I figured there was a good chance that an Iowa wrestler would win Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors this week. For one thing, there weren't many Big Ten teams in action -- just Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin, I believe. So there were a limited number of options for WOTW honors. For another thing, three Iowa wrestlers picked up wins over opponents ranked in the Top 3 at their respective weights in Iowa's 32-3 mollywhopping of Wisconsin on Sunday night. At that point it was just a question of which one of Austin DeSanto (winner over #1 Seth Gross), Alex Marinelli (winner over #2 Evan Wick), or Tony Cassioppi (winner over #3 Trent Hillger) would get the honors.
And the winner is... DeSanto!
Austin DeSanto of @Hawks_Wrestling earns #B1G Wrestler of the Week honors after defeating No. 1 Seth Gross by a 6-2 decision, leading the #Hawkeyes past No. 6 Wisconsin in their conference season opener.— Big Ten Wrestling (@B1GWrestling) December 3, 2019
FULL RELEASE: https://t.co/VSkxOqYJUq pic.twitter.com/KLjMHV6jK0
It makes sense. Marinelli beat the #2 guy at 165 -- but he's also won his last four in a row over Evan Wick now. They wrestle close matches and Wick is an elite opponent, but Marinelli has had his number over the last two seasons. Cassioppi's win featured the biggest gap between the winner (#13) and the defeated wrestler (#3), but his opponent was also the lowest-ranked of the three.
Meanwhile, DeSanto toppled Gross, the top-ranked wrestler at 133 in decisive fashion, by finishing three takedowns and recording a 6-2 decision win. DeSanto's win over Gross was the latter's first loss at 133 lbs since... the 2017 NCAA Tournament final, when Gross lost to another Iowa opponent: Cory Clark. Gross wrestled just one match in 2018-19 before shutting things down for the year with a shoulder injury but he went 29-0 at 133 lbs in 2017-18, winning the NCAA championship. His only loss that year came against Wyoming's Bryce Meredith when Gross bumped up to 141 lbs for a "super-fight" with the #1-ranked wrestlers at 133 and 141 lbs.
In fact, Gross had lost just twice at 133 lbs in his entire career before taking the L against DeSanto on Sunday -- the aforementioned NCAA final loss to Clark and a 2-0 sudden victory defeat to Nebraska's Eric Montoya at the 2016 Midlands. Austin DeSanto is in some very exclusive company at the moment. The six points -- and three takedowns -- that DeSanto scored against Gross are among the most he's ever given up at 133 lbs. The only opponents to score more than DeSanto against Gross at 133 lbs are Kaid Brock, who scored seven points in a 9-7 loss back in 2017, and Stevan Micic, who scored eight points in a 13-8 loss to Gross in the NCAA final. I'm not certain how many of the points Brock and Micic scored came via escapes or reversals, though. Very few wrestlers have been able to take Gross down over the course of his career at 133 lbs; almost no one has been able to do so three times, like DeSanto did. That was perhaps the most impressive part of DeSanto's victory -- it didn't look fluky at all.
DeSanto took it to Gross from the opening whistle. Gross got to DeSanto's leg first, but DeSanto showed some smart defense in fending him off and getting things into a stalemate. When DeSanto ducked down and got to Gross's left leg, he worked to get around Gross' back and finish quickly and get a takedown.
In the second period, DeSanto wisely chose to remain in neutral rather than take down to try and get an escape against Gross and his fearsome skills as a top wrestler. His decision was rewarded 30 seconds later when he again ducked down into a high-crotch attack and got ahold of Gross' left leg before elevating into a grip around Gross' waist and planting his ass on the mat for a takedown. A few moments later, again got to Gross' leg and finished with a fireman's carry and locked up his third takedown of the match.
This was the first time DeSanto and Gross have tangled -- but it likely won't be the last. Iowa and Wisconsin are both scheduled to be at Midlands, and DeSanto and Gross are sure to be on opposite sides of the bracket, setting up a possible rematch in the Midlands finals in just under three weeks time. That's to say nothing of more potential rematches at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, either. We'll have to wait and see how those matches go (if they happen); for now we know that DeSanto can slay the dragon -- because he just did it. Congratulations on the Wrestler of the Week honors, Austin.