Tom Brands expects a healthy upgrade to the Iowa wrestling program’s lineup for the 2019-20 season.
As the Iowa coach prepares to lead the Hawkeye program for his 14th season, Brands anticipates the return of a healthy Michael Kemerer at 174 pounds and the addition of a healthy heavyweight in redshirt freshman Tony Cassioppi to only add to the possibilities for a team that returns all six of its 2019 all-Americans next season.
“We have some upgrades with Kemerer coming back, we have some upgrades built in with development over the offseason summer months and we have an upgrade at heavyweight with a healthy Tony Cassioppi,’’ Brands said earlier this month prior to an appearance at the Hawkeye Fan Event at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf.
Kemerer, a third-place finisher in the NCAA Championships as a redshirt freshman in 2017 and a fourth-place finisher as a sophomore, missed his junior season when he underwent surgery last November to repair a lingering knee injury.
Brands said Kemerer is progressing well as he works toward a return to the mat next season for Iowa.
He earned his undergraduate degree earlier this month and will seek a hardship waiver from the NCAA to regain the year of eligibility he lost.
“He graduated and did it right,’’ Brands said. “He’s got one year by the book and will probably be able get another year with the hardship. He’s one of the upgrades we have.’’
Another comes at 285. Cassioppi is expected to move into the lineup spot filled the past four seasons by Sam Stoll, a two-time all-American despite dealing with injuries throughout much of the final three seasons of his collegiate career.
A Roscoe, Illinois native, Cassioppi won USA Wrestling’s junior freestyle national championship last month to earn an automatic berth in the best-of-three finals of the Junior World Team Trials which begin Friday in Akron, Ohio.
“That’s no knock on Sam Stoll, who did some really good things for us and will be around as part of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, but it will be good to be healthy at heavyweight,’’ Brands said. “That can only help.’’
Brands expects that to add to an Iowa team which will be built around two-time 125-pound NCAA champion Spencer Lee.
“He’s doing a lot of winning, but he’s going about it the right way. He’s an academic all-American. Win, graduate, do it the right way, Gary Barta’s marching orders to his troops, Spencer Lee embodies that,’’ Brands said. “His best wrestling is ahead of him, and that’s frickin’ scary.’’
Brands also anticipates continued competition within the Iowa wrestling room, which he said benefits everybody.
He pointed to the contributions made last season by Paul Glynn of Bettendorf, who posted a 9-4 record last season as a junior while wrestling behind all-American Austin DeSanto at 133 pounds and was recognized as the Hawkeyes’ most improved wrestler at Iowa’s awards banquet.
“He made us a better team with the leadership he showed every single day in our room,’’ Brands said. “We had a lot of young guys last year, and Paul played a role in helping them progress. He may not have been in the lineup every night out, but what he brought to our team was every bit as important, something every team needs.’’