Wrestling Mailbag: On Iowa girls wrestling, Austin DeSanto's hiatus, Iowa State's lineup

·20 min read

Before we get to the mailbag, a quick reminder that the 2022 Iowa girls state wrestling championships is Friday and Saturday at Xtream Arena in Coralville, and it deserves your attention — now more than ever.

The sport has grown tremendously over the last few years, from 67 girls during the 2015-16 season (per the National Federation of State High School Associations) to 1,022 this season, according to Trackwrestling.

For context: 1,022 would've been the fourth-highest single-state participation number during the '18-19 season (the last year the NFHS kept full participation stats), behind only California (6,014), Texas (4,421) and Washington (1,864).

At last check, 741 girls have registered for this weekend's state tournament, from 161 different teams. There are 21 teams that have 10 or more girls registered to compete. Eight of them have 15 or more. Dallas Center-Grimes leads all schools with 21 entries.

Wrestlers pose for a photo before the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) girls' state wrestling tournament, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.
Wrestlers pose for a photo before the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) girls' state wrestling tournament, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

So participation is booming, which is awesome, but so is the state's overall talent level, too.

In USA Wrestling's latest high school girls wrestling national rankings, 14 Iowa girls were included. Four Iowa girls became All-Americans at the 16U and Junior freestyle national championships last summer, and another three earned the same distinction at the girls' folkstyle national tournament last spring.

There are eight girls wrestling this weekend that have previously won girls state titles:

  • Ella Schmit, Bettendorf

  • Eva Diaz, Waverly-Shell Rock

  • Lilly Luft, Charles City

  • Annika Behrends, Waverly-Shell Rock

  • Naomi Simon, Decorah

  • Samantha Spielbauer, Clayton Ridge

  • Rachel Eddy, Independence

  • Jannell Avila, Iowa City West

There are another nine girls wrestling this weekend that have previously made the state finals:

  • Adyson Lundquist, Southwest Valley

  • Adison Musser, North Cedar

  • Sophie Barnes, Lewis Central

  • Alexis Ross, Fort Dodge

  • Macy Smith, Waverly-Shell Rock

  • Keely Kehrli, East Buchanan

  • Morgan Griffin, Spencer

  • Olivia Huckfelt, Spencer

  • Meridian Snitker, Waukon

The combination of all these things means there's going to be a ton of talent on the mat in Coralville this weekend. Again, this tournament deserves your attention.

But this weekend is also another reason to celebrate the continually growing girls and wrestling movement.

We've seen it plenty here in Iowa. There's the high school stuff, of course, but there's also 11 Iowa colleges that already have or are planning to add a women's wrestling program — chief among them, of course, is the Iowa Hawkeyes, led by newly-hired head coach Clarissa Chun.

This movement stretches all the way up to the Olympics. Team USA had four Olympic medalists last summer in Tokyo, headlined by Tamyra Mensah-Stock's run to gold. She's the second American woman wrestler ever to win Olympic gold.

Get on board if you haven't already, because this movement isn't going away. Come to Coralville this weekend if you're on the fence. I guarantee the girls and the coaches and the atmosphere will help you make an easy decision.

Now, then. Onto the Wrestling Mailbag. Shoutout to the Portillo bros for putting on a show on Saturday. Josh beat Justin 12-10 in sudden victory. Their match had three lead changes and three ties, at 3-3, 7-7 and 10-10. It was a fantastic scrap in a great dual (Grand View won, 19-18, their 112th-straight dual win). Bravo, gentlemen.

Please give me a follow on Twitter and I’ll keep you up to date on all things wrestling in Iowa. Don't forget to tune into the Register's wrestling podcast, In the Room, each week. You can find the latest episodes below.

Thanks for your help here, and for reading.

► WRESTLING COVERAGE FROM THE DES MOINES REGISTER

Making sense of Austin DeSanto, Iowa Hawkeye wrestling, Cullan Schriever

Most of you are probably here for an update on Austin DeSanto. I don't have one. We'll meet with Tom Brands later this week. We'll ask, duh.

