Big Ten

Ayala Set To Make Season Debut At UNI Open

Ayala Set To Make Season Debut At UNI Open

NCAA qualifier Drake Ayala is on Iowa's nine-man travel roster for Saturday's UNI Open.

Dec 9, 2022 by Andy Hamilton
Ayala Set To Make Season Debut At UNI Open

Drake Ayala is set to make his return to competition this weekend. 

The Iowa 125-pound sophomore — who surged as high as #8 in the national rankings last season before a shoulder injury limited his mat time in the second half of the season — is on the nine-man travel list for the Hawkeyes for Saturday’s UNI Open. 

It’ll be the first competition for Ayala since March, when he went 1-2 at the NCAA Championships to end a 17-8 true freshman campaign. The three-time Iowa state champion and three-time Fargo freestyle champ placed second at last year’s UNI Open and third at the Southern Scuffle, losing tight matches in both tournaments against Minnesota All-American Patrick McKee. 

Ayala took over the starting spot for the Hawkeyes last January when three-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee underwent season-ending ACL repair on both knees. With a redshirt year at his disposal, Ayala is competing unattached this weekend. 

The Hawkeyes are also taking sophomore Jesse Ybarra to the UNI Open in an attached capacity. Iowa coach Tom Brands has mentioned Ybarra as a possible option for the Hawkeyes at 133 pounds, where Cullan Schriever and Brody Teske have handled the starting role up to this point. 

Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa State, South Dakota State, Nebraska and Wisconsin are also among the teams expected to have wrestlers in the field at the UNI Open.