Hawkeye wrestling recruits 27th in rankings

By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen

InterMat released its rankings Friday for the top recruiting classes, and the names at the top and the bottom of the list make it appear as if college wrestling has been tossed on its head.

Ohio State pulled in the top class while Virginia Tech, Virginia, Northern Iowa and Kent State secured spots in the top 10 and traditional powers Iowa State and Iowa were 26th and 27th, respectively.

"Tom Brands and crew recruited Iowa, combing the state for talent that will buy into their intense system," InterMat's Jason Bryant wrote in summarizing a class that includes current or former state champions Blake Rasing, Jordan Johnson, J.J. Krutsinger and Vinnie Wagner. "Some names don't jump off the page at you, but it's not always about credentials in Iowa City."

Still, to some it might look unusual seeing any set of college wrestling rankings with Iowa absent from the top 10. But to be fair to the Hawkeyes, they weren't expected to be a player in the chase for this year's top recruiting class. Iowa didn't have an abundance of pressing needs or resources after adding five Virginia Tech transfers to the roster last year while losing three starters to graduation.

Brent Metcalf (149 pounds), Jay Borschel (174), Dan LeClere (141), Joey Slaton (133) and T.H. Leet (165) -- the key figures in Virginia Tech's 2005 class that was ranked the nation's second best -- had to pay their own way and sit out last year at Iowa after transferring without being released by the Hokies. All five are now eligible to compete and receive scholarships from the Hawkeyes, supplementing a roster that lost All-American Eric Luedke (174), NCAA qualifier Mario Galanakis (133) and starter Alex Grunder (149).

Former Hawkeye Tom Ryan landed five of InterMat's top 150 prospects to secure the No. 1 recruiting class in his first season as Ohio State's head coach. The Buckeyes were followed by Missouri, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Minnesota. Oklahoma State landed the No. 6 class, followed by Michigan, while Virginia, Northern Iowa and Kent State rounded out the top 10.

Iowa assistant Wes Hand said the Hawkeyes "accomplished our goals of getting some good kids to provide some competition and depth in our room."

Iowa's 2006-07 roster lacked backups at 125, 197 and heavyweight. To fill those needs, the Hawkeyes added Krutsinger and went heavy on the heavier weights.

"We wanted to focus on some weights in our room that we needed competition at, and I think we did that," Hand said. "There were a couple weight classes where we didn't have really more than one body. With two or three weights on our team, we only really had one guy per weight and we wanted to create some competition. These kids probably flew under the radar, they were mostly in-state kids and they did well, they all had success and we're excited about having them."

Krutsinger, a projected 125-pounder in college, had two runner-up finishes, placed third as a freshman and won a state title in 2006 for Waterloo Columbus. Rasing was the Class 2A state heavyweight champion for New Hampton. Johnson placed third in 3A at heavyweight for Bettendorf after winning a state title in Illinois as a junior. Wagner was the 2A state champ for Osage at 189 this year, and North Scott's Brodie Ambrose placed third in 3A at 189.

Iowa's class also includes past or present state champions Stew Gillmor of North Scott, Tyler Halverson of Cherokee and North Linn's Nick LeClere, Dan's younger brother.

"With them being ranked 27th in the country doesn't mean a lot to us because they're exactly the kids we wanted to get," Hand said. "The rankings are what they are, and their final ranking will be in five years when they graduate from Iowa."

The Hawkeyes have taken steps toward assembling one of the nation's best classes in 2008. Iowa has already received verbal commitments from West High's Nate Moore and Illinois high school standout Jordan Blanton, both of whom are ranked by InterMat among the top 13 wrestlers in the 2008 class.

Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or ahamilton@press-citizen.com.