But my dude Kaden asked for my thoughts. I have had a few of them.

First thing: I do believe DeSanto will return soon. I have not heard otherwise and have no reason to believe otherwise. Sometimes guys miss duals. He's the rare wrestler who really hasn't since transferring in. He's missed only a few duals total before this season.

But on its face, the decision to burn Cullan Schriever's redshirt is interesting. He had been wrestling unattached until last Friday's dual against Northwestern. He'd compiled a 15-3 record. By staying in redshirt, I figured he'd be Iowa's future starter at 133.

Burning his redshirt doesn't mean he isn't the future starter at 133. It means, one, Brands feels he's ready to go (because he is); two, Schriever OK'd burning his redshirt now (and three, he now has a redshirt to use down the road). Brands always says that he does what's best for the individual first. They talked about this before it happened.

More: Iowa wrestling beats Northwestern as Cullan Schriever sheds redshirt, Max Murin tops an All-American

It always felt like guys like Schriever, Drake Ayala, Patrick Kennedy, Caleb Rathjen, Wyatt Henson, Bretli Reyna and others would redshirt this season, then step into the lineup next season. Ayala's path changed after Spencer Lee's decision to get surgery, but the rest are tracking to debut during the '22-23 season.

So by burning Schriever's shirt, that sounded the mental alarms that maybe something was wrong with DeSanto, who didn't wrestle against Purdue on Jan. 9 and was with the team this past weekend but didn't wrestle in either dual.

Brands didn't really give any clarity as to why DeSanto didn't wrestle this past weekend and why Schriever came out of redshirt. Nobody was there to ask, but on the Iowa wrestling radio broadcast, Brands did say not to assume "impending doom" when a regular starter isn't wrestling.

Which then led to a few more thoughts.

Maybe Brands felt like he needed a stronger option behind DeSanto at 133. He sort of did the same thing with Jesse Ybarra at 125, when Spencer was still trying to wrestle without ACLs, and Brennan Swafford at 174, when it wasn't entirely clear when Michael Kemerer would finally compete.

Here is Iowa's current depth chart at 133:

  • DeSanto, a two-time All-American who's 11-0 this season with 8 bonus-point wins;

  • Schriever, a high-end prospect who's now 15-5 with seven bonus-point wins;

  • Charles Matthews, a high-energy guy who's currently 4-6.

Maybe Schriever doesn't want to be in college for six years. He has a small history of injuries, and this is already his second year at Iowa. Had he stayed in redshirt this season, that would've given him four more years of eligibility. Not everybody wants to do that, and that's entirely understandable.

Maybe DeSanto's only slightly hurt and needed a few competitions off to heal up and we're all thinking way too hard about all of this. Maybe he needed a mental break. Don't we all need a mental break from time to time?

Maybe DeSanto is seriously hurt or benching him was an internal discipline thing and Schriever is the guy the rest of the way — and if that's the case, we'll have to readjust the lens through which we'll view Iowa the rest of the season because that'll obviously impact their NCAA potential. We'll cross that bridge when and if we get there.

Another thought: If DeSanto is done for the season, Iowa would've said something, or will say something, or should. Again, this is a two-time All-American and tremendous individual point-scorer for the Hawkeyes. He was a key part of last year's title-winning team. There's interest both in Iowa and beyond. Not saying anything would be weird.

I'll end my thoughts here. We asked Brands about DeSanto not wrestling against Purdue on that Sunday. Here's the full exchange:

Question: Where was DeSanto today?

Brands: DeSanto — was he on the bench? Did anybody see him? I saw him. He was on the bench. Team player, man. Took the day off. No issues.

Question: His choice? Or your choice?

Brands: His choice.

That could be a lot to unpack. It could also not be. Again, we might be thinking too hard on all of this. We'll learn more as we'll learn more.

Austin DeSanto is 11-0 this season with eight bonus-point wins. He has missed the last three duals.
Austin DeSanto is 11-0 this season with eight bonus-point wins. He has missed the last three duals.

