Wrestling Mailbag: A Spencer Lee thought, Humboldt wrestling, Battle of Waterloo, UNI Open

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Had a Spencer Lee thought the other day.

Many of you are antsy for him compete. I am, too. I’ve seen him in the practice room a couple of times, and he’s looked good. He rolled with Dan Dennis during an open workout one day, then pinned Jesse Ybarra in 106 seconds during Iowa's intra-squad matches.

“He’s as ready as our fans are to get on the mat,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said a while back. He continued: “It comes down to Spencer Lee and what he’s able to do … it’s just a matter of that comfort while being at a high level.”

Here’s my thought:

Most of you last saw Spencer Lee wrestle at the NCAA Championships last March. He stormed to his third national title by outscoring his five opponents 59-8. He did all of that 10 days after tearing his ACL … while already managing another torn ACL.

It is hard to understate how incredible that performance was, especially when you consider that he really rehabbed and mentally prepared himself to wrestle in one of the toughest tournaments in the world for only 10 days — and then won it pretty handily.

Iowa's Spencer Lee, top, takes on Central Michigan's Drew Hildebrandt during their 125-pound match in the semifinal round of the NCAA wrestling championships Friday, March 19, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Iowa's Spencer Lee, top, takes on Central Michigan's Drew Hildebrandt during their 125-pound match in the semifinal round of the NCAA wrestling championships Friday, March 19, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

By the time he hits the mat next — it could be next week in Florida, it could also not be until after the New Year — it will have been nine months of more rest, more rehab and more mental prep. He’ll have, as Brands explained, a better understanding of what he can and can’t do — how to move, how to attack, how to defend, all that stuff.

I’m hesitant to say this next part, because we never know how these things will go until they actually go, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him just pummel people as if it were business as usual once he gets the green light and starts wrestling again.

Think about it how much he can learn and grow and adjust his wrestling style to fit his new reality over nine months. That’s nine months of discourse with coaches and doctors, nine months of practice to learn what feels good and what doesn’t, and what he can do when things don’t feel good, nine months of perfecting his craft … again.

I think back to last March, and how he only had 10 days to figure these things out, and he still blitzed the field in St. Louis. He scored in virtually every way — takedowns and turns, obviously, but in four of the five matches, he willing chose bottom between periods and either escaped or scored a reversal.

With no ACLs.

That’s impressive.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’m an optimistic person, and Lee has given us no reason to believe he won’t just be the same world-beater he’s been throughout his Iowa Hawkeye career.

But whenever he hits the mat again, almost all eyes in the wrestling world will be paying attention, in one form or another, and it really shouldn’t surprise any of us if he looks like the same old dominant Spencer Lee we’ve come to know.

Now, then. Onto the Wrestling Mailbag. One final nod to the late Mark Reiland, a coach and wrestling man who I came to know well in my time covering wrestling. I often found him at the big wrestling events and loved picking his brain. He was treasured by so many in the Iowa wrestling community, and his death last week is one of the few that have stopped me cold. Rest easy, Mark. We miss you. Reiland Gang forever.

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.

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Humboldt's wrestling history: Keith Abens to Joey Busse to Kendal Clark

I normally try to crack a joke in my Mailbag roll call each Monday morning. This time, I asked a question — which was maybe a mistake, because the goal is to solicit questions from you guys — and most of you came back with one of the right answers.

It's true, Joey Busse won a Class 2A state title in 2019. He was impressive all season: 47-0 with 19 pins and 12 technical falls. At the state tournament, he beat PCM's Colby Tool, 4-2 in overtime, in the semifinals, then edged West Liberty's Will Esmoil, 4-3, in the finals to become Humboldt's first state champ since 2008 (Tanner Kampen).

Humboldt's Joey Busse won a state wrestling title in 2019. He is one of 21 Humboldt wrestlers to win an individual state championship.
Humboldt's Joey Busse won a state wrestling title in 2019. He is one of 21 Humboldt wrestlers to win an individual state championship.

The other answer I would've accepted: Kendal Clark, in 2020.

Clark took first at the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association's girls' state championships at Waverly-Shell Rock HS. She went 4-0 with three pins to win at 170 pounds. She made the finals again at last year's IWCOA girls' state tournament at Xtream Arena. She went a combined 26-2 across both seasons with 22 pins.

Pretty good!

If we count Clark — and we should and will — 21 Humboldt wrestlers have combined to win 30 individual state titles. That includes Clark and Busse, but also the program's two three-timers, in Keith Abens (1967-69) and Dave Musselman (1970-71), as well as two notable two-timers in Kevin Dresser (1980-81) and Tony Ersland (1991-92).

Dresser and Ersland, of course, are now Division I head coaches — Dresser at Iowa State, Ersland at Purdue. That's where this week's roll call stemmed from, because the 18th-ranked Cyclones wrestle the Boilermakers at Humboldt High School this Sunday at 5 p.m. It'll be streamed on FloWrestling.

