Wrestling mailbag: Thoughts on Iowa's starter at 184, Ben Kueter, best wrestler in Iowa

Phew, alright, has everyone caught their breath since Sunday?

It took me a little bit more time than the average viewer to catch my breath, with COVID taking me out for the week leading into the dual. I still was attached for the Des Moines Register, covering Cy-Hawk from my apartment. I'm healthy and COVID-free now, so we'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming moving forward.

I had a ton of people in the media, readers and others reach out to check on me last week, so a big thank you to all that did. Looking forward to seeing and meeting more of you as the season goes on.

With college wrestling and the Donnybrook Open this Friday and Saturday, I'll be covering my fifth weekend of events, so you can officially throw those thoughts of a redshirt for me out the window for my first season on the beat. However, since Spencer Lee will be attempting to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in a few short months, an Olympic redshirt is still on the table.

Enough about me, let's answer some of your questions from the Cy-Hawk dual and much more.

What is going on with Iowa's lineup at 174 and 184 pounds?

Tom Brands was asked in his latest press conference about Patrick Kennedy being a long-term starter at 174 pounds and about what he’s looking for in a starter at 184 pounds. Both are questions I’ve been asked by you guys as well.

It’s been a revolving door at each weight, with Aiden Riggins, Gabe Arnold and now Patrick Kennedy starting at 174, then Brennan Swafford, Arnold and now likely Riggins getting the nod at 184 heading into the Penn dual. Brands said it’s too early to know who could be the guy there, but you all know him better than to throw coach speak at us.

It’s because his team is still awaiting two appeals in the gambling probe.

“I am not conceding those,” Brands said. “I don’t care come hell or high water until those appeals are done and that decision is final.”

Who are those appeals? We don’t know specifics, but at least one of them is in this range of weights based on his answers and that is why you’re seeing some shuffling. Nelson Brands and Abe Assad are the ones that fit the profile, as two athletes we know have been affected in the probe and have wrestled at 174 and 184 pounds. Cobe Siebrecht (157 pounds) and Tony Cassioppi (285 pounds) are the other two confirmed suspended wrestlers.

Assad had previously told the Register back in October that his appeal was denied. However, Arnold seemed to suggest after the Oregon State dual that they are hoping they could see Nelson Brands back.

"Right now, we don't have one of the best guys in the room in Nelson Brands, but we got wishful thinking," Arnold said. "Hopefully everything goes well and we'll get that guy back. If not, so be it."

That could mean a couple of things. Maybe Nelson is one of the appeals and they are hoping he could come back this season. Or, maybe this is a hope he'll be back for next year with hopes of a medical redshirt from the NCAA after missing a big portion of the 2021-22 season with injury. Or maybe it is just "wishful thinking" from Arnold that something will dramatically shift.

Everyone wants to see more of Arnold after his brilliant start. It’s not a secret that currently, he is one of their 10 best guys after beating former All-Americans in back-to-back duals. According to a social media post from Arnold, his start at 184 pounds against Iowa State was a one-time thing, so it seems like 174 pounds is going to be the place for him if he does continue to start this season.

Now, if Arnold can handle Will Feldkamp at 184, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy he couldn’t handle physically at that weight class, but there’s a reason I’m not a wrestling coach. Regardless, if you’re awaiting a decision on a guy like Nelson Brands potentially coming back, you don’t want to burn a year of eligibility for Arnold, who admittedly gets “the piss beat” out of him by Nelson in practice.

There's an infinite number of possibilities for what this part of the lineup will look like later in the season. It all depends on how these final two appeals go, where you feel most comfortable slotting in Kennedy and whether or not you feel comfortable burning a year of eligibility for Arnold this year, who has two more times he can suit up until that happens.

When does this all get sorted out? Tom Brands said they are expecting more clarity around the Soldier Salute in late December. They have hired outside counsel to help with these appeals, so we'll see if they can be successful in this attempt. Noah Shannon on the football side was not, but the Brands' aren't letting this go until a decision is final.

Until then, you’re going to continue to see some shuffling in those classes.

Why isn't Kolby Franklin getting a shot at 197 pounds for Iowa?

I've gotten this question on social media and email several times this year. The reason you haven't seen Franklin is because Zach Glazier has been ridiculously good so far.

This year, Glazier is 7-0 with two matches won by fall, another two by technical fall, two by major decision and a 7-3 victory on Sunday over Julien Broderson to deliver the dagger against Iowa State. Ranked in the top 25 of most ranking sites, he's been wrestling the best matches in his entire career. It comes after learning from Jacob Warner, Iowa's third five-time All-American, who has been in the ear of Glazier all season long.

Getting the chance to start consistently now, everything is starting to click for Glazier.

"I don't know if waiting is the right word, but I've been waiting to be able to have that opportunity for a handful of years now," Glazier said. "I've always felt that the more consistently I can get in the lineup and get those matches, I'm going to get better every single match. I feel like that's happening."

Tom Brands seemingly has been thrilled with Glazier's production, citing his cerebral approach to the sport as the reason he's starting to pop for the Hawkeyes.

“He’s wrestling situations very intelligently, his wrestling IQ is showing up,” Tom Brands said. “That’s a really good thing to see.”

