#1 Iowa vs #2 Penn State Wrestling: Preview

By RossWB on January 30, 2020 at 11:30 am
go hawks go
Brian Ray (Hawkeye Sports)

WHO: #2 Penn State Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten)
WHEN: Friday, January 31, 2020
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
START TIME: 8:05 PM Central
ONLINE: FoxSports.com
RADIO: Hawkeye Sports Network (check local listings); TuneIn (maybe)
ANNOUNCERS: Tim Johnson and Jim Gibbons

It's the dual meet of the year in college wrestling: #1 Iowa vs #2 Penn State. This is the second-ever #1 vs #2 meeting between Iowa and Penn State. The other meeting came back in 1986. SPOILER ALERT: It didn't go well for Penn State! The 1986 Iowa team tied the record for most NCAA finalists (6) and champions (5) and set the record for largest margin of victory (73.25 points), 158 to 84.75 over Oklahoma. They beat #2 Penn State 35-5 in that dual meet. 

I don't expect a repeat of that showing on Friday night -- this Penn State team has some very good wrestlers and while this is a really good Iowa team, it's not quite the murderer's row that Iowa put on the mat in 1986. But this is still going to be one hell of a dual. This is the one we've been pointing to ever since the schedule was officially announced. This is the dual that sold out in December. This is the best team Iowa has had since 2009-10... which is also the last time Iowa won an NCAA Championship. We'll have to wait 'til March to see if they can end that drought, but this dual is their chance to end their losing streak against Penn State and emphatically state their case as the best team in the country this year. 

125 #1 Spencer Lee (10-0, JR) vs Brandon Meredith (11-8, FR)
133 #2 Austin DeSanto (12-1, JR) vs #4 Roman Bravo-Young (12-0, SO)
141 #7 Max Murin (10-1, SO)
Carter Happel (6-4, JR)
vs #2 Nick Lee (12-0, JR)
149 #3 Pat Lugo (13-1, SR) vs #19 Jared Verkleeren (12-3, SO)
Luke Gardner (6-1, JR)
157 #4 Kaleb Young (11-2, JR) vs Brady Berge (1-0, SO)
Bo Pipher (8-9, JR)
165 #2 Alex Marinelli (14-0, JR) vs #1 Vincenzo Joseph (7-0, SR)
174 #2 Michael Kemerer (8-0, SR) vs #1 Mark Hall (15-0, SR)
184 #6 Abe Assad (19-3, FR) vs #8 Aaron Brooks (7-1, FR)
197 #5 Jacob Warner (10-3, SO) vs #11 Shakur Rasheed (2-2, SR)
285 #3 Tony Cassioppi (13-0, RS FR) vs #16 Seth Nevills (10-0, FR)

Looking at things match by match... 

125: Penn State hasn't had a good 125er since Nico Megaludis (other than a few months of Nick Suriano a couple years ago). They still don't! Iowa has Spencer Lee. The only question here is whether the match makes it to the second period. My guess? No, and CHA explodes in its first big cheer of the night. 

133: This isn't the match of the night -- or even the runner-up match of the night -- because there are TWO #1 vs #2 showdowns in this dual, but this should still a hell of a match. DeSanto beat Bravo-Young twice last year, 12-8 at the Big Ten Tournament and 7-2 at the NCAA Tournament. The former match featured DeSanto racing out to a big lead before Bravo-Young got to his offense in the second and third periods and was able to chop into DeSanto's margin. The rematch was closer than the final score indicates; DeSanto was able to hit a big feet-to-back move in the third period to pick up the winning points. Bravo-Young is a very skilled wrestler and he presents a different challenge to DeSanto than Seth Gross in that RBY is not a smothering rider on the mat, but he is very dangerous from neutral. Still, in a stand-up battle, I'm going to favor DeSanto, especially with the CHA crowd behind him. 

141: It sounds like Max Murin is unlikely to wrestle here for the second straight dual meet; reportedly he's dinged up at the moment. That means Carter Happel will get the nod against a Top 2-ranked wrestler for the second week in a row. He wasn't able to prevent the major decision last week and I'm not really expecting him to prevent Nick Lee from getting a major decision, either. 

149: Pat Lugo tasted defeat for the first time last week, so he should be eager to get back on the winning path. Verkleeren is 12-3 on the season, but he hasn't beaten anyone of consequence yet. After his struggles to finish shots last week, it would be great to see Lugo score an early takedown here to get things rolling. I think Lugo will wrestle a controlled match and come away with a decision win. 

