Saturday marked the 39th consecutive year that I have attended an Iowa Wrestling practice.  I do not know what the record is for civilians (what I call non-Iowa wrestlers and coaches) is, but I have to be in the neighborhood. A lot has changed since I first walked into that room to watch an Iowa Wrestling practice and yet a lot is the same.

Saturday was an official Iowa Wrestling practice. The season officially began on Monday, October 11. Terry Brands was running practice. There was some good wrestling going on. The last week has been such a blur with the ten recruiting commitments that it was time to take a look at what is going on for the team this year.

Not all of the varsity wrestlers were wrestling so I will comment on those that I did see. Alex Marinelli and Kaleb Young have been such consistent workers in the program for their career.  Those two never seem to have a bad day.  Now it is their turn to wrestle with the younger wrestlers. All part of passing the torch of bringing the younger wrestlers along while preparing themselves for the upcoming season.

You could have filmed a commercial or hype video for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. Nathan Burak and Jacob Warner were going at it with some physical wrestling. Burak is still very stout and is a great workout partner for Warner.  Pat Lugo was also wrestling with younger wrestlers. There just are not a lot of people walking around that can go in and wrestle hard with the Iowa wrestlers like Burak and Lugo were doing. That is why the Hawkeye Wrestling Club is so crucial for the success of Iowa Wrestling.

More than anything, practice on Saturday gave me a great look at the future of Iowa Wrestling.  I have to start by stating the one that really stands out.  We are in mid October. Patrick Kennedy looks like a seasoned wolf coming out of a long hard Yellowstone winter…and he is a redshirt freshman.  Patrick Kennedy is tough. He looks the part and is the part. That guy has a great career ahead of him and looks to be the heir apparent leader of the Iowa Wrestling program.

Drake Ayala is bigger than I was expecting. A year in that room that is well known for lightweight success and I believe Ayala will be a force right out of the gates next year at 125. Jesse Ybarra and Cullan Schriever have progressed and they will have their shot next season at 133. I have been hearing real good things about true freshman Wyatt Henson. He is also bigger than I was expecting and I am confident he will be ready to go next year at 141. Max Murin and Vince Turk both looked good in their workouts.  I look for a heck of a wrestle off between those two for the top spot at 149 this season.

Bretli Reyna was working out. I thought he would end up at 157 but the roster has him listed at 149. I was impressed with his varsity appearance last year and I am looking forward to seeing him this year. I must admit that I had to ask Coach Morningstar to make sure if that was Cobe Siebrecht from our hometown of Lisbon. I had to ask because Siebrecht is that much bigger. He has really filled in over the last two years and looks the part of a D-I wrestler. He is also listed at 149 but looks bigger than that.

I am not leaving anybody out on purpose. There were plenty of other wrestlers going hard like Austin DeSanto but I was unable to see them all.

The week before I got a glimpse of Abe Assad at the HWC practice.  I had not seen him since February of 2020 when he was a true freshman.  Has he ever progressed and does not look like the same kid because he isn’t. He physically looks like an 86kg/190 lbs. international wrestler. Assad had injuries last season but looks ready to go now. I believe a healthy Abe Assad has the potential to be a real force at 184 this season for the Hawks.

With the senior dominated lineup this season combined with the young wrestlers paying their dues getting ready for their shot next year, the Iowa Wrestling room is deep with talented and tough wrestlers. The incoming recruits are lined up to replace the seniors and juniors in the program. The present and future looks great for Iowa Wrestling.

It was great to see Mike Chapman, who I call Mr. Chapman. Mike is my writing mentor who is without a doubt the greatest wrestling writer of all time. He is a walking encyclopedia of wrestling history and knowledge. I was definitely influenced by reading Mike’s articles like “From Gotch to Gable” that ended up being a book. Mike put wrestling on the front page of the sports section and entertained readers as a writer and then Sports Editor for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Mike was in town to present the Hodge Trophy that he invented to Spencer Lee at halftime of the football game.

The week before at practice I spoke to Chad Beatty. I have known of Chad, from Wilton, Iowa, for years because he was the same age as Ryan Moringstar in kids tournaments. Chad was a two-time NCAA Qualifier and a member of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 NCAA championship Iowa teams. Chad is the Executive Director of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. Great addition to the Iowa Wrestling program. I also talked to Chad’s dad Paul who I have known for years. The Beatty’s are the type of people you want on your side.

It would just not be wrestling season until I talk to Kyle Klingman. I have known Kyle for years when he was the Director of the Dan Gable Museum. He has since gone on to be a writer for TrackWrestling and now for FloWrestling. We usually talk in the Iowa room during an Iowa practice, wrestle offs, or at a dual meet. Kyle is a huge fan of wrestling that brings a lot to our sport of wrestling in the media.

As I mentioned earlier there was more wrestling going on but I just did not see it all. An Iowa Wrestling practice on a home football Saturday is just a great crowd to be a part of.  There is a lot of excitement around Iowa Wrestling right now in mid October and there should be. The season cannot start soon enough.

Let’s get ‘em in the middle.

It is great to be an Iowa Wrestling fan.

Go Hawks!