The Weigh-In 165: The Bull On Parade

By RossWB on September 20, 2018 at 6:22 pm
Show 'em the horns, Bull.

© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

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Welcome to The Weigh-In, our extensive preview of Iowa wrestling heading into the 2018-19 season. We'll be doing weight-by-weight previews for all ten weight classes, as well as some full team breakdowns -- and maybe a few extra goodies as well. 

Previously: 125 | 

Eligibility Remaining
Wrestler Year Ht/Wt. 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
Alex Marinelli SO (RS) 5-9 / 165          
Jeremiah Moody JR (RS) 5-8 / 165          

THE KNOWN QUANTITY

Alex Marinelli (Sophomore (RS), 5-9, 165 lbs., 31-8 overall, 19-6 in 2018, 2018 NCAA All-American, 2018 NCAA - 6th, 2018 Big Ten - 6th)

Outside of Spencer Lee, there was no wrestler Iowa fans were as excited to see last year as Alex Marinelli, the 165-lb blue-chip recruit from the storied St. Paris Graham program in Ohio. Marinelli was part of the chain of upper-tier recruits (along with guys like Lee, Michael Kemerer, and Jacob Warner) that Iowa has brought in over the last 3-4 recruiting classes to try and claw their way back to the top of the wrestling world. Moreover, Marinelli was a guy with a style that seemed tailor-made to be appreciated by Iowa fans: heavy on inside pressure, built to grind opponents down with a high tempo and lots of attacking intent. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2016-17 and did well in limited action, going 12-2. His only losses were to Arizona State's Anthony Valencia and Illinois' excellent Isaiah Martinez, both at Midalnds. 

It took a while for him to make his debut in 2018, owing to a knee injury that also limited him somewhat throughout the season (see: that ginormous honking knee brace he's sporting up top). His first match came against Rutgers' Richie Lewis, a fringe Top 10 wrestler -- and resulted in a dramatic 6-4 win for Marinelli in sudden victory. He followed that up with a first period pin of Maryland's Brandon Burnham that showcased more of the explosiveness and attacking ability that made Marinelli such a highly-touted recruit in the first place. 

Marinelli emerged from the regular season with an undefeated 14-0 record, highlighted by a thrilling 9-6 win over #1-ranked (and defending NCAA champion) Vincenzo Joseph in the Iowa-Penn State dual meet in February. That match confirmed Marinelli's ability to beat anyone in the division. While Marinelli racked up wins in the regular season, he didn't always do so in great style -- only five of his fourteen wins featured bonus points and he had five wins decided by two points or less. He did face a somewhat challenging schedule -- at one point he faced four straight opponents ranked #13 or better -- but the goal for Marinelli in 2018-19 will be to keep the wins coming but to extend the margin of victory in those wins and earn some bonus points. 

The other goal will be to improve on his performance in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Marinelli won a frankly weak field at 165 lbs at Midlands, but he ran into a few more problems when he hit the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. He had six losses in those events (three in each) and overall went just 5-6 in March. At the Big Ten Tournament he lost to two wrestlers (Michigan's Logan Massa, who beat him in the quarterfinals and again in the 5th place match, and Rutgers' Richie Lewis) he had beaten earlier in the season, which was frustrating. He got off to a strong start at the NCAA Tournament, recording pins in his first two matches and staging an exciting come-from-behind victory against #5-seed Chad Walsh of Rider to make it to the semifinals. In the semis he lost 5-2 to Martinez. The consolation bracket went very poorly for Marinelli -- he got blasted 16-3 by Wisconsin's Evan Wick and pinned by Virginia Tech's David McFadden. 

What we need to see from Marinelli this season is a sophomore surge, not a sophomore slump. He had a good debut season -- I'm not going to wring my hands much about a freshman earning All-America honors, particularly given what a bear-trap of a weight 165 was last year and the fact that Marinelli was clearly dealing with an injury -- but I'm definitely hoping for improvement this year. And if Iowa is to truly contend for Big Ten and NCAA Championships, they're going to need more out of Marinelli. The good news is that he should be healthier (hopefully he's able to wrestle sans that giant knee brace) and he knows what to expect from the college wrestling scene. It's time for The Bull to go on parade. 

IN THE WAITING ROOM

Jeremiah Moody (Junior (RS), 5-9, 165 lbs., 41-5 overall, 13-4 in 2018)

Moody was a late recruiting addition a few years ago, but he's one of those low-risk, high-reward projects that appears to be developing well at Iowa, as evidenced by his gold medal performance at the Junior Pan Am Championships this summer. Moody went 13-4 last year, topping the Luther Open and finishing 3rd at the UNI Open and the Flash Flanagan Open. Moody hasn't been able to record many wins of note (though there aren't many opportunities to do so at the sorts of tournaments he's been competing at), but he has been dumptrucking guys -- 10 of his 13 wins last season featured bonus points. It would be great to see Moody compete at Midlands this year and see how he fares against some decent-to-good opponents. Regardless, Moody looks like he can be a credible stand-in for Marinelli against talent outside the Top 10 or so, should Marinelli need to sit out any duals for rest or injury purposes.