Yes, Franklin is a stellar prospect as a Fargo Champion and the No. 27 recruit on MatScout's big board back in 2022. Yes, Franklin defeated Glazier at the Soldier Salute last season (4-3 win by decision). However, Glazier was a pretty good recruit himself a couple years ago as a two-time state champion in Minnesota.

Until proven otherwise or if there is that long-rumored addition to the roster, Glazier is going to be the guy for Iowa at 197 pounds. Honestly, he's got a lot of potential to do well in the postseason.

When is Ben Kueter going to wrestle for Iowa this year and how many matches will he appear in?

You will not see Kueter until after Iowa football's bowl game.

Tom Brands has been fairly clear on that from day one, and nothing my colleagues or I have heard from sources around the football or wrestling program has indicated that the plan has shifted. That would mean Kueter would join sometime after the holidays.

From there, how much we see Kueter comes down to how ready he is to come and wrestle for Iowa. The game plan was to keep Kueter at around 240-245 pounds for the football season so he would not have to cut or add weight when shifting to wrestling in the winter, which should make his transition easier.

But having a plan and executing that plan are two different things. He's done it his entire life, so there's nothing to suggest that he's not up to the challenge. Plus, it's not as if Bradley Hill (5-3) is lighting the world on fire at heavyweight so far.

I'd expect him to start getting some opportunities in Big Ten duals to gauge how ready he is to wrestle at the NCAA level. The coaching staff has shown many times before that they're going to put out whoever gives them the best chance to win in March, so if Kueter can come out and wrestle like his Iowa City High buddy in Gabe Arnold in January, he'll get that opportunity.

Who is the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the state of Iowa

This comes down to five wrestlers in the state to me.

  • Iowa's Real Woods, Marlynne Deede and Felicity Taylor

  • Iowa State's David Carr

  • Northern Iowa's Parker Keckeisen

I'm going to go with David Carr as the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the state. Here's why:

All five have individual national title aspirations this year, three of the five (Deede, Taylor and Carr) have been national champions already. That's where the list has to get narrowed, since those three have gotten the job done, while Woods and Keckeisen have not. Both of which, however, have really good chances of doing so in March.

Keckeisen's No. 1 opponent who will be looking to stop him from winning his first national title is Bernie Truax of Penn State. He just defeated him at the NWCA All-Star Classic last week, controlling much of that match. It's early, but Keckeisen looks to be the favorite at 184 pounds until proven otherwise. He's got a case for this honor, but until he wins a national championship, he's gotta be behind the others.

Same goes for Woods, who's got Penn State's Beau Bartlett to worry about. Against Iowa State's Anthony Echemendia, Woods showed his first signs of vulnerability this season against a guy who could match his athleticism and pop on offense. If he gets it done in a really tough 141-pound class nationally, he'll certainly have an argument.

The Iowa women's team, in all reality, has several wrestlers that could fight for this honor. In Flowrestling's top 25 pound-for-pound college women's rankings, Iowa has eight making that list. The next closest is King with five and North Central with four. The Hawkeyes have four in the top 10 and three in the top five alone.

Deede (5-0) and Taylor (13-0) are the most proven from that list and have been ridiculous to start the season. Deede is fresh off an NWCA All-Star victory over Latifah McBryde (No. 1 in NAIA) and in the other two matches she wrestled in, has won by pin. Taylor has won six of her 13 matches by technical superiority, one by fall and five by decision. Both Deede and Taylor have won once by forfeit as well. Both have a strong argument for this spot, and I wouldn't disagree with you if you chose either of them.

Choosing Carr comes down to the sole fact that he's won a national title already in one of the hardest weight classes in the country and has looked unbeatable so far this season. It hasn't just been the offense that has Carr winning matches either, he's been great holding control while on top and defending shots from opponents too. Take his 16-4 win over Iowa's Michael Caliendo for example, a guy who has been thriving with the three-point takedown this year.

Watch Caliendo look for an angle down low. Somehow, Carr gets even lower to the ground.

Not only is Carr defending well, he's turning defense into offense. He's going to need that against Missouri's Keegan O'Toole in March, but it's pretty evident that Carr's loss to O'Toole at the NCAA's has got him wrestling at another level in his last go-around in college wrestling.

Who are you most excited to see at the Donnybrook Open?

People are thrilled about the Cliff Keen Invite in Las Vegas and all the action we'll see there from Iowa State and Northern Iowa against a host of really good teams. However, I'll be centering my attention on the Donnybrook Open in Coralville, where the best of the best in the state of Iowa for boys and girls high school wrestlers are coming together this weekend.

Trackwrestling has yet to list what wrestlers are participating in the Open officially, but we do know what teams will be there. On the boys side, one I'll be watching is Bettendorf sophomore Jake Knight. As a freshman at 113 pounds, he went 50-1 and won the Class 3A title in that weight class. In the final, he defeated future Hawkeye Dru Ayala by a 6-4 decision.

What's the next step Knight is going to take? That's what I'll be watching for.

On the girls side, Emma Peach transferred from Iowa Valley to Iowa City West in the offseason. In two years of competition, Peach is undefeated and has won two state titles. This will be a fun test of how much further ahead she is than the rest of the competition this year.

Eli McKown covers high school sports and wrestling for the Des Moines Register. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter at @EMcKown23.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa wrestling mailbag on Gabe Arnold, Ben Kueter, Parker Keckeisen