In the end, it wasn't that challenging after all. In my preview I pegged this as maybe Iowa's most difficult dual meet of the season, at least on paper. But as it played out, it was anything but a nail-biter for the most part -- Iowa won four of the first five bouts (including a pin from Alex Marinelli) to open up a 15-3 lead at intermission and never looked back from there as they earned a 24-10 win, their fifth straight dual meet win over the Gophers.
Overall, things went largely as expected -- the higher-ranked wrestler won nine of ten bouts, including all five matches featuring a ranked wrestler against an unranked opponent. The only upset went in Iowa's favor at 133, where Austin DeSanto scored a decisive 6-1 win over Ethan Lizak. Iowa won seven of 10 matches overall and earned bonus points at 165 (via pin) and 149 (via major decision). Winner winner roast Gopher for dinner.
|157||#5 Kaleb Young||DEC (7-1)||#9 Steve Bleise||IOWA 3-0|
|165||#2 Alex Marinelli||FALL (5:55)||Carson Brolsma||IOWA 9-0|
|174||#12 Devin Skatza||DEC (10-9)||Mitch Bowman||IOWA 9-3|
|184||#14 Cash Wilcke||DEC (9-2)||Brandon Krone||IOWA 12-3|
|197||#6 Jacob Warner||DEC (9-4)||Dylan Anderson||IOWA 15-3|
|285||#2 Gable Steveson||MAJ DEC (12-3)||Connor Corbin||IOWA 15-7|
|125||#2 Spencer Lee||DEC (4-0)||#6 Sean Russell||IOWA 18-7|
|133||#10 Austin DeSanto||DEC (6-1)||#7 Ethan Lizak||IOWA 20-7*|
|141||#6 Mitch McKee||DEC (5-3)||#15 Max Murin||IOWA 20-10|
|149||#12 Pat Lugo||MAJ DEC (14-0)||#20 Tommy Thorn||IOWA 24-10|
* Iowa was deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct on the part of DeSanto after his win.
A few thoughts:
The first six minutes and forty-five seconds of Young's match with Bleise at 157 were full of a whole lot of nothing -- a couple quick escapes and a lot of tie-ups without much in the way of shots or action. That changed in a hurry at the end of the match, though, as Bleise went for a body lock and a big move -- only to be countered by Young directly into a 6-point move as he took Bleise down directly to his back. Had there been a few more seconds remaining in the period, Young may have gotten the pin; as it was, he had to settle for a 6-point move and a 7-1 win. That scoreline probably undersells how close the match was -- there wasn't much difference between them until the big move at the end -- but Young did what he needed to do to come out on top.
Marinelli got a quick takedown on Brolsma to start his bout and then went into a punishing ride as he looked (unsuccessfully) for tilts and nearfall points. He took a 6-1 lead and a mountain of riding time into the third period and took his match from an unsatisfying decision win to a emphatic pin by horsing Brolsma over with a three-quarter nelson and putting him on his back for the pin halfway through the period. That was exactly what Iowa needed out of Marinelli in this match and he delivered.
At 174, Mitch Bowman came up short on the scoreboard but delivered probably the most exciting match of the dual. The match started out very badly for Bowman as he gotten taken down almost immediately and gave up two nearfall points. Skatza rode him hard after that as well, but Bowman did manage to get an escape near the end of the period. He gave up a reversal (and a penalty point for locked hands) in the second to dig himself a 7-1 hole -- and that's when the comeback began. Bowman got a reversal of his own later in the period and was able to finish on top to cut the deficit to 7-3. He chose neutral in the third and then began working a takedown clinic on a visibly tiring Skatza, getting not one, not two, but three takedowns and ultimately tying the match at 9-9 as time expired. Unfortunately, Skatza still had a significant riding time advantage that he'd amassed from the first two periods, giving him the 10-9 win. Still, the comeback Bowman put together in the second half of the match was both thrilling and very encouraging -- if he can avoid digging himself a big hole, maybe he can turn that close L into an actual W.
Cash Wilcke picked up a steady win for Iowa at 184 with a solid 9-2 decision victory. Unlike many Wilcke matches, he was fairly active early and often in this bout, scoring a takedown in each period to open up a comfortable lead -- and even put him in the position to look for bonus points. He might have been able to secure a 9-1 major decision win if he'd simply rode Krone out for the remainder of the third period (about 45 seconds), but the Iowa coaches opted to have him release Krone and go for another takedown. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to get that takedown and had to settle for a 9-2 win; still, I don't mind the approach -- Wilcke hadn't had a great deal of success keeping Krone done all match, so expecting him to keep him down for another 40-45 seconds may have been difficult.
Warner kept the wins rolling for Iowa at 197 with a 9-4 decision win. It was a solid enough win, but not the dominating effort that we might have hoped to see and Warner's cardio in the match (especially late on) left something to be desired. He got dinged for stalling for failure to return to the center of the mat in a timely fashion and gave up a late takedown after a sloppy shot attempt of his own. He had some crisper offense in the early going, though, and got a nice 2-point nearfall while riding Anderson in the third period. The pieces are there with Warner; he just needs to put them together to be able to win more emphatically.