STANDING IN THE WAY

The top name here is the guy who's been atop the podium at the NCAA Tournament the last two tournaments: Penn State's Vincenzo Joseph. Cenzo isn't as widely hyped or celebrated as some of his teammates like Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, or Mark Hall and yet... he's entering his junior season and he's already got two NCAA titles. That's as many as Nolf and Nickal have and one more than Hall. Joseph, of all the greats Penn State has had over the last decade, is the only one who's been able to enter his junior season still possessing a chance to join the most elite club in college wrestling: the 4-time champions club. The good news for Iowa? As noted above, Marinelli has a win over him, one of just four wrestlers to hand him an L over the last two seasons. Now he just needs to get him when it counts, in March. 

Outside of Joseph, the top threats in the Big Ten figure to be Wisconsin's Evan Wick and Michigan's Logan Massa. Wick went 31-8 as a redshirt freshman last year and finished 3rd at the NCAA Tournament. Wick utterly trounced Marinelli in their lone meeting last season, dropping him with a 16-3 major decision in the NCAA Tournament consolation bracket. After a dazzling redshirt freshman season in 2016-17 (32-3, 3rd place finisher at the NCAA Tournament), Massa had an injury-riddled -- and disappointing -- season last year. He went 17-8 overall, finished fifth at the Big Ten Tournament, and struggled to a 1-2 finish at the NCAA Tournament. If he's healthy, though, and can regain the form that made him so spectacular two years ago, he'll be a major threat in the Big Ten (and nationally) this year. 

Beyond the Big Ten, the top guys at this weight appear to be Lock Haven's Chance Marsteller, UNI's Bryce Steiert, Cornell's Jon Jay Chavez, and Chandler Rogers or Joe Smith at Oklahoma State. Marsteller, a top recruit in high school, wound up at Lock Haven via a roundabout path that included a verbal commitment to Penn State, a stint at Oklahoma State, and some legal entanglements along the way. He finally put it all together to go 45-4 (!) as a junior last year, earning a 4th place finish at the NCAA Tournament. Steiert is a two-time NCAA qualifier who hasn't yet made the podium but could do so as a senior, while Chavez and Rogers finished 7th and 8th last year, though Rogers may end up moving to 174 to make room for Joe Smith, the son of famed Okie State coach John Smith (and a very good wrestler in his own right). Speaking of moving up, Virginia Tech's David McFadden, who finished 5th last year and pinned Marinelli in the 5th place match at the NCAA Tournament last year, has moved up to 174 to make way for Mekhi Lewis. Lewis went 28-2 while redshirting last season and must be pretty salty to get a guy as good as McFadden to go up a weight. 

KEY MATCHES

DATE OPPONENT TEAM CONF LOCATION
12/8/18 #14 Gordon Wolf Lehigh non-conf Iowa City, IA
1/18/19 #15 John Van Brill Rutgers B1G Iowa City, IA
1/25/19 #20 Joey Gunther Illinois B1G Champaign, IL
2/3/19 #9 Isaiah White Nebraska B1G Lincoln, NE
2/15/19 #19 Bryce Martin Indiana B1G Iowa City, IA
2/17/19 #2 Evan Wick Wisconsin B1G Madison, WI
2/24/19 #8 Chander Rogers or 
UR Joe Smith
Oklahoma State non-conf Stillwater, OK

(rankings via W.I.N.)

Unfortunately, Iowa's schedule doesn't include many matches against the Top 10 wrestlers at this weight, so we may have to wait until the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments to see how Marinelli stacks up to the other top guys here. The highlight of his schedule is a late season throwdown with Wick, which will be a chance to avenge last year's wipeout at the NCAA Tournament -- and earn a possible seeding edge at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Other than that, he should see fringe Top 10 guy Isaiah White earlier in February and is likely to face either Rogers or Smith (either of whom should be a Top 10 threat) in the regular season finale. And in a slightly bittersweet turn of events, we should get to see current and former Hawkeyes collide when Marinelli takes on former Iowa wrestler Joey Gunther (now at Illinois) in January. Gunther manned 165 two years ago while Marinelli was redshirting and split time with Kaleb Young at 174 last year. 

WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN

I look for Marinelli to record a lot more bonus point wins for Iowa this year, in part because of an easier regular season schedule and in part because he ought to be healthier and more experienced this season. That said, I'm not sure we're really going to know what we've got with Marinelli this year until the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments roll around in March. He's shown that he can compete with -- and beat -- the top guys at this weight. The next step is to do that consistently -- and to do it when the spotlight is at its brightest. I look for Marinelli to improve on his 6th place finishes last year; I think he'll be Top-4 at both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments and I think he'll be a finalist in one of them.

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