Sports, Tuesday, March 31st

By: Nathan Bloechl — 

Hawkeyes Taken Early in Latest ESPN Mock Draft:

The latest round of mock drafts at ESPN has a pair of Hawkeyes taken in the first round. ESPN Lead Draft analyst Todd McShay has Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and A.J. Epenesa taken in the first round of next month’s draft.

Wirfs, an offensive tackle, was selected eighth overall by the Arizona Cardinals, who fill their top need in selecting the mammoth from Mount Vernon.

A right tackle in college, Wirfs projects to move to the blindside as he begins in his pro career.

Looking like he was built in a lab, Wirfs displayed freakish athleticism at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Wirfs is compared to former Iowa tackle and Los Angeles Charger Bryan Bulaga.

Meanwhile, McShay has defensive end A.J. Epenesa being selected 23rd overall by the New England Patriots.

McShay cites Bill Belichick’s strong relationship with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz as reason the fit makes sense on paper, as Epenesa could slide easily into a defensive spot in New England’s aggressive 3-4 scheme.

The 6’5, 275 pound junior, Epenesa is compared to former top pick Carlos Dunlap and projects as a scheme versatile defensive end with a great blend of length and power.

NCAA Athletes Awarded Extra Year of Eligibility:

The NCAA Division I Council on Monday voted to allow schools to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility.

Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.

Division I rules limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition in a five-year period. The Council’s decision allows schools to self-apply waivers to restore one of those seasons of competition for student-athletes who had competed while eligible in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 spring season.

The Council also will allow schools to self-apply a one-year extension of eligibility for spring-sport student-athletes, effectively extending each student’s five-year “clock” by a year. This decision was especially important for student-athletes who had reached the end of their five-year clock in 2020 and saw their seasons end abruptly.

Winter sports were not included in the decision. Council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed.

The Council also increased the roster limit in baseball for student-athletes impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the only spring sport with such a limit.

Garza Garners Another Honor:

University of Iowa junior center Luka Garza was named the recipient of the Pete Newell Big Man of the Year Award given to the country’s top post player.

The announcement was made by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) on Monday.

Last week, it was announced that Garza was a unanimous consensus first-team All-American.

Garza joins former Hawkeyes Murray Wier (1948) and Charles Darling (1952) as the program’s only consensus first team All-Americans.

Garza ranked second nationally with 12 20-point/10-rebound performances,

His 15 double-doubles are third most in a single-season by a Hawkeye in three decades and the most since 2002 (Reggie Evans, 18).

Garza is the only Big Ten player to register seven 25-point/10-rebound performances in the same season in more than 17 years.

He has produced the two highest point totals in a game by a Big Ten player this season (44 at Michigan; 38 at Indiana).

Lee Takes Home Dan Hodge Trophy:

University of Iowa junior Spencer Lee has been named winner of the 2020 WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s most dominant college wrestler.

He earned 52 of a possible 57 first-place votes.

Lee dominated the 125-pound weight class in 2020, outscoring his opponents, 234-18. He scored bonus points in 17 of 18 wins, recorded four first-period falls and nine technical falls, and averaged 5.0 team points per match.

Lee was 18-0 overall, won his first conference title, and was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year.

Only four of his 18 matches went the entire seven minutes. Lee was 5-0 in the month of January with five technical falls.

He outscored those five opponents 84-1.