2023-2024 Early NCAA Lineup Looks

Iowa Hawkeyes Reload For 2023-24 NCAA Season

Iowa Hawkeyes Reload For 2023-24 NCAA Season

A careful analysis of the potential Iowa Wrestling starting lineup for the 2023-24 NCAA wrestling season.

Aug 16, 2023 by Andrew Spey

This fall, Tom Brands will enter his 18th year as head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes, and his first season in Iowa City as head coach in the post-Spencer Lee era. 

In his career, Brands has won four NCAA titles while at the helm of the Hawkeyes, with Iowa's 2021 championship being his first since 2010. 

Click here for more lineup looks.

The End Of The Spencer Lee Era

The aforementioned Spencer Lee has been the Hawkeyes' talisman for the last six seasons. The Pennsylvania native won his first of three NCAA titles for the Hawkeyes as a true freshman in 2018. Lee also won titles in 2019 and 2021 and placed 6th last March. 

The Hawkeyes never finished lower than fourth during the Lee era, including in 2022 when Iowa placed third as a team while Lee took a medical redshirt season. In 2020, both Lee and Iowa were heavy favorites to win titles at the canceled NCAA tournament. 

Watch Lee win a 2022 125-pound (and team) NCAA title:


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Besides Lee, the Hawkeyes will also be without the services of Max Murin, a five-time NCAA qualifier and 6th placer in 2023, and Jacob Warner, a five-time NCAA qualifier and four-time All-American (7th, 4th, 2nd, 5th). 

That means the Hawkeyes have to plug holes at 125, 149 and 197 next season.

Projected 2023-24 Lineup

This lineup comes with the usual caveats, including the fact that it's mid-August and no lineup is set in stone at this point (or really any point, but especially not in August). The projected starters' year of eligibility and highest NCAA finish are included after their names.

125: Drake Ayala, SO - R24 or Joey Cruz, FR

133: Brody Teske, SR - R12

141: Real Woods, SR - 2nd

149: Victor Voinovich, SO - R16

157: Jared Franek, SR - 4th or Cobe Siebrecht, JR - R24

165: Michael Caliendo, SO - 7th or Patrick Kennedy, SO - R16

174: Nelson Brands, SR - 5th

184: Abe Assad, SR - R24

197: Zach Glazier, JR 

285: Anthony Cassioppi, SR - 3rd

New Additions To The New Edition Hawks

The Hawkeyes got three transfers during the off-season: a Cowboy, a Sooner, and a pair of Bison.

  • Victor Voinovich was a 2023 NCAA round of 16 finisher with Oklahoma State at 149-pounds.
  • Jared Franek finished fourth in 2023 at 157 for the Thundering Herd of North Dakota State. He was also a bloorounder in 2022 and 2021. 
  • Michael Caliendo placed seventh during a superb redshirt freshman campaign at NDSU. 
  • Joey Cruz arrives from Oklahoma after one season on redshirt and will push Ayala for the leadoff spot.

Watch Franek win a 2023 Southern Scuffle title:


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Senior Stalwarts

Four presumed Hawkeye starters enter their final season of NCAA eligibility in Iowa City.

  • Real Woods was an NCAA runner-up at 141 after three seasons with Stanford. Woods’ highest finish with the Cardinal was 6th in 2022.
  • Brody Teske will look to make the podium for the first time at 133 after qualifying three other times, once with Iowa and twice before with Northern Iowa (both NCAA tournaments at UNI were at 125 lbs).
  • Nelson Brands had a breakout season last year, earning All-American honors for the first time with a fifth-place finish at 174. 
  • Anthony Cassioppi has an opportunity to anchor the Hawkeye lineup for the fifth time thanks to the extra covid year of eligibility. Big Cass is a three-time All-American, having gone 3rd, 7th & 4th the last three seasons. Cassioppi is also a two-time U23 World medalist, the only American to accomplish such a feat. People forget that. 

Watch Woods win in the semis of the 2023 NCAA tournament:


More Reading: Iowa's Recruiting Targets

Other Starters And Challengers

Rounding out the rest of the spots are a mix of familiar faces and new challengers. 

  • Drake Ayala qualified for the NCAAs at 125 in 2022. 
  • Two NCAA qualifiers from 2023 could work their way back into the lineup at 157 and 165. Patrick Kennedy qualified for the NCAAs and finished in the round of 16 in 2023. Cobe Siebrecht went 1-2 at the NCAAs at 157, also in 2023.
  • Siebrect could also descend back down to 149 where he wrestled the first three seasons he was on campus. 
  • Abe Assad is expected to make his fourth Hawkeye postseason start at 184. He’s qualified for three NCAA tournaments but has yet to make the podium.
  • Finally, junior Zach Glazier would be making his first trip to the postseason if he gets the nod at Big Tens.
  • Other Hawkeyes that could earn a starting gig by the end of the regular season are junior Cullan Schriever at 133, sophomore Caleb Rathjen at 157, senior Brennan Swafford at 174, and freshman Kolby Franklin at 197.
  • It should also be noted that in order to get more returning All-Americans and podium contenders in the lineup, Brands and Assad could bump, as Brands qualified for NCAAs in 2021 at 184. This would let Caliendo bulk up to 174 and allow one of Franek, Kennedy, or Siebrecht to slide into 165. Keep in mind, however, that we're not predicting, just noting a possibility!

Notable Freshmen Who Will Likely Redshirt

The Hawkeyes had the #3 recruiting class of 2023. While all the Big Boarders will likely defer eligibility for a year to better prepare for their varsity debut, it also would not be a shock to see one or more of these blue-chippers find a way into the lineup. 

  • Ben Kueter was the #2 recruit in the class of 2023. He’ll split time on campus between the football team, where he’s a linebacker, and the wrestling team, where he’s projected to be a 197-pounder. Kueter is also a 2022 U20 World champ in freestyle. Not bad!
  • Gabe Arnold was right behind his Hawkeye teammate on the Big Board, coming in at #5. Expect to see Arnold get at least a few starts at 174 this year, as a recent rule allows true freshmen five starts without having to use a redshirt season. 
  • Ryder Block checked in at #22 on the Big Board and projects as a 149-pounder.
  • Kale Peterson is the final Big Boarder from Iowa’s monster class, who was ranked #52 and projects as a 133-pounder.

Watch Kueter win a U20 world gold medal for Team USA during the summer of 2022: 


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What About Gable Steveson At Heavyweight?

Sure why not? While we don’t want to engage in any reckless speculation, Steveson did post a since-deleted Tweet of a ‘chick’ emoji, commonly used as a shorthand for the Hawkeye mascot on social media. 

Between WWE, the 2024 Olympics, and competition from the University of Minnesota to entice a collegiate comeback, the chances are slim that we see Gable in a black and gold singlet next season, but in the NIL era, anything is possible!

Postseason Prognostication

It's way too early to make any serious predictions about the 2024 NCAA Championship Tournament, however, with five All-Americans in the lineup and a podium contender at pretty much every weight, Iowa should definitely be in the mix for a team trophy. 

Penn State remains the early favorite, but our team tournament rankings already have Iowa as the runner-up in the team tournament rankings which are based on our way-too-early preseason rankings

Now we just need the season to start to see what actually happens!