April 9, 2008

http://www.hawkeyereport.com
Sean Monahan
Staff Writer

Talk about it in The Hawkeye Lounge
With the signing of the highly sought Colby Covington, we now have a good idea what the complete wrestling lineup will look like heading into the 2008-09 season as the Hawkeyes try to go back to back with national titles. Find out who Tom Brands will likely be sending out to the mat next fall and get an early look at their projection on a national level.

125
Projected Starter: Charlie Falck

In the Wings: J.J. Krutsinger
Incoming Recruits: Nate Moore

Two-time All-American Charlie Falck returns to the Hawkeye line-up as the elder statesmen of the team. Each year Falck has improved on his NCAA finish, and there is no reason that shouldn't happen again next season. Jayson Ness may bump up to 133 to make way for Zach Sanders, but in his absence returns Troy Nickerson who made it to the finals as a freshmen. Also returning are reigning national champion Angel Escobedo and 2007 champ Paul Donahoe. Falck was close enough to inhale a whiff of the finals last month, and he has the potential to get just as far if not farther next season.

The nation's No. 1 recruit at 125 pounds joins the Hawkeyes this fall, where it's likely he and J.J. Krutsinger will try-out all season long for Falck's spot when his eligibility vanishes. Krutsinger was listed by Intermat as the No. 10 recruit at 125 coming out of high school, so both have plenty of talent. The cupboard looks pretty good for the next few years.

Projected Finish: 2nd ? 4th

133
Projected Starter: Joey Slaton
In the Wings: Dan Dennis
Incoming Recruits: Matt McDonough, Mark Ballweg

Written off by even one of his teammates at the beginning of the season, Joey Slaton enjoyed a season long joy ride to the pinnacle of the wrestling world. This season Slaton enters as one of the favorites for the 133 title after making it all the way to the finals last month. The finals appearance was a short one, which should provide some extra fuel for someone who is already one of the countries fieriest wrestlers. While Coleman Scott will be gone next season, the other three contributors to Slaton's loss column ? Mike Grey, Jimmy Kennedy, and Franklin Gomez ? all return.

There is speculation going around that Slaton might not be able to make 133 consistently next season, but until that happens it's only that, speculation. If that should happen, Dan Dennis is one of the better back-ups in the country and could start for any number of programs around the country. Coming in to join Slaton and Dennis next year are Iowa state champs Matt McDonough and Mark Ballweg. Both were ranked by Intermat in the top-10 ? McDonough 4th at 130 and Ballweg 9th at 135 ? so it will be fun to see how they spread out to try and find a niche in the line-up for the future.

Projected Finish: 1st-3rd

141
Projected Starter: Alex Tsirtsis/Dan LeClere
In the Wings: Tsirtsis/LeClere
Incoming Recruits: None

All last season, the Alex Tsirstis v. Dan LeClere discussion raged on. This year the talk becomes reality as one of these two All-American caliber wrestlers will grab hold of the 141 spot, while the other once again misses out on the biggest competition of the year. Coming off his redshirt year, Tsirtsis will be the veteran of the weight class and will undoubtedly be hoping for a championship send-off. In his absence young talented wrestlers have come to the top of the class, so it will be interesting how he fares against the new competition.

LeClere on the other hand is not going to take to highly to the thought of sitting out more years in his college career than he wrestled. Like Tsirtsis, the talent is undoubtedly there, and he is capable of beating anyone in the entire class. The consistency just isn't there. With four All-Americans gone to graduation there is a great chance for the Hawkeyes score a lot more points at this class than they did last season. Whoever, Brands goes with come tournament time will be expected to deliver on that promise of points.

Projected Finish: 3rd-8th

149
Projected Starter: Brent Metcalf
In the Wings: Matt Ballweg, Nick LeClere
Incoming Recruits: None

Metcalf finished off a whirlwind season last month with an NCAA title that culminated in an outstanding wrestler of the tournament award and the prestigious Hodge Trophy. He is face of the Hawkeye program now and will be expected to bring home another title next season. One thing to watch in the off-season is what the other wrestlers in his weight class do, but regardless of who stays and who goes there will be plenty of competition and talent remaining in this weight class.

Sitting behind Brent Metcalf is as undesirable a position for a competitive athlete as being drafted as a quarterback by the Indianapolis Colts. Barring an injury, wrestling unattached is the extent of the action anyone is going to see at the 149-weight class for the next two seasons.

Projected Finish: 1st

157
Projected Starter: Ryan Morningstar
In the Wings: Brooks Kopsa, Stew Gillmor
Incoming Recruits: None

After a season's worth of frustrations, Ryan Morningstar gave Hawkeye fans reason for hope towards the completion of the 2007-2008 campaign. Morningstar managed to qualify for the NCAA tournament in Minneapolis, and took sixth seeded Matt Kocher into the second sudden victory period. In the consolation round he beat fifth seeded C.P. Schlatter before bowing out to Brandon Becker. Morningstar has the talent, as he showed in March, he just needs to believe in it. If he does, Morningstar could finally make a serious run at the podium in St. Louis.

