The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa men’s wrestling notebook | Head coach Tom Brands reflects on gambling scandal, Hawkeyes prepare for home opener against Oregon State

Iowa will open its home slate in front of a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday at noon.
Cody Blissett
Iowa head coach Tom Brands speaks at a press conference during the Iowa mens wrestling media day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena a Iowa on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023.

The reigning national runner-up Iowa men’s wrestling squad will be without a few key starters this season.

Nelson Brands, Tony Cassioppi, Abe Assad, and Cobe Siebrecht are involved in the sports gambling investigation and are suspected to be out the entire year. All four wrestlers were NCAA qualifiers last season.

On Nov. 8, the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee adjusted its current student-athlete reinstatement guidelines for those who bet on other teams at their own schools.

“Student-athletes who wager on teams at their school — excluding their own team — will start at requiring one season of ineligibility and a loss of one year of eligibility,” according to the adjusted NCAA guidelines.

This means an athlete must sit out one season, and that season counts against their eligibility.

Previously, a student-athlete who bet on an athletics team at their own school would receive a permanent loss of eligibility.

Brands said two wrestlers appealed their punishments and are waiting to hear back, but he did not specify who.

Head coach Tom Brands is frustrated that the University of Iowa and Iowa State University were “unfairly targeted” in the investigation, and he wants to know why.

Wrestlers who were suspended due to sports gambling can still compete unattached this season, but this doesn’t make the situation any better in Brands’ eyes.

“You think Cobe Siebrecht wants to wrestle in the Luther Open? Yeah, he wants to wrestle in the Luther Open when he’s getting ready for the doggone Oregon State dual. It’s not a consolation prize. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about an injustice,” Brands said.

Despite his disagreement with the ruling, Brands is still looking forward to the season and will not give up on his team.

“In May we found out [about the investigation]. We didn’t quit then,” Brands said. “We didn’t give up, we didn’t hope for the best. We went out and recruited some freakin’ awesome transfers that make us better.”

Those transfers include 149-pounder Victor Voinovich III, 157-pounder Jared Franek, and 165-pounder Michael Caliendo,  who all started in Iowa’s season-opening shutout win over Cal Baptist. The fourth transfer was Joey Cruz, who went 2-2 for Oklahoma last season before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury.

Beavers coming to town

No. 3 Iowa will take on No. 16 Oregon State in its home opener on Sunday at noon. The two squads have not met since the 2012 National Duals in Ames, Iowa, in which the Hawkeyes won, 22-14. Iowa has won the last six meetings against Oregon State, leading the series, 6-1.

Brands said Iowa will travel to Oregon State next season.

Probable lineups

The rankings listed are according to Intermat.

125 pounds: N0. 12 Drake Ayala (IA) vs. No. 18 Brandon Kaylor (OSU)

Ayala filled in for an injured Spencer Lee in his rookie year and impressed, posting a 17-8 overall record with a 4-2 record in dual meets. Ayala placed eighth at the Big Ten Championships, earning him an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Ayala is 6-0 this season and placed first at the Luther Open.

133 pounds: No. 9 Brody Teske or Jace Rhodes (IA) vs. No. 22 Gabe Whisenhunt or Maximo Renteria (OSU)

Teske transferred to Iowa last season from Northern Iowa and went 10-6. He is a three-time NCAA qualifier. Teske is 3-1 this season because he medically forfeited a match at the Luther Open. Brands said it’s critical to keep the 133-pounder healthy.

Rhodes has yet to wrestle inside Carver. He won the Luther Open last weekend and holds a 15-4 career record.

141 pounds: No. 1 Real Woods (IA) vs. No. 20 Cleveland Belton (OSU)

Woods was a 2023 Big Ten Champion and earned runner-up at the NCAA Championships in his first season with the Hawkeyes. The Stanford transfer is expected to be a national champion contender once again. He is 1-0 on the season, defeating Cal Baptist’s Darren Green, 15-0.

149 pounds: No. 9 Victor Voinovich III or Caleb Rathjen (IA) vs. Noah Tolentino or Nash Singleton (OSU)

Voinovich transferred from Oklahoma State over the summer. He was an NCAA qualifier last season and finished sixth at the Big 12 Championships. He is 5-1 this season, with the one loss coming from Hawkeye commit Anthony Ferrari.

