Ayala Advances to NCAA Finals; Iowa Crowns 2 More All-Americans

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — University of Iowa sophomore Drake Ayala advanced to the NCAA finals at 125 pounds and the Hawkeyes crowned two more All-Americans, going 3-for-6 on the consolation side of the bracket on Friday night at the 2024 NCAA Championships at the T-Mobile Center.

After a lengthy review Ayala got a takedown against Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett the No. 10 seed, that proved to be the distance as Barnett would get an escape and a stalling point but was unable to take the Iowa native down.

“I got it done when it matters most,” said Ayala. “It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do. I am just really, truly blessed to be in this situation, to be healthy and to have the best people surrounding me right now.”

Ayala advances to the NCAA final for the first time in his career and he extends Iowa’s streak of having an NCAA finalist to 34 consecutive tournaments. Iowa has had at least one wrestler in the NCAA finals in every year since 1990 and in 48 of the last 49 tournaments dating back to 1975.

“Ayala has been a winner since he was a baby boy,” said head coach Tom Brands. “That is continuing now into his college career. We love it. His family loves it. Hawk fans love it. We need it.”

Ayala will face Arizona State’s Richard Figueroa in Saturday’s final. Ayala and Figueroa have never met at the collegiate level, but Ayala won 5-3 in sudden victory at Who’s Number One in 2020 and Figueroa won at the 2021 U20 World Team Trials (freestyle), 7-4.

In the second semifinal of the evening, No. 6 seed Michael Caliendo fell to the No. 2 seed Mitchell Messenbrink of Penn State, 17-9, sending him to the backside of the bracket.

On the backside of the bracket, the Hawkeyes went 3-for-6 in the Blood Round and consolation quarterfinals with Real Woods (141) and Jared Franek (157) winning in the round of 12 to secure All-America honors. Woods can finish no lower than sixth place on Saturday morning and Franek will wrestle for seventh.

“This is a tight race for second,” said Brands. “It matters. We want to be one above that, but right now it is really, really tight going for second. So, we are going to need all of our guys contributing. Woods did a good job of getting the major. He kept wrestling. He didn’t want to keep wrestling, but he spurred himself on and got a major decision.”

Woods went 2-0 during the session to secure his fourth career All-America honor. He won a 5-2 decision over Northern Iowa’s Cael Happel before following with a 11-2 major decision over Minnesota’s Vance VomBauer.

Franek went 1-1 at 165 to clinch his second career All-America nod. In the blood round, Franek won a 4-2 decision over Northern Iowa’s Ryder Downey before falling to third-seeded Myer Shapiro of Cornell via major decision, 11-2. The Harwood, North Dakota, native will finish wrestle Nebraska’s Peyton Robb for seventh after being seeded 10th.

Senior Brody Teske (133) and junior Patrick Kennedy saw their NCAA tournaments come to an end in the blood round. Teske dropped a 6-3 decision to fourth-seed Dylan Shawver of Rutgers and Kennedy fell to top seeded Mekhi Lewis of Virginia Tech, 8-4.

Penn State is leading the team race with 148 points. Iowa is third in the standings with 60 points. Michigan is in second with 64.5 and Arizona State and Iowa State are in fourth both with 59.5.


  • Woods and Franek’s All-America honors are 366th, 367th in program history.
  • Woods and Franek are the 166th and 167th All-Americans in school history.
  • Iowa has had at least four All-Americans in 16 straight seasons and 16 times in head coach Tom Brands’ 17 seasons.
  • Iowa has crowned at least one All-American in 52 consecutive tournaments dating back to 1972.

125 | #3 Drake Ayala (Iowa) vs. #10 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin), 3-2
165 | #2 Mitchell Mesenbrink (Penn State) major dec. #6 Michael Caliendo (Iowa), 17-9

133 | #4 Dylan Shawver (Rutgers) dec. #15 Brody Teske (Iowa), 6-3
141 | #3 Real Woods (Iowa) dec. #7 Cael Happel (UNI), 5-2
157 | #10 Jared Franek (Iowa) dec. #5 Ryder Downey (UNI), 4-2
174 | #1 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) dec. #12 Patrick Kennedy (Iowa), 8-4

141 | #3 Real Woods (Iowa) major dec. #26 Vance VomBaur (Minnesota), 11-2
157 | #3 Meyer Shapiro (Cornell) dec. #10 Jared Franek (Iowa), 11-2

125 #3 Drake Ayala (Iowa) vs. #8 Richard Figueroa (Arizona State)

141 | #3 Real Woods (Iowa) vs. #5 Anthony Echemendia (Iowa State)
157 | #10 Jared Franek (Iowa) vs. #8 Peyton Robb (Nebraska)
165 | #6 Michael Caliendo (Iowa) vs. #7 Izzak Olejnik (Oklahoma State)

Session V will take place Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. (CT). The session will consist of the consolation semifinals and placement matches for third, fifth and seventh place.