Let's be fair for a moment. Not much of the Iowa wrestling media made the trip to Evanston, Illinois.

And when Brands is asked, he answers. We're just not always there to ask. (Yes, I reached out this weekend for clarity but got no response. Again, we'll learn more when we learn more.)

Here's an example: Brands did say Jaydin Eierman, who also didn't wrestle this weekend, was resting, likely due to a finger injury he sustained against Purdue's Parker Filius. Brands talked openly after that dual about wanting to get more out of Eierman moving forward — three of his last five wins have been by a single point.

Here's another off the top of my head: Max Murin missed the Iowa-Penn State dual during the '19-20 season. When we asked, Brands said he was "nicked up," so Carter Happel went instead. Happel wrestled both duals that weekend, and both Paul Glynn and Jeremiah Moody were also in the lineup against Michigan State that Sunday.

I don't make it to every road dual. Hindsight is 20/20, but this would've been a weekend where I could've made the trip, but decided against it because I would've missed a weekend of high school wrestling and I try not to do that because, one, I love the high school season, and two, the high school season is very short and jam-packed.

But I did have another tangential thought over the weekend, from last year's NCAA Championships, when Alex Marinelli medically-forfeited from the tournament after his quarterfinal loss to Stanford's Shane Griffith.

Here's what Brands said after that:

"Marinelli is doing well. He has good priorities in his life. Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good. Not going to get into the details. He's a winner. Tough kid, winner, leader."

Some people might read that and think Marinelli might've just quit … when, in reality, he had a separated rib.

Why not just say that?

Nobody would've batted an eye if Brands would've said that Marinelli had a separated rib. There's a vested interest in a seasoned starter who is also a two-time All-American, a conference champ and the 1-seed at 165 pounds. The whole thing was made weirder when Marinelli was back on the floor the next day when Iowa won the team title.

Anyways, that's really the one time where I was genuinely confused about the lack of transparency. I'm sure you guys might have more examples, but consider this weekend another example of the ebbs and the flows of the season.

Relax a little and enjoy the ride. It's never not interesting.

Iowa head coach Tom Brands reacts during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual against Purdue, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
Iowa head coach Tom Brands reacts during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual against Purdue, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa State's wrestling lineup with Ian Parker back at 141 pounds

To answer your question, yes, I think it's too late for a medical redshirt. The general rule is you can only have wrestled 30% of your team's season and need to have a doctor say that an injury kept you from wrestling the rest of it.

I'm not sure that Zach Redding will want to go back to 133. That was a pretty gnarly weight cut for him last year, and 141 looks like an ideal weight. He just so happens to have Ian Parker in front of him now.

Which — now that that's the case, I want to say this:

It's about freaking time, right?

This is an Iowa State team that's been on a slow-and-steady climb since Kevin Dresser showed up ahead of the '17-18 season, and just looking at the lineup entering this season, this year's team had the look of a, potential, top-10 team.

But that thought assumed that both Ian Parker and Jarrett Degen would be in the lineup rather than battling for the same spot.

I understand why Parker wanted to go 149. Didn't want to cut weight, had previously bumped up before and it worked out well, and the guy likes to eat (seriously, follow him on Instagram, he posts his meals all the time). And while it made for an interesting storyline, it just didn't make any sense when looking at the bigger picture.

Because now look at Iowa State's presumptive starting lineup:

  • 125: Kysen Terukina

  • 133: Ramazan Attasauov

  • 141: Ian Parker

  • 149: Jarrett Degen

  • 157: David Carr

  • 165: Austin Kraisser/Isaac Judge

  • 174: Joel Devine/Julien Broderson

  • 184: Marcus Coleman

  • 197: Yonger Bastida

  • 285: Sam Schuyler

That's a dang good lineup. On paper, I see five guys who are All-American capable, in Carr, Degen, Parker, Coleman and Yonger, and the other five guys can all win matches at the national tournament.

