Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

I know I’ve said sophomore-to-be Drake Ayala will suit up for the Iowa men’s wrestling team in 2022-23. In a lineup preview, I listed Ayala as my choice to wrestle at 133 pounds for the Hawkeyes’ next season.

That was what I think Ayala will do. What Ayala should do and will do are two different things.

I believe it’d be best for Ayala to redshirt in 2022-23. First and foremost, Ayala needs to make sure his left shoulder is healthy. He missed three of the Hawkeyes’ duals last year with what some reports suggested was a torn shoulder labrum.

If Ayala wrestled through a torn shoulder labrum at the end of last year, he should prioritize his rehabilitation process and make sure he’s back to full strength before he ponders getting back on the mat next year. I don’t know the nature of Ayala’s injury beyond what’s been reported or what his timetable for recovery looks like. Regardless, Ayala needs to make sure his shoulder is ready to go if he wrestles next year.

Ayala also needs to consider if he wants to bump up to 133 pounds. The only way Ayala is a fixture in Iowa’s lineup next year is if he moves up a weight class. I just can’t see Spencer Lee — a four-time All-American, three-time national champion, and two-time Hodge Trophy winner — moving up to 133 pounds to make room for Ayala at 125.

Moving up a weight class and rehabbing an injury isn’t easy. To avoid both of those scenarios, Ayala should redshirt next season, wrestle unattached, if possible, and resume his Hawkeye career at 125 pounds in 2023-24.

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