Iowa returned to the mat on Sunday night to face another Top 10-ranked team, #6 Wisconsin -- and they proceeded to dominate from start to finish. Despite Wisconsin's high ranking, I expected a lopsided score in the dual -- Iowa just has much more quality throughout its lineup than Wisconsin -- but even I didn't expect as comprehensive a win as this. Iowa won nine of ten weights in the dual, with bonus points from Spencer Lee at 125 lbs and Michael Kemerer at 174 lbs.
The big takeaway from the night was not just Iowa winning virtually all of the matches they were supposed to win, but their success in the spotlight matches of the dual. Wisconsin entered the night with three wrestlers ranked in the Top 3 at their respective weights; all three lost their matches against Iowa wrestlers ranked lower than them (depending on the rankings, at least). Alex Marinelli merely continued his recent trend of success against #3 Evan Wick at 165 lbs (though while he's won four consecutive matches over Wick now, none of them have been easy wins), but Iowa's other two wins over highly-ranked Badgers were definite eye-openers. Austin DeSanto's controlled 6-2 win over #1 Seth Gross at 133 lbs was massively impressive and the first result that really got the crowd of 10,000+ at Carver-Hawkeye Arena rocking, while Tony Cassioppi provided the exclamation point on Iowa's win with the first big win of his career, a 3-2 upset of #3 Trent Hillger at 285 lbs, which also sent a jolt through the crowd and generated some big reactions. Those wins took a one-sided dual meet and turned it into a complete rout.
|125||#1 Spencer Lee||TECH FALL (16-0)||Michael Cullen||IOWA 5-0|
|133||#2 Austin DeSanto||DEC (6-2)||#1 Seth Gross||IOWA 8-0|
|141||#10 Max Murin||DEC (3-2)||#11 Tristan Moran||IOWA 11-0|
|149||#3 Pat Lugo||DEC (5-3)||#22 Cole Martin||IOWA 14-0|
|157||#3 Kaleb Young||DEC (12-6)||Garrett Model||IOWA 17-0|
|165||#5 Alex Marinelli||DEC (4-2)||#2 Evan Wick||IOWA 20-0|
|174||#2 Michael Kemerer||FALL (5:47)||Jared Krattiger||IOWA 26-0|
|184||#31 Johnny Sebastian||DEC (7-5 2OT)||Cash Wilcke||IOWA 26-3|
|197||#4 Jacob Warner||DEC (5-2)||Taylor Watkins||IOWA 29-3|
|285||#12 Tony Cassioppi||DEC (3-2)||#3 Trent Hillger||IOWA 32-3|
A few thoughts:
Spencer Lee got Iowa started with a quick 16-0 technical fall -- stop me if you've heard this one before. Lee got a takedown about a minute in and then went to work with his usual array of tilts and turns to rack up nearfall points and earn a 14-0 lead by the end of the period. A quick reversal to start the second period made the score 16-0 and gave Lee another technical fall victory. No fuss, no muss here.
DeSanto picked up probably the biggest win of the night with his upset of #1 Gross at 133 lbs. The best part about DeSanto's win was how decisive it was. DeSanto didn't luck into this win -- he didn't get fluky points via unusual penalties or weird situations, nor did he score in ways that won't be reproducible in the future. DeSanto stuck to his strengths -- keeping the match standing as much as possible and using his high tempo and variety of offensive attacks to mount a barrage on Gross' defense. DeSanto avoided taking bottom against Gross, which meant he was able to stay out of potential dangerous situations with Gross in top position (where he's at his best). He also mostly avoided any prolonged scrambles with Gross, knowing that Gross has the ability to score from odd angles and turn those scramble situations to his advantage. DeSanto was able to attack quickly and decisively and get to Gross' legs -- and finish those shots when he got there. DeSanto picked up three impressive takedowns on Gross in this match, which should give him a lot of confidence for any showdowns with Gross later this season. Gross is an elite opponent and DeSanto looked a step ahead of him for virtually the entire match here.
Max Murin made his 2019-20 dual meet debut for Iowa with a tight 3-2 decision win over Moran. Murin was wrestling with a large shoulder brace on which did seem to restrict his range of motion. It's not clear if this is an ailment he'll simply have to deal with all season or if it's something that might improve as the season progresses. (We hope it's the latter.) Murin finished cleanly on an early shot, did a strong job of fending off Moran's offense, and scrambled well.
Pat Lugo got off to a fast start in his win over Cole Martin, but was simply trying to hang on by the end of the bout. Lugo finished his attacks well in the first and second period, but then seemed to shut things down. He was probably a bit lucky not to get dinged for stalling in the third period and really should have been doing more to extend his lead and at least secure a more comfortable decision win. Lugo looks good when he's on the attack, which makes it frustrating when he can spend stretches of matches seeming so passive.
