Iowa coach Tom Brands was thrilled to see his wrestlers compete at the U23 Nationals this weekend, and Patrick Kennedy has spent the past two days showing why.
Kennedy, the Hawkeyes’ talented third-year wrestler, won the national U23 men’s freestyle wrestling title Sunday in Ohio. He went 7-0 to win at 74 kilograms (163 pounds), recording three wins over the All-Americans and two more in NCAA qualifying.
The performance boosted Brands’ enthusiasm. Kennedy joined the program as a swaggering rookie from Kasson-Mantorville, Minnesota, but he had to wait two years before breaking into Hawkeye’s roster. He struggled a little but not often during the shortened 2021 season, then went 17-3 in the redshirt during the 21-22 season.
Brands predicts Kennedy will step straight into the Hawkeye lineup next season and be Iowa’s starting 165-pounder for the foreseeable future, and if this weekend is any indication of what to expect, Kennedy could very well be a national force right away.
The 21-year-old edged his seven opponents by a combined total of 66-12. He beat a pair of NCAA qualifiers William Formato of Appalachia State (10-0) and Josh Ogunsanya of Columbia (15-5). He also beat two guys who both won more than 20 games last season, Wyoming’s Cooper Voorhees and Lock Haven’s Avery Bassett.
Kennedy’s last three games on Sunday were perhaps his best. In the semifinals, he pinned Peyton Robb of Nebraska, an All-American last season at 157 pounds. Robb started with a 4-point out, but Kennedy rallied to lead 6-4 after scoring a second-period exhibition, during which he readjusted and recorded the pinfall.
In the best-of-three final, Kennedy swept West Virginia’s Peyton Hall, another 2022 All-American. Kennedy scored four takedowns to win Game 1, 8-3, then scored five strikeouts for win the second, 5-0. This result was particularly impressive since Hall beat Kennedy, 6-4 in a sudden victory, at Southern Scuffle last January.
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The unfortunate news for Kennedy is that this weekend’s competition has partially doubled as the World Team Trials event for the U23 World Championships, scheduled for October in Spain. Here’s why it’s only partially:
USA Wrestling has changed its qualification process for the U23 World Team this year. If any of the Senior National Team members are U23 eligible, they get first dibs on the U23 World Team spot.
At 74 kilos, Kyle Dake and Jason Nolf, who will fight for the World Senior Team spot on Wednesday at Final X in New York, are not eligible, but Iowa State’s David Carr, who beat Joey Lavallee in a play-off for third place for the national team last Friday at Final X in Stillwater, is U23 eligible. He indicated that he also plans to take the place.
It stinks for Kennedy, who undoubtedly won his national title this weekend. But his performance should have Hawkeye wrestling fans buzzing as they wait for the 2022-23 season to arrive.
Iowa wrestler Tony Cassioppi is part of the U23 World Men’s Freestyle Wrestling Team
Tony Cassioppi will have the opportunity to win another world title this fall.
Cassioppi, the lean and mean heavyweight All-American from Iowa, joined Kennedy as the National Men’s U23 Freestyle Tournament champion on Sunday. But unlike Kennedy’s unfortunate circumstance, Cassioppi will be part of the U23 World Team.
The 22-year-old stormed into the top spot at 125 pounds (275), going 7-0 and outscoring his opponents 72-8. He notched wins over Oklahoma State’s Luke Surber, Wisconsin All-American Trent Hillger, then swept Missouri’s Zach Elam, a former world junior silver medalist, in the best of three finals, winning by scores of 11-4 and 13-2.
Due to members of the USA Wrestling National Team at 125 kilos all being ineligible for the U23 World Championships, Cassioppi earned the World Team spot with his championship run this weekend. The U23 World Championships will take place from October 17-23 in Spain.
Cassioppi, of course, won gold at the under-23 world championships last year. Expectations, both internal and external, are very high for him to start again this fall.
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Alburnett’s Tanner Sloan is part of the Men’s U23 Freestyle World Team
Tanner Sloan, the Alburnett graduate now wrestling at South Dakota State, joined Cassioppi on the U23 World Team in winning the title at 97 kilos (202) on Sunday. Sloan went 5-0 and swept Stanford’s Nick Stemmet in the best of three finals, 10-0 and 10-3.
Sloan, a three-time NCAA qualifier for the Jackrabbits, is now a two-time World Age-Level Team member for USA Wrestling. He was previously part of the 2019 World Junior Men’s Freestyle Team which competed in Estonia.
That year, David Carr won a world junior title. Additionally, Yonger Bastida, now an All-American at Iowa State, replaced Cuba and took second place in weight from Sloan. Sloan went 0-1 and was eliminated on the first day of competition.
Three more Hawkeye wrestlers earn All-American honors at U23 Nationals
Kennedy and Cassioppi produced the best performances, but the Hawkeyes had a strong weekend overall at the U23 Nationals, finishing with five All-Americans overall — and the other three all finished in the top four.
Abe Assad went 6-1 and finished third at 86 kilos (189). He won his first four games by a combined 40-0 to reach the semifinals, where he lost to Oregon State’s Trey Munoz, 6-2. But he rallied with two fight wins for third place — 8-5 over Cornell’s Chris Foca and 3-1 over Cornell’s Jonathan Loew, an All-American at 184 last season.
Brennan Swafford went 7-1 and took third place at 79 kilos (174). He also made the semi-finals and then took third place. He recorded wins from behind over Tyler Brennan of Little Rock (down 4-0, won 5-4) and Max Maylor of Michigan (down 5-2, won 7-5) and technical wins over Dan Braunagel, Air de Illinois. Sam Wolf of Force and Aaron McDaniel of Edinboro.
Cobe Siebrecht put in an impressive performance, going 8-2 for fourth place at 70 kilos (154). He has won seven consecutive matches in the struggles. He recorded an 18-8 victory over Big 12 finalist and NCAA qualifier Willie McDougald; 10-0 win over Daniel Kimball of South Dakota State; and pinned Evan Yant of Northern Iowa as he led 6-4.
Northern Iowa’s Julian Farber becomes All-American U23 freestyle
The Panther Train brought a large contingent of wrestlers to the National U23 tournament, but only Julian Farber, a third-year wrestler from Georgia, was the lone medalist, finishing seventh at 61 kilos (134).
Farber went 6-2 on aggregate, which included five straight wins in the struggles after a third-round loss. He beat Purdue’s Dustin Norris 12-1 and Arizona State’s Julian Chlebove 9-3 to reach the top eight. His only losses came to Jake Gliva of Minnesota and Chance Rich of Cal-State Bakersfield, both of whom qualified for the NCAA in 2022.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.