Rathjen made his Hawkeye debut last November against Sacred Heart. He has a 4-3 career record and has not wrestled yet this season.

157 pounds: No. 2 Jared Franek (IA) vs. Murphy Menke (OSU)

Franek, a North Dakota State transfer, was a Big 12 Champion last season at 157 pounds and finished fourth at the NCAA Tournament. The graduate student is 6-0 this season, with a first-place finish at the Luther Open.

165 pounds: No. 5 Michael Caliendo (IA) vs. No. 8 Matthew Olguin or Kekana Fouret (OSU)

Iowa’s Patrick Kennedy’s absence is notable here. He finished runner-up at the Big Ten Championships last season. It is suspected he is involved in the gambling investigation, but Brands and Kennedy have not confirmed.

Caliendo, who sits at 6-0, will make his Carver debut on Sunday. The North Dakota State transfer earned All-American honors last season after finishing seventh at the NCAA Championships.

Olguin took home a Pac-12 title at 165 pounds last season and has qualified for nationals twice.

Although Caliendo said he hasn’t wrestled in front of over 14,000 people before, he’s not nervous about his Carver-Hawkeye Arena debut.

“I have envisioned it, and I don’t think it’s going to be a surprise walking out there,” Caliendo said. “But when I do, I just kind of zone out everything else, tunnel vision, and I don’t really let that stuff get to me.”

174 pounds: Gabe Arnold or Aiden Riggins (IA) vs. No. 11 Travis Wittlake (OSU)

If Gabe Arnold starts at 174 pounds on Sunday, it would be the fifth straight year a true freshman made an appearance in a Hawkeyes’ dual lineup. Arnold won a U20 Pan American gold medal at 79 kg in July.

Riggins made his varsity debut last season, defeating Purdue’s Stoney Buell, 9-4, but has yet to wrestle in Carver. Hailing from Waverly-Shell Rock, Iowa, Riggins posted a 170-4 record in high school and claimed two state titles.

Wittlake, who is 6-0 this season, transferred to Oregon State from Oklahoma State. Wittlake fell to Iowa’s Abe Assad last season, 4-2, at 184 pounds.

184 pounds: No. 29 Brennan Swafford (IA) vs. No. 3 Trey Munoz (OSU)

Swafford will replace Assad at 184 pounds. Swafford will have a tough matchup in his Carver-Hawkeye Arena debut against Munoz, who is a two-time Pac-12 Champion. Swafford transferred to Iowa from Graceland in 2021 and is a two-time NAIA National Champion.

“It was just like, well, I have Olympic aspirations and world aspirations. I gotta go to Iowa, you know, and it was kind of a no-brainer for me because it’s so close to home,” Swafford said of transferring. “And I’ve always been a Hawkeye fan, and I’ve always loved the style that they have here.”

Losing four starters to sports gambling stings, but Swafford senses more urgency now in the wrestling room to prove people wrong.

“I think people are expecting us to maybe not do as well, but I think we’re gonna be awesome,” Swafford said. “I think a lot of the other guys on the team think the same thing.”

197 pounds: No. 23 Zach Glazier (IA) vs. No. 31 Justin Rademacher (OSU)

Glazier started at 197 pounds last season against Sacred Heart and Northwestern and went 1-1. He is 5-0 so far this season and finished first at the Luther Open after recording two pins and two tech falls.

Heavyweight: Bradley Hill (IA) vs. No. 22 Boone McDermott (OSU)

Hill made his varsity debut last season at Minnesota and fell to Garrett Joles, 5-0. He started the season-opener at 285 pounds and defeated Cal Baptist’s Max Acciardi, 16-4, before placing second at the Luther Open.

It will be a packed crowd on Sunday, as Carver-Hawkeye Arena is sold out for the men’s wrestling season for the third straight year. The Hawkeyes have won 31 of their last 32 home duals.

Sunday’s dual will be streamed on Big Ten Plus with The Daily Iowan’s AJ Reisetter and former Hawkeye wrestler Alex Marinelli on the call.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Kenna Roering, Sports Editor
Kenna Roering is The Daily Iowan's sports editor. She is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism with a minor in sports and recreation management. Kenna previously worked as a sports reporter for men's wrestling and volleyball and was the summer sports editor in 2023. This is her second year with the DI.
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.