For a moment, it looked like Iowa might actually have a chance to pull off a stunning upset over #1-ranked Penn State. The Hawkeyes largely got the results they needed through the first half of the dual, with Spencer Lee storming out to a first period pin at 125 and Michael Kemerer cruising to a major decision at 157 and Iowa losing decisions at the other three weights. That gave them a 10-9 lead at intermission. Then after intermission, they got one of the upsets they needed, with Alex Marinelli hitting a thrilling six-point move (a takedown and four back points) in the third period to turn a 5-3 deficit into a 9-5 lead. He held on and recorded a thrilling 9-6 win over #1 Vincenzo Joseph, boosting Iowa's lead to 13-9 and giving us hope.
How about the @Hawks_Wrestling redshirt freshman?
Alex Marinelli defeats No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State: pic.twitter.com/cf16TCuNzT
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) February 11, 2018
That hope was quickly dashed. To prevail, Iowa needed to limit the damage from PSU's heavy hitters at 174 and 184 and grab wins at 197 and 285. On paper that looked plausible. Unfortunately, Penn State had other ideas and Iowa's gameplan for an upset quickly got thrown in the trash. Mark Hall locked up a cradle in a minute and got a pin at 174... and then Bo Nickal got a pin in less than a minute at 184. In a flash Iowa's 13-9 lead turned into a 21-13 lead and the upset bid was on life support. It was officially snuffed out at 197 where Cash Wilcke not only couldn't get the win, he couldn't get a takedown or defend his legs, giving up a 11-2 major decision. That officially locked up the dual win for Penn State, but a Stoll win at heavyweight would at least have provided a small measure of consolation. Nope. Stoll gave up an escape and a takedown in a 10-second span in the third period that proved decisive in a 3-2 loss.
|125||#3 Spencer Lee||FALL (2:06)||Carson Kuhn||IOWA 6-0|
|133||Corey Keener||DEC (5-2)||Paul Glynn||IOWA 6-3|
|141||#8 Nick Lee||DEC (11-8)||Vince Turk||TIE 6-6|
|149||#1 Zain Retherford||DEC (6-2)||#2 Brandon Sorensen||PSU 9-6|
|157||#2 Michael Kemerer||MAJ DEC (14-4)||Bo Pipher||IOWA 10-9|
|165||#7 Alex Marinelli||DEC (9-6)||#1 Vincenzo Joseph||IOWA 13-9|
|174||#2 Mark Hall||FALL (1:00)||Joey Gunther||PSU 15-13|
|184||#1 Bo Nickal||FALL (0:50)||Mitch Bowman||PSU 21-13|
|197||Shakur Rasheed||MAJ DEC (11-2)||#7 Cash Wilcke||PSU 25-13|
|285||#6 Nick Nevills||DEC (3-2)||#3 Sam Stoll||PSU 28-13|
A few thoughts:
- Spencer freaking Lee, amirite? We couldn't ask for anything more from him. He got an early takedown on Kuhn, then went to work on the mat in his usual destructive fashion, eventually locking up a half-nelson for four nearfall points... and then re-adjusting to lock up the pin, his first since decking Michigan State's Rayvon Foley last month. This was Lee's first match in Pennsylvania since his hard luck last-second loss in the state tournament finals last March; I'm guessing this was a very sweet homecoming for Lee.
- 133 looked like a toss-up weight heading into the dual, but I don't know that Glynn ever looked all that close to winning. Keener got some early takedowns and built a lead, while Glynn wasn't able to get much offense of his own. His decision to ride Keener for over a minute in the third (while down 4-2) was also... curious. He needed points and after 30 seconds or so it didn't seem likely that he'd be able to get a turn. Releasing him and trying for points from neutral might have made more sense.
- Vince Turk got the start at 141, which surprised me. Carter Happel got Iowa's best win of the year by far at 141 last weekend against then-#10 Tommy Thorn and his reward since then has been... two straight starts for Turk? Turk's start against Northwestern was pre-planned, which is understandable, but the start here is more puzzling. To his credit, Turk got an early takedown on Lee and kept battling to the end, scoring a nice double leg takedown late. Unfortunately, he got taken down with ease by Lee in-between those scoring situations; Turk has a tendency to let guys get to his leg far too easily and Lee smartly took advantage of that flaw to get in on Turk's legs frequently. This was an OK performance overall by Turk, but I would have liked to see what Happel could have done to build off his last outing.
- At 149 we got Retherford-Sorensen V and, well, it had the same result as Retherford-Sorensen I-IV. On the plus side, Sorensen didn't get pinned in the first period like he did the last time they tussled and he avoided giving up bonus points. On the negative side, well, he never really came close to, y'know, winning the match. Sorensen got ridden out for the entire second period and wasn't able to get any takedowns on Zain. These two could meet up two more times this season (at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments) and while I hope the outcome is different in those matches if they happen, it's hard to have much optimism. Unless Sorensen gets to wrestle with some bear traps -- that might help.
