This is an exciting time of the year in wrestling.
The Junior World Championships are coming up this month before the Senior World Championships are staged next month in Budapest, Hungary.
And we’re not too far away from the start of college wrestling season with national rankings already out for the 2018-19 campaign.
There certainly is plenty to talk about and let’s get to it.
Here are a few random thoughts as we approach another exciting time in the sport:
Is this the year the Iowa Hawkeyes break through to win their first NCAA team title since 2010? Iowa looks very strong from top to bottom, led by preseason No. 1s Spencer Lee and Sam Stoll. Throw in All-Americans Michael Kemerer and Alex Marinelli along with transfer Austin DeSanto and the Hawkeyes will feature a loaded lineup this season. I really love this Iowa team. The Hawkeyes, and everyone else for that matter, face the same problem. Penn State, winners of seven of the last eight national titles, is extremely strong once again. The Nittany Lions have four NCAA champions in their powerful lineup plus the 2019 national tournament is only a short drive away in Pittsburgh. It’s kind of crazy that Iowa and Penn State don’t meet in a dual meet this season. They need to figure out a way to make this dual happen every year, especially in a season like this one. It’s not good for the sport when two powerhouses from the same conference don’t meet in a dual. Wrestling misses out on exposure and coverage it could easily have on an annual basis. Iowa doesn’t wrestle Ohio State in a dual this season either. Really Big Ten? That makes no sense.
I’m not sure how it is affecting the athletes, but having the World Championships in October is something I’m not a big fan of. The event is typically in September and it looks like United World Wrestling is addressing having a more consistent schedule. By the time the World Championships are held this year, it will be four months since the world team spots were determined.
Daton Fix and Gable Steveson will be back at the Junior World Championships later this month. Fix and Steveson are two of the best young wrestlers on the planet. Both have excelled on the Senior level this season. It will be tough for anyone to beat either of these young studs at Junior Worlds. They are two dynamic, skilled and confident athletes. I can’t wait to see what they do on the college mats this season.
Can the U.S. repeat as world team champions in men’s freestyle wrestling this season? The 10-man American team has the horses to do it, led by superstars Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Snyder. Burroughs has a chance to tie John Smith by winning his sixth world or Olympic gold medal. It would be awesome to see him do it. Jordan has been a joy to watch since he burst onto the international scene in 2011. He’s done so much for the sport and is a great leader for the American wrestling program. I’m also ready to finally see Kyle Dake and David Taylor wrestle at their first Senior World Championships. It is long overdue and don’t be surprised if they both win gold medals. It also would be awesome to see the team win the title in honor of long-time coach Mike Duroe, who passed away this year after battling brain cancer.
I’m looking for a much-improved second season for the Iowa State Cyclones under coach Kevin Dresser and Co. It may take a little time, but Iowa State will be back in the nation’s top 10 before you know it. I think ISU has the coaching staff in place to be successful. The Cyclones are also starting to pull top recruits into Ames. I think Brent Metcalf is a potential star in the coaching profession.
The U.S. women also could be a factor at the World Championships. The return of three-time world champion Adeline Gray will provide a huge boost for the American squad. If Olympic champion Helen Maroulis is healthy and ready to go, and other American athletes step up, the U.S. could make a run at perennial power Japan in the team race.
Can the Wartburg College Knights continue their dominance at the NCAA Division III level? I don’t see why not. Eric Keller has kept the Knight train rolling since taking over for Jim Miller.
I had a chance to attend the Iowa-Iowa State football game on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. My favorite moment was when Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands was interviewed on the field during the game. I loved the enthusiasm, fire and passion he showed as he spoke to the sellout crowd of 70,000 fans. It gave me goosebumps. It also made me think that it’s time to have another wrestling match at Kinnick. That would be really awesome to see. Maybe Iowa and Penn State could finally meet in a dual and we could fill every seat this time.
My sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Richard Perry, who suffered a horrible injury during national team training in California. The wrestling community has responded, to nobody’s surprise, with tremendous support. Check out the Go Fund Me account for Rich and his family, and kick in a few bucks if you can. I’ve interviewed Rich and he is one of the nicest guys I’ve met in wrestling. That’s been reflected in the large number of people who have shown support for him as he fights for his life.