The biggest hole in Iowa’s wrestling lineup for next year got filled in a big way Friday.
The Hawkeyes landed their 197-pounder, securing a commitment from George Mason transfer Cayle Byers, a two-time NCAA qualifier, who selected Iowa over Penn State, Oklahoma State and a collection of other top programs.
“It’s Iowa,” said Byers, who took an official visit to Iowa this week. “They’ve got the tradition. In the end, I felt comfortable on my visit. I liked it and felt like I fit there, and with my style, I feel like it’s a good fit with Iowa.”
Byers was a two-time Alaska state high school champion. He compiled a 67-17 record in his first two seasons at George Mason and reached the round of 12 at the NCAA Championships in 2009. He’ll have one season of eligibility remaining when he joins the Hawkeyes.
The addition of Byers has twofold benefits for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes will have eight starters back next year from the team that finished 14-0-1 and claimed the Big Ten dual title. But senior Luke Lofthouse is the only 197-pounder on Iowa’s roster this season, and questions surfaced throughout the year about who the Hawkeyes would use at that weight next year.
Iowa not only filled the most-glaring hole in its lineup for 2012, but it also prevented Penn State and Oklahoma State — two of the other top teams — from doing the same.
Could it be the difference in the 2012 NCAA title race?
“I’d like to hope,” Byers said. “I’m going to do my part, but I think they have the tools to win it even without me. But I think I’ll make a good addition to the team.
“I’m just looking forward to fulfilling my dream of being a national champion and being part of a national champion team.”