Kaleb Young finished off the first half of the dual with a fifth straight Iowa win, earning a 12-6 decision win over a scrappier-than-expected Garrett Model. Young got a reversal and four takedowns in the match, including three in the first period, but he also got reversed by Model and had to fight harder than expected to finish many of his attacks. The outcome of the bout was never in doubt, but it would have been encouraging to see Young push for more takedowns in the second and third periods, especially after scoring three in the first period. Had he done so he might have worn down Model and been able to secure a major decision.
Marinelli used a smart gameplan to continue his recent success against the dangerous Wick. Marinelli used his heavy hands to lock up Wick in the first and some quick action to secure his first takedown. He wisely chose neutral in the second (thus avoiding the bottom position and exposing himself to Wick's strengths as a top wrestler) and while he wasn't able to get any more takedowns, he was able to continue wearing on Wick -- and he avoided allowing Wick to accumulate riding time or attempt to turn him on the mat. Wick got a quick escape in the third, but Marinelli was once again able to score the final takedown, getting to Wick's legs late in the period and finishing well to pick up another big win. Wick's length and skill on the mat is always going to make him a difficult opponent for Marinelli, but he's definitely getting smarter in how he manages his matches against Wick now. Marinelli is the superior wrestler from neutral, so keeping as much of the match there as possible is wise. The onus is on Wick to make adjustments now before their inevitable rematch(es) later this season.
Michael Kemerer got Iowa's only other bonus point win of the bout (after Spencer Lee's dual-opening technical fall) with a dominant pin over Wisconsin's Jared Krattiger. To his credit, Krattiger was a game opponent -- he fought hard against Kemerer, particularly on the mat, and was able to pick up Wisconsin's first takedown of the dual (...in the seventh match of the night...), but he was completely overmatched -- and overpowered -- by Kemerer. Kemerer had him pinned at the end of the first period, but the second referee ruled that time had expired before Kemerer was able to secure the pin. Undaunted, Kemerer kept up his relentless attacks, opening up a huge lead before finally planting Krattiger's shoulders on the mat in the third period. Kemerer's fantastic start to the season continues.
Like Murin, Cash Wilcke made his 2019-20 dual meet debut for Iowa in this bout. Wilcke has been in a competitive battle with Nelson Brands for the starting job at 184 lbs, and performances like this aren't going to help his cause at all. Wilcke scored a nice takedown in the first period, but his offense dried up after that and he wasn't able to secure any more points after that except for a handful of escapes. He also looked lethargic after that quick start to the match. Wilcke gave up one takedown to Sebastian and was able to avoid getting taken down at other times by some adept scrambling, but he finally conceded a second takedown in the second sudden victory period of the match. Wilcke needed a strong showing here to make his argument for the starting job in the wake of Brands' powerful opening statement in Iowa's first two duals of the season; this was not a strong showing.
That lackluster performance by Wilcke was followed by another less-than-stellar performance by Jacob Warner at 197 lbs, though he was able to secure the victory. Warner got an early takedown to open up a quick lead -- but was unable to add to that lead throughout the match (save for an escape and second takedown in the final seconds of the match). Warner was never really in danger from Watkins, but he was never able to get to Watkins' legs in the second or third periods and seemed to spend too much time going for upper body attacks and getting blocked off by Watkins. Warner has more to give than this and he needs to find ways to access more of his scoring ability in these matches.
- Tony Cassioppi capped things off with an impressive upset win over #3 Hillger at 285 lbs. Cassioppi fought off a deep shot from Hillger in the first period, got his hips back, and countered into his own attack -- which he was able to finish for a critical takedown. Cassioppi also managed to escape a tough ride from Hillger in the second to earn a point and then showed good defense in the third period to evade Hillger's attacks. He'll need to keep up his own offense a bit more in the future, but this was a fantastic win for Cassioppi. Beating a Top 3-ranked wrestler in just his third official match in an Iowa singlet -- and second-ever match at CHA -- is a hell of a way to get your freshman season underway. In his two matches before the home faithful so far, Cassioppi has picked up a pin and knocked off the #3-ranked wrestler in the country; that's a sure way to make yourself a fan favorite.
The win was the 100th Big Ten dual meet win for Iowa head coach Tom Brands and it was an impressive one that left few doubts about his team's credentials as a national title contender this season. There are still definitely several things to improve on, but this team has as much (if not more) firepower than any Iowa team in recent memory and they're (mostly) not afraid to unleash it on opponents. That's a recipe for fun wrestling -- and dominant wins. We'll take more of both, please.
NEXT: Iowa ventures out east to take on Princeton next Sunday (1 PM CT).