This will be a fun dual because both teams have fun rosters and the matchups here look enticing — like 157, between David Carr and Kendall Coleman; 184, between Marcus Coleman and Max Lyon; at 197, between Yonger Basitda and Thomas Penola; and also 125 (Kysen Terukina-Devin Schroder) and 141 (Zach Redding-Parker Filius).

But it'll also be fun because Humboldt is a town that is incredibly passionate about its high school sports, and having two former state champs in town to put on a show in the Humboldt gym should make for a fun night that not only celebrates the sport, but also celebrates the Wildcat wrestling program's proud history.

Humboldt's Kendal Clark won an IWCOA girls' state wrestling title in 2020. She is one of 21 Humboldt wrestlers to win an individual state championship.
Humboldt's Kendal Clark won an IWCOA girls' state wrestling title in 2020. She is one of 21 Humboldt wrestlers to win an individual state championship.

Remember Humboldt's Wade Satern? A Class 2A state wrestling champ in 2002

This is a heck of a pull, and a story I was not fully aware of until Adam's tweet made me dive headfirst into the internet to learn more.

Wade Satern had his right leg amputated when he was just eight months old. He moved to Iowa from Washington State and started wrestling in fourth grade. He became a three-time state qualifier, two-time medalist and a Class 2A state champion in 2002.

Pretty remarkable.

In his 2002 state final, against Glenwood's Brad Gregory, Satern scored a quick takedown and built a 7-0 on his way to a 9-2 victory — not unlike how Arizona State's Anthony Robles beat Iowa's Matt McDonough in the 2009 NCAA final, leading 7-0 after the first period on his way to a 7-1 victory.

"That's been my game plan all year," Satern told the Des Moines Register in 2002, "to get a big lead early in case something happens."

Wrestling — and, really, sports in general — really do showcase how amazing human beings can be sometimes.

Previewing the 2021 Battle of Waterloo

There are multiple matchups I am looking forward to this weekend. Buckle up.

One of the beauties of the Battle of Waterloo is that it's a dual tournament, so we'll learn quite a bit about where all of these teams stack up in that aspect, but along with that come the individual matchups we could see, too.

We'll go bracket by bracket. Here's what I came up with:

Bracket A

  • Don Bosco

  • Waterloo East

  • Western Dubuque

  • Alburnett

  • Crestwood

  • Union

  • New Hampton/Turkey Valley

  • Ankeny

I would love to see Don Bosco-Ankeny in this bracket final here. I'm also excited to see both Crestwood and Alburnett, too. I think they can be sneaky good dual teams this year.

Individual matchups I hope happen:

  • 132: Ankeny's Carter Davis vs. Don Bosco's Garrett Funk

  • 195: Ankeny's Cade Bennethum vs. Don Bosco's Carson Tenold

  • 152: Crestwood's Cole Butikofer vs. Union's Hunter Worthen

  • 182: Don Bosco's Cade Tenold vs. Western Dubuque's Greyson Gardner

Bracket B

  • Waverly-Shell Rock

  • Columbus Catholic

  • Cedar Rapids Prairie

  • Nashua-Plainfield

  • Iowa City High

  • Charles City

  • Clear Lake

  • Osage

That Prairie-NP first-round matchup could be sneaky fun, and the idea of a final featuring the Go-Hawks and Green Devils is very enticing, but Osage needs to beat City High first.

Individual matchups I hope happen:

  • 160: W-SR's Aiden Riggins vs. Osage's Nick Fox

  • 145: W-SR's Bas Diaz vs. Osage's Chase Thomas

  • 126: City High's Kale Kurtz vs. Osage's Tucker Stangel

  • 220: City High's Ben Kueter vs. Charles City's Tino Tamayo

  • 220: Waverly-Shell Rock's Layne McDonald vs. Osage's Barrett Muller

If Prairie's Blake Gioimo wanted to bump to 120 to wrestle Nashua-Plainfield's Garret Rinken in that first round, I wouldn't be too upset. Wouldn't hate it if Riggins bumped up to wrestle Columbus Catholic's Max Magayna at 170, either.

Bracket C

  • West Delaware

  • Waterloo West

  • Davenport Assumption

  • West Des Moines Valley

  • North Scott

  • Cedar Falls

  • Denver

  • Linn-Mar

The potential Linn-Mar vs. North Scott semifinal here is intriguing. But I'm also curious to see the Valley-Assumption first-round match and how West Delaware, the favorite here, handles a variety of different opponents.