While he hasn't been as dominant as Metcalf, there doesn't seem to be much of a chance to break into the line-up at 157. The only way Morningstar doesn't compete at 157 is if he is in the line-up at 165 pounds. Gillmor and Kopsa are young so they can't be counted out, but it will be at least two more seasons before they get their shot.

Projected Finish: 6th - No AA

165
Projected Starter: Colby Covington
In the Wings: Jake Kerr, Aaron Janssen
Incoming Recruits: Covington

The entire Hawkeye wrestling fanbase had to feel revealed today when they saw Colby Covington officially signed with the University of Iowa. Covington's credentials have been talked about to no end, so there's no use going over them again. Covington isn't going to replace the points Mark Perry scored for the Hawkeyes at the NCAA's, but he does give Tom Brands someone he can count on to qualify and score points for the Iowa at the national tournament ? something they didn't appear to have at seasons end. With the careers of Mark Perry and Eric Tannenbaum finished, Nick Marable has to be the favorite to win the weight class. However, the weight class isn't an extremely deep one and Covington does have a chance to stand on the podium

The inability to get a win in the absence of Perry is the reason the Iowa staff went after Covington. Kerr and Jansen could make big strides this off-season, but it was clear Brands and the other Iowa coaches were not content with entering next season hoping that would happen.

Projected Finish: 6th ? No AA


Jay Borschel could contend for a title next season.

174
Projected Starter: Jay Borschel
In the Wings: Grant Gambrall
Incoming Recruits: Grant Gambrall

It took a few weeks to solidify who would be the starter at 174 pounds for Iowa last season, but after Borschel took hold of the position he put together an impressive season. Borschel climbed his way to as high as No. 2 in the rankings last year, and was only a takedown away from beating Keith Gavin and heading to the NCAA finals. He looked just as good in the wrestle-backs, pinning 11th seeded Steve Ancerage to get to the third place match where he calmly defeated third seeded Brandon Browne. With Gavin gone, Borschel will be one of the favorites to win the national title next year. Steve Luke will also return again next season and presents a formidable obstacle in Borschel's pursuit of wrestling supremacy.

Gambrall comes in as one of the top wrestlers in the 171-pound weight class, and just recently defeated former Hawkeye commit Jordan Blanton ?another highly rated 171-pounder ? in the Iowa-Illinois All-Star meet. Like most in this class coach Brands and his staff will have plenty of time to mold him before he sees the Iowa line-up.

Projected Finish- 1st - 2nd

184
Projected Starter: Phil Keddy
In the Wings: Rick, Loera, Vinnie Wagner
Incoming Recruits: None

If Brent Metcalf's season was the story of the year, Phil Keddy's was the runner-up. No one showed more improvement from one season to the next than Iowa's 184-pounder. The goal for next season is to take it to the next step and start finishing off the guys ranked above him. He was so close with so many top wrestlers this year, and seemed to get close everytime ? coming inches away from beating Raymond Jordan in the fifth place bout. He will need to do that if he is to improve on his standing next year, as nearly everyone returns and Jake Herbert will throw himself back into the mix as well.

Rick Loera, wherever he ends up, just seems to be the odd man out at this moment. Borschel and Keddy locked up 174 and 184 last year, and Chad Beatty got Brands' stamp of approval at 197. For Wagner, as it is for numerous recruits on the roster, its just a timing thing. Keddy has himself firmly set in the line-up after earning All-American honors last year, and there doesn't appear to be a reason that he won't return to his spot for the next two seasons.

Projected Finish- 5th ? 7th

197
Projected Starter: Chad Beatty
In the Wings: Luke Lofthouse, Brodie Ambrose
Incoming Recruits: None

After his dual saving performance against Anthony Biondo, Chad Beatty ensured his name would live forever in Hawkeye lore. This season, he'll try to make sure his name stays in the line-up for a few years to come. Beatty showed quickness and more importantly talent last season, he just wasn't anywhere close to the weight he was supposed to be competing at. The hope is clearly that he can bulk up and keep his skill set, in order to increase his competitiveness at the weight class. He was already a darkhorse this year to make the NCAA tournament, and should have an even better chance next year with a full season of training and feed under his belt.

Beatty stapled the spot down towards seasons end, but his spot isn't permanent just yet. He should be a solid favorite to keep the spot, but a little competition never hurt anyone. Lofthouse and Ambrose will be up for the task, and each wrestler should be the better for the push.

Projected Finish- Qualifier

HWT
Projected Starter: Dan Erekson
In the Wings: Blake Rasing
Incoming Recruits: None

After a bulk up redshirt year, fans should be excited to see the new Dan Erekson. With the well documented lack of support for Matt Fields' wrestling style, any new face is going to be a pleasant sight for fans. The junior should get the nod at heavyweight, and will be expected to be an All-American contender next season. With last year's heavyweight class loaded with seniors, Erekson has a great chance to slide into the class and compete at the highest level.

Rasing brings intriguing potential to the wrestling room, but chances are he's going to spend a few more years in the wrestling room before he stands under the lights of Carver-Hawkeye Arena in a Black and Gold singlet. With Erekson looking capable of taking over for Matt Fields, there is no reason to rush the redshirt freshmen.

Projected Finish- 5th ? 7th