It appears the Virginia wrestling program has forged a recruiting pipeline to the state of Iowa.
In recent years, Cavalier coach Steve Garland has stocked his roster with plenty of Iowa talent: Waukee NW’s Griffin Gammell, Iowa City West’s Robert Avila Jr., Southeast Polk’s Gabe Christenson (via transfer), plus Underwood’s Gable Porter and even Nick Hamilton, a one-time Underwood wrestler.
This weekend, Garland scooped up another Iowa high-schooler — this time, for his 2024 class. Johnston’s Braden Blackorby announced his commitment to Virginia on Saturday night. The junior projects at 149/157 pounds.
“I am beyond excited to announce that I will be furthering my athletic and academic career at the University of Virginia,” Blackorby wrote in an Instagram post, announcing his decision. “I would like to start by thanking coaches Steve Garland, Trent Paulson, Travis Paulson, Thomas Flitz, and Jack Mueller for giving me the opportunity to wrestle at the Division 1 level.
“I would also like to thank my Mother and Father for their continued support in everything I do. I wouldn’t be here without the sacrifices you made to get me here. Love you guys.”
Much of Virginia’s recruiting success in Iowa (and the Midwest) can be traced to Garland’s top two assistant coaches, Travis and Trent Paulson. Both were state champs at Lewis Central and All-Americans at Iowa State. Both joined Garland’s staff in May 2017.
It took a while for Virginia to infiltrate the Midwest — and, specifically, Iowa. No Iowa native had wrestled for Virginia in the decade before Gammell’s commitment in Sept. 2021. That was apparently the dam-breaker: Hamilton committed later that month, followed by Avila in October, then Christenson in November.
Now here’s Blackorby, a talented, under-the-radar, high-upside middleweight prospect. He is a two-time Class 3A state medalist with a 77-14 career record. Last season, he went 33-3 (with 29 pins) and reached the state finals at 145 pounds.
“A huge thanks to ALL of the coaches who have helped me along the way, I wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own,” Blackorby’s post continued. “Most importantly I would like say, all glory to God. Without the guidance of the Lord I wouldn’t even be half of the man I am today.”
Blackorby is the fifth in-state wrestler in the 2024 class to commit to a Division I program — and, oddly, the third to commit to an out-of-state school, joining Waterloo East’s Max Magayna and Waukee NW’s Koufax Christensen, who both chose North Dakota State. The other two: Waukee NW’s Carter Freeman committed to Northern Iowa and Linn-Mar’s Kane Naaktgeboren is headed to Iowa State.
Source: Des Moines Register