157: This match would probably be quite intriguing if it pitted Young against a healthy Brady Berge. Berge was a R16 guy at 149 lbs last year, but moved up to 157 this year in search of a less brutal weight cut and more consistent results. Unfortunately, his season has been plagued by injuries; a concussion suffered at the U23 World Championships delayed the start of his season until December and after making his debut (a 5-3 win over Lehigh's Josh Humphreys), he hasn't wrestled since. Supposedly he's been dealing with concussion-related symptoms. A healthy, in-form Berge is very likely talented enough to give Young problems; but is that the Berge we'd see here -- if he even gets the nod? I'm not so sure. I expect Young to grind out a decision here (9 of his 11 wins this year have been via decision), though the margin of victory would be a little wider if he faces Pipher instead of Berge. 


The video quality is rough (pitfalls of the pre-HD era), but this is one of my favorite Iowa-Penn State matches: Brent Metcalf utterly breaking Bubba Jenkins. 

165: The second half of the dual should kick off with one of the two spotlight matches of the night -- and one of the two #1 vs #2 showdowns. This is a match we've seen before (twice) -- and it's gone well for the guy in black and gold. Alex Marinelli beat Joseph 9-6 at the dual in 2018 and he recorded an even more decisive 9-3 win in the Big Ten Tournament finals last year. That said... this is still a close match-up. Cenzo is very, very good and it would surprise no one if he finally got a win over Marinelli. But am I going to pick Marinelli to suffer his first-ever Big Ten dual meet loss -- and his first-ever loss at CHA -- in front of a crowd that's going to be rabid for him to knock off Joseph? No. No, I am not. Marinelli has made a habit out of finding ways to grind out wins in the regular season over the last three years and I believe he'll do the same again here, picking up a key takedown in the third period to get the win. 

174: And here's the other match of the night, as well as the second #1 vs #2 match-up on tap. Unlike 165, this is a fresh match-up, mainly because Kemerer hasn't been at 174 until this year. He went 0-3 against another recent Penn State great, Jason Nolf, down at 157; will he fare any better against Hall? If things hold to form, this could easily be the first of a trilogy of matches between Hall and Kemerer this season. I am optimistic that Kemerer can win at least one of those matches. But I don't think this will be that win; Hall is wrestling very, very well right now and I think his defense will be too much for Kemerer in their first-ever meeting. I expect a fairly low-scoring match, with Hall getting the decisive takedown. 

184: This weight presents an interesting showdown as it features two guys who likely entered the season expecting to redshirt until 2021. Penn State expected Shakur Rasheed to man this weight, but issues up at 197 led them to move him back there, which led to the decision to burn Brooks' redshirt in early December. Tom Brands made the same call with Assad a month later, after an impressive showing at Midlands. Both Brooks and Assad were highly-regarded recruits (Brooks moreso; he was hyped as one of the top recruits in his class) and if both stick at 184, this could be the first of several meetings between them in college. The transitive property favors Assad here -- he knocked off Nebraska's Taylor Venz two weeks ago and Venz topped Brooks last week. But this weight is hugely unpredictable in the Big Ten and neither a Brooks win nor an Assad win would be too shocking here. Toss of the coin says Brooks gets this one. 

197: Like 184, this looks like a pretty even match-up. Both Warner and Rasheed are coming off 3-1 losses to Nebraska's Eric Schultz in their last match. Rasheed entered the season coming off several injuries and didn't even make his season debut until three weeks ago. He's had a rocky start in Big Ten competition, going 2-2 in dual meet competition, including losses to Schultz and Northwestern's Lucas Davison and wins over Illinois' Matt Wroblewski and Rutgers' Jordan Pagano. Warner has been better on the whole this season, but he's also had a few hiccups. If his focus and confidence are high, I think he takes this match by 2-3 points. If the Warner that showed up against Schultz takes the mat here, though, Rasheed ought to have a very good chance to get the win. Toss of the coin went Penn State's way at the last weight; it goes Iowa's way here. 

285: This looked like a possible Top 3 showdown about a month ago, before top-ranked (and defending NCAA champion) Anthony Cassar suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. In his stead, Penn State has pulled another true freshman out of redshirt, Seth Nevills. Nevills is 10-0 on the season with bonus points in half of those matches, so he's certainly no slouch. That said, he hasn't faced a Top 10 heavyweight yet, either. I think our smilin' boy Tony finishes the dual with another decision win. 

If that's the way things go down tomorrow night, I think we'll be pretty pleased -- and Iowa will have its first win over Penn State in five years. 

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