Now, let's pump the brakes for a second, because only four teams finished with five or more All-Americans last year: Iowa had 7, Penn State and Oklahoma State both had 6, and Arizona State had 5. Those were your four trophy teams.

So if Iowa State finishes with five All-Americans, they're looking at potentially winning a trophy. I'm not sure they're there YET, but the potential here is enticing. Carr and Degen have both done it before, Parker is more than capable when he stays healthy, Marcus has clearly taken a step forward this year, and Yonger is clearly dangerous at 197.

We'll see how close they can get to maximizing that potential as the season continues.

Iowa State's Ian Parker is back down at 141 pounds. That's a good thing for the Cyclones.
Iowa State's Ian Parker is back down at 141 pounds. That's a good thing for the Cyclones.

What are the best Nickelodeon shows?

It's been a while since we've talked nonsense in the Mailbag, and my roll call this week was a play on the NFL's second year airing a playoff game on Nickelodeon, which is hilarious — the half-a-Plankton short call on the fourth-down spot was spectacular — and also incredibly smart.

I consider myself part of Generation Y, so JB may not like it when I say the best Nickelodeon shows, to me, are the likes of "Rugrats," "All That," "AAAHH!!! Real Monsters," and "Spongebob Squarepants."

Look, I was a kid, OK?

"Rugrats" was always fun because Tommy Pickles and the gang went on imaginative adventures and as an imaginative 4-year-old, I could relate. That, and there are definitely days when I don't want sponserbileries no more.

I remember watching the very first episode of "Spongebob," where he lands the job at the Krusty Krab, and was hooked. That show was just funny, man. My dad always rolled his eyes when I watched it.

"All That" was the kid's version of "Saturday Night Live," and it's really fun to see Kenan Thompson go from "All That" to "Saturday Night Live." "AAAHH!!! Real Monsters" was also just a funny show with weird characters and funny voices and it just piqued my imaginative interest, too.

Honestly, I didn't spend a ton of years watching these Nickelodeon shows. I think I was probably 9-10 when I started really paying closer attention to sports. Most kids make the jump from Nickelodeon to Disney Channel to MTV to whatever comes after that. I jumped from Spongebob to SportsCenter, and the rest is history.

A hypothetical Nickelodeon wrestling television broadcast

Fantastic question. I feel like Oklahoma State has to be one of the teams on this hypothetical Nickelodeon wrestling broadcast, just so we can mic up John Smith and kids can hear his southern twang and then "Spongebob" can chime in to explain what a takedown is and why Daton Fix scored back points and this really needs to happen.

I think another fun team could be, say, Minnesota. You'd introduce Gable Steveson, an Olympic gold medalist, to a bunch of kids and you'd be teaching them that wrestling goes all the way to the Olympics. That'd be pretty neat. Then when he beats whoever, Patrick Star can pop up on the screen and explain technical falls and team points.

Another could be North Carolina State, and they could use the Hidlay brothers to explain that wrestling is often a family sport. That would allow them to explain Smith's family history in wrestling, too. Educational!

Another could be Michigan, and they could use Stevan Micic and Myles Amine to show how some collegiate wrestlers can go to the Olympics and compete for other countries and how Mason Parris and Will Lewan both wrestled at age-level world championships — although on second thought, maybe that one is too complicated.

A Nickelodeon wrestling broadcast would be an excellent way to educate a younger, broader audience to wrestling, which was the NFL's goal when they decided on a Nickelodeon broadcast. Teach football to the kids to ingrain it in them earlier.

It's fun to think of how wrestling could do the same.

Coach John Smith and the fourth-ranked Cowboys defeated No. 17 Oklahoma 31-3 in the first Bedlam dual of the season on Sunday at the Lloyd Noble Center.
Coach John Smith and the fourth-ranked Cowboys defeated No. 17 Oklahoma 31-3 in the first Bedlam dual of the season on Sunday at the Lloyd Noble Center.

The correct answer is Cael Sanderson.

Right?

