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For schools across the country, college wrestling is going to look a little different this year. The kicker is, however, even as basketball schedules are expected to be released soon and the calendar ticks down to the holidays, no one knows for sure just how different it will be.
While the season is expected to start soon, if not immediately, following the New Year, this delay in answers means a lot of things. For Iowa, the favorite to win the 2020 NCAA Championships and the likely #1 team in the rankings to enter the 2021 season, it could mean less time on the mat in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and no time at all against non-conference opponents.
The Hawkeyes are combating this by rolling in unaffiliated tournaments when they would normally be gearing up to steamroll a nonconference opponent (last year it was Tennessee-Chattanooga, 39-0). On Nov. 1, the Hawkeye Wrestling Club hosted its own freestyle dual-format tournament, which featured a load of Iowa wrestlers.
Nineteen wrestlers are also competing at the 2020 USA Wrestling U23 and UWW Junior Nationals from Nov. 14-15, including Austin DeSanto, Max Murin, Kaleb Young, Jacob Warner and Tony Cassioppi.
While it’s freestyle action instead of folkstyle, head coach Tom Brands and the Iowa wrestlers know any competition is good for their development, especially competition that pushes them to be their best for as long as the match takes.
We’ve got to be ready to go
They saw that at the HWC Showdown, where a good number of Iowa wrestlers got beat by World or Olympic team members. It certainly wasn’t the competition they were used to at what would be the beginning of the season, but it was a litmus test for what is to come in March.
“A lot of times your development goes through certain paths that you weigh what’s good for you and maybe what’s not as good for you,” Brands said prior to the HWC Showdown. “With COVID and the way things are delaying until Jan. 1, it was a no-brainer to come out of the gate strong with some matchups, it made sense to us and it made sense to our guys as well. We’ve got to be ready to go.”
Judging from the performance at the HWC Showdown – and no one judges the matches harder than Brands or the wrestlers themselves – Iowa has a long way to go to be standing at the top of the NCAA team podium in March. The good news is that it’s only November, and they have some time to get it done.
The work isn’t likely to end after the U23 and UWW Junior Nationals this weekend. To continue their development, the Hawkeyes are expected to continue wrestling in actual competition – AKA, not against themselves in practice – as much as they can between now and whenever the season is set to begin.
Good news for both the team and Iowa fans alike is that a second HWC Showdown is in the works, as announced on social media by the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. The date has yet to be announced, but it’s another chance for Iowa wrestlers to get on the mat against top-tier talent in the country and for fans to see them in action
Anna attended the University of Iowa, where she covered multiple sports from volleyball to football to wrestling. She went to Pittsburgh in March 2019 for the NCAA DI Wrestling Championships and did live coverage of the entire event and Spencer Lee’s second-straight NCAA title. Follow her on Twitter.