Teams that will be heavily favored as the year goes on can struggle out of the gate until they work the rust off and get their weight and conditioning under control. The Hawks have sent certain wrestlers to two open meets over the last two weeks to work on these things and gain experience.
Here are some notes about each weight:
Sophomore Luke Eustice did not participate in either the Central Missouri Open or the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha, Nebraska. He should still be the frontrunner to win the 125-pound position in the Iowa lineup.
Sophomore Cliff Moore at 133 has not participated in either open meet this year because of his knee, but senior Marc Juergens has been wrestling fairly well at the weight. Marc has dropped down from 141 where he wrestled last season, and was a champion at the Central Missouri State Open on November 10. Besides the five wins he had in Missouri, Juergens won three of his four matches at the Kaufman-Brand Open for a 2nd place finish. Juergens lost to Ryan Lewis of Minnesota in the finals, 4-2. When Moore is healthy and back competing, he should still be the frontrunner to win this spot, but Juergens has improved. Talented redshirt freshman Matt Shankey has a 5-4 mark this year.
Junior Luke Moffitt has put his stamp on the 141 starting spot as he has looked very good in winning titles at both open meets. He is 9-0 and has five pins, one technical fall, and a major decision among his wins. Senior Josh Budke is an impressive 12-2, but one of his losses was to Dylan Long of Northern Iowa by the score of 7-2. Moffitt then beat Long at the same meet, 5-2. Redshirt freshman Ryan Heim is 4-4 and struggled against both Moffitt and Budke, but in the future he could be very good after backing up Moffitt for the next two seasons.
At 149, returning all-American Mike Zadick did not go to Omaha, but he won his weight class at the Central Missouri State Open. Among his 6-0 record, he has recorded one pin, three technical falls, and one major decision. Talented true freshman Ty Eustice also did well in Missouri as he won his first four matches before losing to Zadick in the finals by a 13-4 margin. Eustice (8-2) was also 4-1 and earned 2nd place in Omaha as he lost to talented Gopher freshman Marcus LeVesser, 4-0. Marcus and Ty have gone back and forth in their rivalry that started in the Minnesota high school ranks, and both will judge their improvement in college by how they compare to each other.
Junior Matt Anderson has dropped down to wrestle 157 after earning all-Big Ten honors two years ago at 165. He is currently 9-1 this season, and was a champion at the Central Missouri State Open. After losing in the 3rd round at the Kaufman-Brand Open, Matt wrestled back to finish in 3rd place after beating a wrestler from Wyoming and Drew Kelly of Northern Iowa. True freshman Joe Johnston is 9-3, while true freshman Cole Pape is 5-5. Pape beat Johnston 1-0 in a match in the Central Missouri State Open.
Senior all-American Ben Shirk is struggling a little at 165, as he is currently 7-3. He was 2nd in his bracket in Missouri as he lost to Shawn Silvis of Central Oklahoma in the finals, 7-5. Besides losing 7-3 to Nate Baker of Minnesota in Omaha, Ben lost to Silvis again, 7-2. Ben was also very unpredictable at times last season. As a senior and a returning all-American, he needs to find more consistency. However, unlike many Hawk grapplers who dominate on their feet with takedowns, Shirk is a tumbler who seems to thrive in putting himself in wide-open situations on the mat. That style of wrestling does not lend itself to being consistently dominant.
Sophomore Tyler Nixt is off to a very solid start at 174 as he is currently 7-1. He lost in the finals at the Central Missouri State Open to Chris Pendleton of Oklahoma State, but bounced back to take 1st place at the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha. True freshman Adam Fellers is 7-3 and also lost to Pendleton in Missouri.
Junior Jessman Smith is 8-1 at 184 after losing to Travis Pascoe of Nebraska in the 3rd round of the Kaufman-Brand Open. He came back to claim 3rd at that meet and was a champion in Missouri. Even though he has a loss, Smith has two technical falls and three major decisions among his wins. True freshman Paul Bradley is 8-2 and has three pins, one technical fall, and two major decisions to his credit.
Redshirt freshman Trey Clark is the rated wrestler at 197, but did not participate in either of the two meets. Returning starter Ryan Fulsaas is reported to be much better this season; he is 3-1 this season after placing 2nd at the Central Missouri State Open. One of his wins was by technical fall over Dan Cools of Missouri, but he was pinned in his loss to Muhammad Lawal of Central Oklahoma.
Steve Mocco has continued to live up to the hype surrounding him. He is 9-0 after winning at both meets. As the top recruit in the nation last season, many wondered what kind of immediate impact Steve would make as a true freshman. Not only has he been the best rookie wrestler in the Iowa Room since Lincoln McIlravy, but Mocco has been impressive in meets. Of the nine wins, four have been by pin, one by technical fall, and two have been by major decision. In the final at the Kaufman-Brand Open, he beat returning all-American Paul Hynek of Northern Iowa, 9-2. Sophomore backup Randy Fulsaas is 6-3 after the two meets, while junior backup Josh Liddle is 1-2 after competing at the meet in Omaha.
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