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Kolby Franklin, an Iowa wrestling recruit who's now in Iowa City, eyes Junior national title

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IOWA CITY — Kolby Franklin, one of the stars in the Iowa wrestling program’s 2022 recruiting class, has been living in Iowa for nearly four months, and before we get into why he moved here from eastern Pennsylvania, he has something he wants to address.

"There’s no pickled eggs out here," Franklin said with a laugh after a Wednesday evening workout. "I don’t know what the heck you guys are thinking. You got Casey’s breakfast pizza, and that’s good, but I like pickled eggs.

"Back home, you’ve got big tubs of them at grocery stores. It’s a good protein snack. I can’t find them at the grocery stores here."

Franklin traded the Pennsylvania mountains for Iowa cornfields when he committed to the Hawkeyes in October. He is considered the No. 49 overall prospect in the 2022 class, according to MatScouts, and one of five top-250 recruits Iowa signed this year.

It has been an interesting and adventurous senior year for Franklin, who started at Wyoming Seminary but will graduate from Iowa City High next month. He’s also wrestled a lot — at high-level high school events and even some collegiate open tournaments.

Next week, Franklin will wrestle at the U20 men’s freestyle national championships in Las Vegas. In June, he’ll go to the U20 men’s freestyle world team trials in Ohio. Come August, he’ll enroll at Iowa and begin his collegiate career with the Hawkeyes.

The grind does not stop.

"I’m always wanting to test myself against the next level of competition," Franklin said. "I’m staying in the moment, but in the back of my head, I’m ready for that next thing, and making sure that every step I take is toward that next goal."

Franklin began this year with lofty expectations. He finished the ’20-21 season ranked fifth in the country at 195 pounds, and followed that by taking fourth at the 2021 Junior freestyle national championships in July. In October, he took third at the Super 32 Challenge, considered the toughest preseason high school tournament in the country.

Southeast Polk wrestler Nate Jesuroga wins prestigious Super 32 Challenge

Throughout November and December, while attending Wyoming Seminary, Franklin wrestled at a handful of collegiate opens. He won two: the Lock Haven Open and the Bob Quad Cyclone Open at Centenary University in New Jersey. He also competed at the Findlay Open in Ohio and Matmen Open in Illinois.

Sandwiched between all of that was a runner-up finish at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman, one of the most prestigious high school tournaments. He made the finals as an undersized heavyweight — Franklin recently weighed 210 — a run punctuated by an 8-6 semifinal win over Colorado’s Matthew Moore, who’s ranked 10th nationally at 285.

"I’m definitely no stranger to bigger tournaments," Franklin said. "I find calmness and strength in those tournaments against college-level guys. Every level of wrestling is different. I’ve gotten so many different looks over the years. I feel like I’m ready.

"I learned that I can compete with the top guys, and those tournaments taught me that when you do all the little things right, on the mat and off the mat, everything comes together. That’s when you’ll be successful."

Through the fall semester, Wyoming Seminary was in a small transition period. After a successful 11-year run, head coach Scott Green left to become an assistant at Army West Point. Cornell Robinson, a decorated coach from St. Louis, was hired to replace Green, and led Wyoming Seminary to the No. 1 national team ranking this season.

Franklin felt it was best for him to leave at semester, and enrolled at Iowa City High in January. He had his sights set on winning a Class 3A state title in February. His addition would have made an already-loaded bracket even more bonkers.

Consider who was already there:

  • Waverly-Shell Rock’s McCrae Hagarty, now a two-time state champ, a 16U All-American who’s ranked No. 17 nationally at 195;
  • Bettendorf’s Bradley Hill, a 2021 state champ, two-time state finalist, a Junior national finalist and Cadet world team trials finalist who’s ranked No. 21 nationally;
  • North Scott’s AJ Petersen, a two-time state medalist and Junior All-American;
  • and Southeast Polk’s Andrew Reed, who beat Petersen 10-2 for third-place.

Southeast Polk outlasts Waukee NW, Waverly-Shell Rock for Class 3A team title

"I was at the state championships watching all those guys," Franklin said. "I would’ve loved to have been in that bracket."

Pretty fun thought, yeah?

Except … one problem.

Franklin was ruled ineligible by the Iowa High School Athletic Association because he had wrestled in college opens. Iowa Code says high-schoolers can't play a high school sport if they participated in an event with or against college athletes' sanctioned teams. That same rule stripped Pleasant Valley of a girls state track championship in 2014.

By the time Franklin fully understood the situation, and after consulting with Iowa City High coach Cory Connell, he felt he didn’t have enough time to appeal the ruling. The 3A district tournaments began Feb. 12, just 43 days after he moved in. It took Arland Bruce 35 days to overturn his eligibility ruling to play for Ankeny football in 2020.

"Wrestling in those college opens kind of bit me in the butt this year," Franklin said. "I wanted to win a state title, but I have no regrets. When I make a decision, I’m going to own that decision. The rules are what they are."

As such, Franklin couldn’t rep City High after moving in. But he has worked out regularly with Ben Kueter, a three-time undefeated state champ for the Little Hawks. Kueter committed to Iowa for both wrestling and football in September. He is ranked No. 2 nationally at 220 and is considered the No. 13 overall 2023 prospect by MatScouts.

"Ben’s been a great friend to me since I’ve been out here," Franklin said. "Wrestling him has been awesome. His style is a different look. He has a completely different body style. But we work well together. He’s very like-minded."

Now that the college season is over, Franklin has spent time training with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club under the regional training center rules set forth by the NCAA and USA Wrestling. That’s helped him prepare for the upcoming U20 national championships.

Because of the move, Franklin says he's more ready for the college transition when he begins classes in the fall. He's excited to work with the many successful heavier weights in the Iowa room — Jacob Warner, a recent NCAA finalist; Zach Glazier, a Junior world team trials finalist; and Tony Cassioppi, a U23 men's freestyle world champ.

He hopes to add his own high-level accomplishments to that list soon — and perhaps find some pickled eggs along the way.

"It's different, but there's a lot of similarities," Franklin said. "I'm used to the mountains, and now there's a bunch of farms, but I like the change of scenery. It's nice to be in a place with people that care about me and will look out for me. No better place."

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.