Iowa Sends Spencer Lee to NCAA Finals, Has Six All-Americans

By RossWB on March 22, 2019 at 11:43 pm
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Nic Ryder / IAWrestle

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After a rocky performance in the Friday morning quarterfinals, Iowa entered Friday night's semifinals with just two wrestlers, #3 Spencer Lee (125) and #6 Kaleb Young (157). Could either guy earn one more win and secure a spot in the Saturday night finals? Yes. 

Spencer Lee avenged a loss by fall to #2 Nick Piccinnini of Oklahoma State at the Iowa-Oklahoma State dual a month ago with a solid and thoroughly in-control 11-4 win. Lee got a quick takedown early in the first period and put a solid ride on, racking up over one minute of riding time before Piccinnini was able to slip free for an escape. Lee entered the second period up 2-1, got an escape to go up 3-1 about midway through the period and immediately went back on the attack and finished another takedown to go up 5-1. Piccinnini managed to reverse Lee to cut the deficit to 5-3, but Lee got an escape in the final seconds of the period to go up 6-3. Piccinnini went down to start the third and Lee again put a mean ride on, keeping Piccinnini down for a minute and a half before Piccinnini finally got free. Lee fended off Piccinnini's attacks in the closing seconds and turned one desperation attack into a final takedown for himself, even getting Piccinnini on his back and earning two near fall points. That made the score 10-4; a riding time point made the final margin 11-4.

Lee felt in control for pretty much the entire match, attacked early and often and did an exceptional job of finishing his attacks as well. Just a great performance from Lee against a tough opponent. His return trip to the NCAA final means that Iowa has now had at least one NCAA finalist for 30 straight seasons (and 44 out of the last 45 seasons). 

Iowa's second semifinalist was Kaleb Young, who was facing off with #2 Tyler Berger of Nebraska. Young lost to Berger earlier in the season, 3-1 in overtime, but this match wasn't quite as close. Young stormed his way to the semifinals by attacking off the opening whistle and cutting loose on offense. He was much more restrained against Berger and while it's understandable that he'd want to be more cautious against a dangerous opponent like Berger, but he was probably a bit too conservative overall. Berger got to Young's legs in the first and finished; a Young escape made it 2-1 after the first period. Young got an escape to start the second and tie the match at 2-2, but Berger again finished an attack to go up 4-2 (4-3 after a Young escape). Berger got another escape to start the third to go up 5-3. Young needed a takedown to tie the match, but he seemed to wait until the last few seconds of the match to get more aggressive on offense; unfortunately, by then it was too late. 

TEAM SCORE
1) 120.5 -- Penn State 
2) 88.5 -- Ohio State 
3) 73.5 -- Oklahoma State
4) 68.0 -- Iowa
5) 54.0 -- Missouri

The team race is over, whether or not Penn State has mathematically locked it up or not. Iowa has fallen to fourth in the team standings and with Oklahoma State having two finalists (to Iowa's one) and both being (slight) favorites to win, it's probably going to be difficult to catch them. 

Semifinal results: 

WEIGHT WINNER RESULT LOSER
125 #3 Spencer Lee DEC (11-4) #2 Nick Piccinnini (Oklahoma State)
157 #2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) DEC (5-3) #6 Kaleb Young

And in the consolation bracket: 

WEIGHT WINNER RESULT LOSER
133 #7 Austin DeSanto MAJ DEC (16-5) Austin Gomez (Iowa State)
133 #7 Austin DeSanto DEC (4-2 OT) #6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota)
141 #16 Chad Red (Nebraska) DEC (4-1) #22 Max Murin
149 #10 Pat Lugo DEC (4-0) #20 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota)
149 #3 Mitch Finesilver (Duke) DEC (6-3) #10 Pat Lugo
165 #1 Alex Marinelli DEC (5-3) #6 Logan Massa (Michigan)
165 #5 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven) DEC (9-6) #1 Alex Marinelli
197 #5 Jacob Warner DEC (6-2) #10 Tom Sleigh (Virginia Tech)
197 #16 Josh Hokit (Fresno State) DEC (5-4) #5 Jacob Warner
285 #10 Youssif Hemida (Maryland) DEC (7-4) #28 Sam Stoll

Iowa went 4-2 in the Round of 12, with Austin DeSanto, Pat Lugo, Alex Marinelli, and Jacob Warner all securing All-America status. DeSanto, Lugo, and Warner picked up the first All-America honors of their careers, while Marinelli became a two-time All-American. Max Murin and Sam Stoll lost, ending their seasons one win short of All-America status. It's also the end of Stoll's Iowa career. Stoll gave us a nice run yesterday to the quarterfinals this morning, but an ending like this was probably the most likely outcome given the state of his leg. Thanks for the memories, Sammy. 

