Cayle Byers, the George Mason transfer expected to fill the 197-pound spot in Iowa’s wrestling lineup, has enrolled at Oklahoma State, according to the school’s online student directory.
The Hawkeyes originally beat Oklahoma State and Penn State to gain a February commitment for Byers, a two-time NCAA qualifier whose career at George Mason ended abruptly after legal troubles.
At the time, it was considered a major coup for the Hawkeyes to land Byers. He filled the most glaring hole in Iowa’s lineup — senior All-American Luke Lofthouse was the only 197-pounder on the roster last season — and kept two national title contenders from strengthing a spot where they also appeared vulnerable.
“It’s Iowa,” Byers said on Feb. 25 after committing to the Hawkeyes. “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.”
Iowa coach Tom Brands remained tight-lipped throughout the spring when Byers’ name was mentioned, perhaps a warning light there was a snag getting the wrestler into his program.
Byers’ career at George Mason ended after a November arrest in which he was charged with public intoxication and assault on law enforcement. Byers allegedly spit on an officer after being involved in an altercation with another man.
“I can confirm we had recruited him,” Brands said Thursday. “If he’s enrolled at Oklahoma State, that confirms the rumor mill I heard. That’s all I will say.”
But something knocked Byers’ journey to Iowa off course during the past four months, and school officials wouldn’t divulge why Thursday.
“He will not be part of our program next year,” Iowa associate athletics director Fred Mims said in a statement relayed by Iowa associate sports information director Steve Roe after athletics director Gary Barta directed questions to Mims.
Roe said Barta and Mims would not comment further on the matter at this time.
Recently Barta has shown a willingness to allow his coaches to bring in student-athletes with a legal record. Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery signed 26-year-old Anthony Hubbard in April. Hubbard spent 47 months in prison after pleading guilty to robbery for an incident that occurred when he was 18.
Multiple attempts to contact Byers in recent days were unsuccessful. While Oklahoma State is gaining one of the top 197-pounders in the country — Byers posted a 17-1 record last season that included a 9-4 victory against eventual national champion Dustin Kilgore of Kent State — Iowa is left with no clear-cut answer at the weight.
The Hawkeyes have some depth at the upper-weights, but it’s mostly in the 174- and 184-pound range. Ethen Lofthouse and All-American Grant Gambrall were regulars at 174 and 184, respectively, last season. Freshman Mike Evans, a former top recruit, went 22-2 in open tournaments last season as a freshman at 174.
Vinnie Wagner compiled a 17-3 record in opens last year as a junior at 184. West Liberty graduate Tomas Lira and freshman Jeremy Fahler could also factor into Iowa’s plans at 197.