The best way that I can describe Jacob Warner coming out of Midlands at the end of December is dumping a 500 piece puzzle on the table. Just a mound of random pieces that that did not look like the full color picture of the completed puzzle that was on the top cover of the puzzle box.
For anyone that has been reading my blog, I have wrote quite a bit about Jacob Warner. As a prized recruit in the Iowa Wrestling Recruiting Class of 2017, I felt as though Warner was destined for greatness at Iowa. You just do not see that many elite recruits in the 197 lbs. weight class. Warner had the aggression, technique, strength, attitude, work ethic. Everything. His Carver Hawkeye debut was very impressive. Warner won an a last second scramble to defeat #5 ranked Willie Miklus of Iowa State. Warner had sprained his ankle in the first period and showed a lot of guts and heart fighting off that injury to win a very tough match.
The ankle injury kept Warner out of competition until Midlands. I am still not sure what happened at Midlands where Warner went 5-2 and placed 5th. His shape and focus was just not there to the point that I really did not recognize his wrestling. It was bad. After seeing Warner in the room after Midlands, I was even more concerned. My confidence was shook on what type of career Warner was going to have because I really thought he was at the crossroads and could go either way.
That is also when I thought of Warner as a puzzle that was in a pile in the middle of the table. One by one, we see Warner add to his arsenal every week. The Iowa Wrestling coaching staff would start to put the pieces back together, one by one. I believe priority #1 had to be conditioning. With what I have been seeing of Warner in competition, I would say his conditioning is right where you want it. Priority #2 had to be getting out from underneath. I would say that part has been accomplished as well.
Warner has been winning matches with mat wrestling and not giving up takedowns. His ability to ride and control his opponent has been the difference in several matches. In the down position Warner is getting quick escapes. A majority of his takedowns have been go-behinds from the front headlock position. I am here to tell you, Warner has a heck of a freight train double, head to inside single, sweep single, carry, and takedowns from various bodylock positions. Jacob Warner has a lot of offensive firepower. We are seeing more of his shots in competition. Warner is also deceptively quick with his single leg shots from open space. I will stay with my example to keep putting pieces of the puzzle together.
Throughout this process of putting together an effective game plan to win matches, Warner is 8-0 since Midlands and he looks better every match. On Sunday Warner looked very good in defeating Beau Breske of Wisconsin by a 9-0 major decision. Warner defeated Breske, a highly ranked recruit in high school and a solid wrestler, 5-3 at Midlands. Going from 5-3 to 9-0 in less than two months is marked improvement.
I am still shaking my head at the opening takedown that Warner had in that match. Breske looked like he was going to score a takedown off of a shot and Warner grabbed an ankle and after a flurry came out on top. That was a great flurry. Warner is consistently winning the flurries for takedowns. I am sure we will see more leg attacks as he continues to incorporate more and more of his offensive arsenal. Warner is also looking more confident like I saw him in Las Vegas last April as he rolled through to win a UWW Junior national title. Self confidence is unlimited in what it can do for a wrestler.
Warner will have a big test on the road at Oklahoma State on Sunday when he faces #6 Preston Weigel. That will be a great test and help prepare Warner for the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA Tournament.
The Iowa Wrestling coaching staff has done a great job bringing Warner along this season. It was a slow but steady process to get Jacob Warner to where he is right now. Warner is getting closer to wrestling at the pace and level that fans like me were expecting to see.
It will be entertaining as a fan to see how Warner finishes out his freshman season. Even though Warner is 14-2, on an eight match winning streak and ranked #4 in the country as a freshman at 197, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Trust me, there are more pieces of the puzzle that will be added in. The sky’s the limit for Jacob Warner.
It is great to be an Iowa Wrestling fan.
Remaining match: – vs. #6 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State)
#5 Willie Miklus (Iowa State) W‐D 5‐4
Midlands Championships – 5th place
Sam Schuler (Buffalo) W‐MD 13‐3
Matt Wroblewski (Illinois) W‐D 6‐1
Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State) L‐TF 19‐3
Beau Breske (Wisconsin) W‐D 5‐3
Josh Hokit (Fresno State) W‐Pin 5:59
#6 Rocco Caywood (Army) L‐D 5‐3
Thomas Lane (Cal Poly) W‐MFF
Dylan Anderson (Minnesota) W‐D 9‐4
Matthew Correnti (Rutgers) W‐D 6‐0
Andre Lee (Illinois) W‐D 5‐1
Zach Chankonis (Northwestern) W‐D 4‐2
#11 Eric Schultz (Nebraska) W‐D 4‐1
Niko Cappello (Maryland) W‐TF 24‐9
Jake Kleimola (Indiana) W-MD 16-5
Beau Breske (Wisconsin) W‐MD 9-0