The most lopsided match-up of the evening came at 285 after intermission, as Minnesota's super-phenom Gable Steveson took on Iowa's Connor Corbin, bumping up from 197. Steveson was predictably too big, too strong, too quick, and too talented for Corbin, but I was impressed by Corbin's ability to keep the margin of defeat to a major decision here rather than something worse. In the first period, when Steveson was getting takedowns with ease and drawing stalling calls, I feared something much worse was in store -- a tech fall or, worse, a DQ on Corbin for excessive stalling. But Corbin was able to keep Steveson at bay a bit in the second and third periods -- and it didn't hurt that Steveson himself seemed to gas a bit in those periods. He wasn't nearly as active as he'd been earlier in the match, which is likely why the refs didn't call Corbin for stalling while doing very little from neutral. Gopher fans were very heated about that, but Steveson needed to be more active for the refs to ding Corbin for stalling.
125 brought one of the spotlight matches of the dual, but it didn't quite live up to the hype. Lee got a takedown in the first and rode Russell for the duration of the period, but he wasn't able to lock in his patented tilt for nearfall points. He got an escape in the second and spent the rest of the match largely defending Russell's shots, including impressively doing the splits at one point to defend a Russell shot. I don't want to overreact to the result too much because Russell is a solid opponent and it's not entirely fair to judge Spencer by the incredibly high bar that he set at the end of last season, but... he still doesn't look quite like himself. Whether that's a result of him still not being quite 100% or guys figuring out how to more effectively defend against him (or a combination of both), this isn't the Lee that we've seen be a buzzsaw against all comers. He definitely needs to show a bit more variety in his offense from neutral -- his takedown in this match came off a scramble on an attack that Russell initiated -- and he might need to add some more weapons to his bag of tricks on the mat as well if he's not able to take his usual path to Tilt Town.
The other spotlight match of the dual was at 133, where Austin DeSanto scored his best win of the season by beating Ethan Lizak pretty decisively with a 6-1 win. DeSanto got a takedown early in the first and put on a mean ride. After a Lizak escape, DeSanto got a second takedown to go up 4-1 at the end of the first period. That second takedown was huge and gave him some much-needed breathing room in a tight match. Lizak chose top to start the second and rode DeSanto hard for the entire period, erasing the riding time advantage DeSanto had built up in the first period but not able to turn him for any points. I was a little surprised when DeSanto chose down in the third period... but, in hindsight, I probably shouldn't have been. Way back in the summer Lizak challenged DeSanto to choose down when they wrestled this year and DeSanto does not strike me as a) someone who forgets a challenge and b) someone who backs down from a challenge. (Especially a double dog dare.) So he went down and put himself in Lizak's best position... but once again, Lizak was unable to turn him for any points. And this time DeSanto was able to score points himself, earning a reversal that got the Iowa fans in attendance to erupt in applause. Challenge met. DeSanto rode Lizak out for the 6-1 win after that, showcasing an impressive all-around effort. Post-match, DeSanto got dinged for unsportsmanlike conduct after appearing to engage in some taunting with Lizak and the Minnesota fans. We could probably do without that, but I'm not going to come down on DeSanto too hard -- he picked up a key win for Iowa and for himself and did so in pretty impressive fashion. He just might want to control his emotions a little bit more in the future.
Minnesota's third and final win of the dual came at 141, where Mitch McKee edged Max Murin 5-3 with two takedowns and an escape to Murin's trio of escapes. Simply put, McKee was better than Murin from neutral and that was the difference in this bout -- Murin wasn't able to finish his shots, while McKee was. This was a bit reminiscent of Murin's match with Alber in the Midlands final a few weeks ago and really looks like the biggest thing holding Murin back from being a Top 10 guy at the weight -- until he can actually finish attacks against top guys, he's not going to be able to win matches against them.
- The dual wrapped up with Iowa's other bonus point win, as Pat Lugo cruised to a 14-0 win over Tommy Thorn. Lugo got a takedown late in the first to go up 2-0 and blew the match open in the second with a hard ride in which he was able to twice expose Thorn's back for 4-point nearfalls. An escape, a takedown at the final whistle, and a riding time point made the score 14-0 in favor of Lugo. It was good to see him pick up a dominant win here, as opponents like Thorn are exactly who Lugo ought to be beating with relative ease. Job done.
That really describes the dual as a whole: job done. Iowa came up to Minneapolis on Sunday and they took care of business against the #8-ranked Gophers. There were a few bonus point wins and a lot of solid wins as Iowa was able to cruise to victory. At this point in the season, that will do quite nicely.
NEXT: Iowa welcomes #25 Rutgers (7-3) to Carver-Hawkeye Arena next Friday night (7 PM CT, BTN).