I don't know, man. I just think the prospect of Cael getting slimed is something the wrestling world needs to see, mostly just for his reaction. He is always even-keel, so seeing him get slimed is something the entire wrestling world would tune in to see.

Stanford's Rob Koll is another good candidate. I feel like he'd play along and make it fun. Same with Arizona State's Zeke Jones and Oregon State's Chris Pendleton. I'd also vote for Rutgers' Scott Goodale and Iowa State's Kevin Dresser, just because they'd either lean into it and make it hilarious or just hold a straight face the entire time.

There's also the coaches who have young children, like Northern Iowa's Doug Schwab and Cornell's Mike Grey, and that would be a really funny memory for their kids to have. My dad got slimed once! They'd be a hit at school forever.

There are other fun answers. Tom Brands, of course. John Smith is another good candidate. Chris Bono will likely cut everybody in line to be first. Some coaches always dress up really nice for duals, like Northwestern's Matt Storniolo, Princeton's Chris Ayres, Michigan's Sean Bormet, and others, so sliming them is just a funny thought.

Admittedly, a lot of these suggestions came to mind mostly because I just want to see their reactions. But I'd vote for Cael to go first.

Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson calls out instructions during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson calls out instructions during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

The prospect of the Nickelodeon side-effects here is what's most intriguing to me about a hypothetical Nickelodeon wrestling dual.

They can bring the blimp back in and drop slime on the mat before each match. They can make the slime monster pop up behind the benches. Shoot the slime cannons after pins or just wins, either into the crowd or onto the team benches. Put Spongebob's face on the mat during reviews the same way they put it between the uprights on field goals.

Imagine Squidward peeking his head out of the corner of the TV to explain stalling and stalemates. Imagine Sandy Cheeks stepping into the broadcast to explain official reviews and riding-time. Imagine the other funny graphics and TV magic they could do — if the camera catches a frustrated John Smith, they could blow steam out of his ears.

The possibilities here are endless and amazing.

Nickelodeon commentators Nate Burleson, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, and Noah Eagle are seen during an NFL wild-card playoff football in 2021.
Nickelodeon commentators Nate Burleson, Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, and Noah Eagle are seen during an NFL wild-card playoff football in 2021.

Twin brothers wrestling each other

This is an amazing question and I'm going to be a good older brother and deflect to something even better.

I have twin nephews as well. They're both wrestlers, too. Last weekend, they wrestled each other — Raden beat Tyson, 10-8, in overtime. Four lead changes and one tie, 8-8 to go to sudden victory. Raden led 2-0, Tyson charged back to lead 6-2, Raden rallied for 7-6, reversal Tyson, escape Raden, then Raden scored a takedown in overtime.

It was awesome! It was also the second time in as many weeks that they've wrestled each other. The weekend before, Tyson pinned Raden in 25 seconds. So this year's season series is now 1-1 after Raden's overtime win.

My sister loves it when they compete against each other, mostly because they step their game up. You can't let your brother win, right? They wrestle 8-and-under, 45 pounds, and, surprise, there aren't a ton of 45-pounders who are 7 and 8 years old in and around the Kansas City area, so they usually wrestle each other a few times a year.

My mom didn't like that my brothers would wrestle each other — mostly because, in back-to-back years, they wrestled each other to go to state. One year, Erik won and Alec stayed home. The next year, Alec won and Erik stayed home. We may see the same thing with Tyson and Raden later this year. Maybe my sister's tune will change after that.

But my nephews are having fun wrestling, and they're having a ton of fun wrestling each other. That's what it's all about, especially as 8-and-under wrestlers. Have fun, wrestle hard, enjoy the ride. Sports are meant to be fun.

This week, I'm extra grateful for the wrestling community. I've been around long enough now that I can go to virtually any wrestling tournament and see people I know and it's always great to catch up with people I've met through this awesome sport. Last weekend, I got to see Dawn Happel, the fearless leader of the Happel clan, and all the awesome people from Waverly-Shell Rock. They're some of my all-time favorites.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: The latest on Iowa girls wrestling, Austin DeSanto and ISU's lineup

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