- With #1 Jason Nolf out with a knee injury Michael Kemerer was expected to pick up an easy win at 157 and, lo and behold, that's precisely what happened. Kemerer never really got out of second gear and cruised to a 14-4 major decision win behind several early takedowns. I would have liked to see a little more urgency and a push for a technical fall or pin, even if that wouldn't have changed the dual result at all. Still, he got an easy win, picked up bonus points, and stayed healthy. That'll do.
- I suspected 165 would be the match of the night before the dual and it lived up to those expectations, with Marinelli and Joseph battling tooth and nail for three periods. Marinelli used his strength to wear on Joseph and keep the pressure up, but he wasn't able to get much offense going early on. He showed some good defense in eluding some of Joseph's favored holds, like a double underhook tie-up early on, but wasn't able to defend everything; Joseph used some slick offense to pick up a pair of takedowns in the first two periods. Marinelli struck in the third, getting an upper body lock on Joseph and then tripping him to the mat. That feet-to-back move resulted in six points for "The Bull" and turned a 5-3 deficit into a 9-5 lead. A minute later and Marinelli had a win over the #1-ranked guy at 165 and the defending national champion. Not too shabby. I'm guessing these two guys are going to have quite a few epic encounters over the next few years.
- The high from Marinelli's upset win was short-lived, though, because Mark Hall knifed through Joey Gunther in a flash. Hall took Gunther down, locked up a cradle, and got a pin a minute. It's not as if Penn State's propensity for going low for takedowns and looking for cradles is unexpected. Of course, knowing about it and effectively defending it are two very different things... sigh.
- Bo Nickal decided to one-up his teammate and get a pin even faster, with a 50 second fall over Mitch Bowman. That continued his trend of decking Iowa guys with lightning-quick falls; you may recall that he pinned Sammy Brooks twice last season in a grand total of 1:40. And Sammy Brooks is a lot better than Mitch Bowman. Welp. Bo Nickal is really freaking good. Those two pins back-to-back definitely took all the air out of Iowa's sails and lit a fire under Penn State.
- Shakur Rasheed got the nod for Penn State at 197 and he made easy work of Cash Wilcke, who's slumping form continues. He didn't have many answers for Rasheed today -- he wasn't able to defend his attacks from neutral, wasn't able to get many escapes, and wasn't able to ride him hard, either. About the only thing he could do was avoid getting put on his back, which I suppose is a minor accomplishment after what happened at 174 and 184. Still, Wilcke has been really struggling for the last several weeks, which is not an encouraging sign heading into tournament season: his offense from neutral has largely dried up (if he's not able to finish off his initial move, he doesn't have much in the way of a back-up plan) and he's struggling to defend attacks from the top guys at the weight. On present form, Wilcke is going to be hard-pressed to become an All-American next month.
- Finally, the dance of the shaved bears between Stoll and Nevills came down to a single third period takedown, as I expected. Unfortunately, it was Nevills finishing that takedown and not Stoll. Nevills got a quick escape on Stoll in the third and then was able to score a nifty takedown on the edge of the mat off a move that was initiated by Stoll. I thought Stoll looked like the better wrestler through the first two periods and did a nice job of stalking Nevills and looking for his offense (though he wasn't terribly close to scoring anything in those periods), but Nevills got the points when they counted. There doesn't appear to be too much difference Stoll and some of the other top heavyweights like Adam Coon and Nick Nevills (Kyle Snyder is a different breed, obviously), but until he can finish his shots against them, he's going to be hard-pressed to come away with wins in matches against them.
There were some good results for Iowa early in this dual, and Marinelli's win was fantastic, but once again things fell apart at the heavier weights. Iowa got blanked at 174, 184, 197, and 285 against Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, which is a big reason why they lost all three of those duals. You can't cede all of those weights, especially when you have holes at other weights (like Iowa does at 133 and 141). Granted, OSU, PSU, and Michigan have some excellent wrestlers at those weights -- of the 12 matches Iowa faced at those weights over those three duals, 10 of their 12 opponents were ranked in the Top 10 at their respective weights (and Rasheed has been ranked in the Top 10 at times this season), many of them in the Top 3. That's a tall hill to climb, especially when Iowa doesn't have really good options of their own at 174 and 184. It would have been nice to see Wilcke or Stoll get a win or two in these matches, though -- guys like Michigan's Beazley (197) or Nevills are who they're going to have to beat to become All-Americans next month.
Still, let's end things on a positive note: that Spencer Lee guy is pretty fun, isn't he?
NEXT: Iowa wraps up the regular season with the annual Cy-Hawk showdown against Iowa State in Ames next Sunday (2:00 PM CT, TV/streaming TBD).