Austin DeSanto got Iowa's bloodround off to a good start with a 16-5 major decision win over Iowa State's Austin Gomez, avenging a loss to Gomez earlier in the year. In that match Gomez used a big throw to rack up a lot of points and nearly pin DeSanto; this bout, DeSanto used a big throw to rack up a slew of points and nearly pin Gomez. This was a very good showing from DeSanto in a big match. Murin lost to Nebraska's Chad Red in his bloodround match in what was a strange bout. Red got an early takedown and rode Murin for almost the entire first period. Murin then rode Red for the entire second period, followed by Red riding Murin for the entire third period. Again: odd match. 

Alex Marinelli earned All-America status with a win over Michigan's Logan Massa with takedowns in the first and second period and an escape in the third. It was a solid, workmanlike win and a good rebound performance for Marinelli after his gutting loss in the quarterfinals earlier in the day. Jacob Warner earned Iowa's sixth and final All-America honors with a solid 6-2 win over Virginia Tech's Tom Sleigh. After a scoreless first period, Warner went down to start the second and got an escape and a takedown late in the period to go up 3-0. He got another takedown in the third and added a riding time point as well. As mentioned previously, Stoll lost 7-4 to Hemida, giving up a trio of takedowns in the process. 

Unfortunately, the second set of consolation bracket matches didn't go as well for Iowa. Austin DeSanto picked up a 4-2 win in overtime over Minnesota's Ethan Lizak, taking the rubber match in their grudge match series this season. DeSanto got a first period takedown to go up 2-0, but Lizak managed an escape. Lizak then chose top to start the second period and rode DeSanto for the entire period. DeSanto chose neutral in the third, but neither guy could score from his feet. DeSanto finally got in deep on Lizak's legs in overtime and finished off the attack with a takedown and the win. 

That was Iowa's only win in this set of consolation matches, though. Pat Lugo got a penalty point to go up 1-0, then got a takedown to go up 3-0, but Finesilver got an escape and then tied the match with a takedown of his own before the end of the second period. Finesilver added an escape to start the third to go up 4-3 and got a second takedown in the closing seconds to win 6-3. The loss sends Lugo to the 7th place match on Saturday morning.

Alex Marinelli lost his match as well, dropping a 9-6 decision to Lock Haven's Chance Marsteller. Marsteller picked up two takedowns in the first period and led 4-2 heading into the second. Marinelli got an escape to start the period, then got in deep on a single leg shot and finished on Marsteller to go up 5-4. Unfortunately, he got out of position and Marsteller was able to reverse him and take a 6-5 lead into the third period. Marsteller got an escape in the third to go up, then fended off Marinelli's attacks and finished another takedown of his own to go up 9-5. A Marinelli escape made the final score 9-6. There's no doubt that wrestling for 7th place is a disappointing way for Marinelli's NCAA Tournament to end. 

Jacob Warner made it three straight losses for Iowa with a 5-4 loss to Fresno State's Josh Hokit. Hokit got a takedown to go up 2-0, but a Warner escape made it 2-1 heading to the second. Warner tied the match at 2-2 after another escape and was able to snare Hokit's ankles and finish a takedown for a 4-2 lead. Hokit reversed him late in the period to tie the match at 4-4. A Hokit escape in the third gave him a 5-4 lead and he held on from there, sending Warner to the 7th place match as well. 

Tomorrow: 

WEIGHT ROUND IOWA VS OPPONENT
125 1st Place #3 Spencer Lee vs #5 Jack Mueller (Virginia)
133 Conso Semis #7 Austin DeSanto vs #5 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)
149 7th Place #10 Pat Lugo vs #8 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State)
157 Conso Semis #6 Kaleb Young vs #4 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan)
165 7th Place #1 Alex Marinelli vs #11 Bryce Steiert (UNI)
197 7th Place #5 Jacob Warner vs #9 Benjamin Honis (Cornell)

DeSanto and Young will both wrestle in the consolation semifinals on Saturday morning. If they win those matches, they'll wrestle for 3rd place later in the morning. If they lose, they'll wrestle for 5th place later in the morning. Lugo, Marinelli, and Warner will alll wrestle for 7th place later in the morning. Lee will, of course, wrestle for a national championship in the finals on Saturday night. 

Lee has never faced Mueller before, but Mueller looked excellent in toppling #1 seed Sebastian Rivera in the other semifinal on Friday night. He beat Rivera 8-2 and absolutely whupped him, taking down Rivera on multiple occasions and riding him for most of the match. Lee will probably want to avoid going underneath Mueller if he can help it. DeSanto, Marinelli, and Warner have also never faced their respective opponents previously. Lugo and Young will be facing opponents they've wrestled earlier this season; Lugo lost 7-4 to Degen at the dual earlier in the season, while Young lost to Pantaleo twice at the Big Ten Tournament. Hopefully all of Iowa's wrestlers competing tomorrow can finish strong. 

H/T to Nic Ryder for the picture of Spencer Lee atop this post; check out all his great photos from the NCAA Tournament on Twitter (@Nic_Ryder and @IAwrestle) and at IAwrestle

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