Individual matchups I hope happen:

  • 120: Valley's Nate Bierma vs. Assumption's Derrick Bass

  • 182: Valley's Chase Hutchinson vs. Assumption's John Argo

  • 170: Valley's Theron Castle vs. West Delaware's Kyle Cole

  • 152: North Scott's Peyton Westlin vs. Cedar Falls' Dylan Whitt

  • 285: Linn-Mar's Luke Gaffney vs. North Scott's David Borchers

  • 120: North Scott's Trace Gephart vs. West Delaware's Carson Less

  • 170: Linn-Mar's Tate Naaktgeboren vs. Anybody

  • 220: West Delaware's Wyatt Voelker vs. Anybody

Bracket D

  • Lisbon

  • Bishop Heelan

  • Clarion-Goldfield-Dows

  • Pleasant Valley

  • Indianola

  • Lake Mills

  • Wapsie Valley

  • Independence

Fairly straightforward final bracket here, but a potential Indianola-Independence semifinal could be intriguing, and the prospect of a Lisbon-Independence final could have a ton of fireworks, just based on the amount of firepower both teams have.

Individual matchups I hope happen:

  • 145: Indianola's Ryder Downey vs. Lake Mills Alex Beaty

  • 145: Indianola's Ryder Downey vs. Independence's Isaiah Weber

  • 182: Indianola's Walker Whalen vs. Independence's Marcus Beatty

  • 285: Indianola's Cael Crawford vs. Independence's Korver Hupke

  • 182: Lisbon's Max Kohl vs. Pleasant Valley's Caden McDermott

  • 120: Lisbon's Brandon Paez vs. Independence's Kale Wieland

  • 182: Lisbon's Max Kohl vs. Independence's Mitch Johnson

  • 195: Lisbon's Jamien Moore vs. Independence's Marcus Beatty

  • 285: Lisbon's Wyatt Smith vs. Independence's Korver Hupke

Clearly I'm jazzed about the matchups at 145 pounds and the potential Lisbon-Independence dual.

If the seeds hold, the first-place bracket would feature Don Bosco, Waverly-Shell Rock, West Delaware and Lisbon, and the bracket that places 5-8 would feature Ankeny, Osage, Linn-Mar and Independence.

Those would all bring up a ton more potential matchups that I'd like to see, but we'll cross the bridges when we get there. And we didn't even mention the two separate girls brackets.

Action begins Friday morning at Young Arena and runs all day Friday and Saturday. Your boy will be in the building. It's going to be a blast.

Aiden Riggins and Waverly-Shell Rock will compete at the Battle of Waterloo this weekend.
Aiden Riggins and Waverly-Shell Rock will compete at the Battle of Waterloo this weekend.

Takeaways from Iowa wrestling's performance at the UNI Open

Here are the quick Iowa results from the UNI Open, for those who didn't pay attention:

  • Drake Ayala, second at 125

  • Cullan Schriever, first at 133

  • Patrick Kennedy, first at 165

  • Brennan Swafford, third at 174

Not a ton of Hawkeyes in action, but those who did compete did fairly well. I paid special attention to Drake — because I've been watching him since before his freshman year at Fort Dodge, for one, but also because he wrestled Minnesota's Pat McKee, a returning All-American.

McKee won, 8-4, on a pair of takedowns, a couple of escapes, a stall point and a riding-time point. Drake scored the first takedown in the first period, and got to McKee's legs off his lefty sweep-single many times throughout the match. He scored just once, in the first period, but the fact that he got to McKee's legs was encouraging to see.

The other thing: Drake got out from bottom.

McKee still scored a riding-time point, yes, and it took Drake 40 seconds each time to escape, sure, but he escaped. That's telling to me because McKee is a hammer on top, but also, Drake did not score an escape in his 16-8 win over Iowa State's Conor Knopick two weeks ago. Knopick rode him out in the second period after scoring a reversal.

So we learned two things from that particular matchup — one, that Drake's neutral offense is on its way, and he just needs to finish more consistently; and two, there's tangible, measurable progress being made in the two weeks between competitions.

The others: Schriever went 3-0, outscored his opponents 41-17, and beat Northern Iowa's Kyle Biscoglia, 7-4, in the final; Kennedy won a pair of tough matches over Isaac Judge (8-3) and Cael Carlson (7-5), and it was nice to see muscle through closer, slower-paced matches (he also beat Grant Stotts, 24-7); Swafford went 5-1 and won four in a row in the wrestlebacks, including 8-5 over Julien Broderson for third.

I've said this before, and I'll probably say it again, but it's really nice having these open tournaments back so these guys who are redshirting can still get plenty of matches in this season. We can see how much they're progressing, and, at some tournaments, they'll get opportunities to wrestle high-level opponents. Everybody wins.

Which brings us to Tanner's point about the Midlands Championships later this month. That's usually the big tournament for Iowa's redshirts every year, just because it's the biggest competition they'll get in-season. I am also very excited to see these guys in action at the Midlands.

It's another chance to show progress, but also an opportunity for them to really measure themselves against higher-level — sometimes even elite-level — competition. We'll have a better idea of where these guys stand after those two days in Chicago.

Drake Ayala is a true freshman wrestler for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He took second at the UNI Open last weekend in Cedar Falls.
Drake Ayala is a true freshman wrestler for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He took second at the UNI Open last weekend in Cedar Falls.

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: Wrestling Mailbag: Spencer Lee, Humboldt, Battle of Waterloo, UNI Open