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Jim Nelson | Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier | November 9, 2017

Iowa on journey into unknown after graduating three All-Americans

  Iowa looks for some new contributors to step up this season.

IOWA CITY — Unknown was the hot word for Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands Wednesday.

After graduating five NCAA qualifiers, three of them All-Americans, Brands admitted the unknown factor entering into a season is a first in his 12 years at the helm of the Hawkeyes.

"The thing that's exciting about college athletics is when there's unknowns when you lose a lot to graduation," Brands said Wednesday at Iowa's annual media day. "There's a lot of exciting things for fans to be paying attention to or looking forward to, but there's also a lot of unknowns.

"And with unknowns, you also have some uncertainty. That means that this year, we're not going to know what we have until later on, and we're not in a hurry to get everything pieced together."

Iowa returns four NCAA qualifiers, including All-Americans Brandon Sorensen at 149 and Michael Kemerer at 157. Both finished third at last year's NCAA Championships.

MORE: NCAA champ ready to lead Pitt wrestling program

Along with 2016 NCAA heavyweight qualifier Sam Stoll, who missed most of last season with an ACL injury, and 197-pound sophomore Cash Wilke, they are the known commodities.

Among the unknowns is whether Brands will wrestle two of his prized incoming recruits -- two-time junior world champion Spencer Lee at 125 and three-time Illinois state champion Jacob Warner at 197. Warner won Iowa's wrestle-offs, beating Wilke in the finals.

Additionally, Brands said Max Murin has not conceded the 141-pound spot to frontrunners Carter Happel and Vince Turk.

"In Spencer Lee's case, it might be the best thing for him to compete and not sit him, not put him on the shelf," Brands said. "I'm going to tell you something. He's fun to watch. He's entertaining."

Lee is coming off an ACL injury to his right knee and is nearing complete recovery. The Murrysville, Pennsylvania native, who Iowa landed over Penn State and Ohio State, said he's open to competing.

"I'm going to doing whatever Coach Brands wants me to do," Lee said. "Of course I want to wrestle, go out there and put on a show for the fans, the best fans in the world. But if it is not the best thing for me, then I won't and that is how it is going to go."

Brands said he has no timetable when the decision will be made to wrestle any of the true freshmen.

"We won't see our best lineup right away," Brands said. "And what you saw, the wrestle-offs and who emerged from there, our team could look way different. It could look way different going into March, or maybe even going into December 1."

MORE: Piccininni, Velte named Most Outstanding Wrestlers

Brands is also excited to get Alex Marinelli into the lineup at 165. The former four-time Ohio state champion redshirted last year.

"I'm excited to go out there wrestle, show what I can do. We have a lot of home dual meets. That is very exciting," Marinelli said.

Sorensen, the Cedar Falls native and former Denver-Tripoli four-time state champion, is one of just four seniors on the team and maybe the only one to crack the lineup. On track to become Iowa's 20th four-time All-American, Sorensen said he's ready to lead.

"It is the final year to give it your all. I have been here a while, but it does go quick," Sorensen said. "It's quick, but this is your last season so you have to put everything out there on the line." 

This article is written by Jim Nelson from Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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