dean in the national finals, Warner told reporters that he will be returning to the University of Iowa for the 2022-23 season.


Heavyweight: Tony Cassioppi, Sr.

Since the 2019-20 season, Cassioppi has been Iowa’s 285-pound starter. He has amassed a 72-12 record as a college wrestler and earned three All-America honors.

With Minnesota’s Gable Steveson now retired from collegiate wrestling, perhaps 2022-23 could give Cassioppi a legitimate chance to win a national championship.

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