#1 Iowa vs #9 Oklahoma State Wrestling: Preview

By RossWB on February 22, 2020 at 4:50 pm
go hawks go

WHO: #9 Oklahoma State Cowboys (13-2, 8-1 Big 12)
WHEN: Sunday, February 23, 2020
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
START TIME: 7:00 PM Central
ONLINE: FoxSports.com
RADIO: Hawkeye Sports Network (check local listings); TuneIn (maybe)
ANNOUNCERS: Shane Sparks and Jim Gibbons

The Big Ten dual meet season is over for Iowa (cue "We Are The Champions" for the first -- and hopefully not last -- time this season), but the dual meet season isn't quite finished yet. Iowa wraps up the dual meet portion of their season on Sunday night, with a dual meet with one of their oldest foes, Oklahoma State. Normally this would be one of Iowa's biggest dual meets of the year, a clash between the two winningest programs in the history of the sport and, often, a showdown between potential national champions. This year Iowa fits that bill, but Oklahoma State doesn't. The Cowboys aren't bad, but this isn't one of their best squads. Between injury-induced redshirts (Kaid Brock), Olympic redshirts (Daton Fix), and just generally kind of reloading with younger talent at several weights, this Oklahome State team is down a bit from their usual heights. 

Iowa-Oklahoma State has been a fiercely competitive rivalry over the years -- the Cowboys are one of the few teams in the sport with a winning dual meet record against Iowa (29-22-2) and they've spoiled many an Iowa campaign. In fact, just last year they handed Iowa their only loss of the season, a humbling 27-12 beating in Stillwater that still stings. Overall, Iowa has had the better of Oklahoma State in recent years; they've won four of the last six duals, including the last three contested in Iowa City. And they're going to be heavy favorites to win again this year. That's not to say that there won't be some interesting matches to see at this dual, though.

125 #1 Spencer Lee (14-0, JR) vs #4 Nick Piccininni (23-1, SR)
133 #3 Austin DeSanto (13-2, JR) vs #14 Reece Witcraft (16-7, FR)
141 #4 Max Murin (11-1, SO) vs #12 Dusty Hone (18-7, JR)
149 #4 Pat Lugo (17-1, SR) vs #3 Boo Lewallen (18-1, JR)
157 #4 Kaleb Young (15-2, JR) vs #19 Wyatt Sheets (17-6, SO)
Jalin Harper (6-3, RS FR)
165 #2 Alex Marinelli (16-1, JR) vs #7 Travis Wittlake (25-1, RS FR)
174 #1 Michael Kemerer (12-0, SR) vs #13 Joe Smith (7-3, SR)
Andrew Shomers (11-7, RS FR)
184 #8 Abe Assad (19-5, FR) vs #14 Anthony Montalvo (19-5, RS FR)
197 #4 Jacob Warner (14-3, SO) vs #19 Dakota Geer (19-6, JR)
285 #3 Tony Cassioppi (15-2, RS FR) vs Austin Harris (5-9, SO)
Cornelius Putnam (1-3, SO)

Let's go weight-by-weight: 

125: Most of Spencer Lee's dual meet matches this season have been foregone conclusions before he even steps on the mat. Not this one. Nick Piccininni is one of two wrestlers still in college with a win over Lee -- and he's the only one currently at 125 (since Northwestern's Sebastian Riviera has moved up to 133 this season). Piccininni's win over Lee last year, a stunning second-period pin, set the tone for what ended up being an Okie State rout. Lee avenged that loss with an 11-4 win in the NCAA Tournament semifinals and overall he's 2-1 against Piccininni in his career. Lee got caught in the match last year -- he put his knee to close to his head during a scramble and Piccininni made him pay dearly. I don't expect Lee to make that mistake again. I'm not sure we'll see bonus points out of Spencer, but I do expect a win. 

133: If Fix, last year's NCAA runner-up at this weight, hadn't chosen to use an Olympic redshirt this year, this match would have been one of the highlights of the dual. Instead, it should feature DeSanto taking on true freshman Reece Witcraft. Witcraft has had a solid season so far and while he's taken seven losses, most of them have been fairly close matches. But he hasn't faced anyone like DeSanto yet and he hasn't faced a cauldron like Carver-Hawkeye Arena. DeSanto looked mighty good against Minnesota last week, so I look for him to push the tempo here and wear Witcraft out. 

141: Murin made his return after a month-long absence against Minnesota -- and looked as good as he has all season. Hone will keep it close -- he's done that all season -- but I think he'll struggle to score on Murin and Max will find the decisive takedown when he needs it. 

149: Outside of 125, this is probably the biggest match of the night -- and a showdown that we could see again in the NCAA Tournament semifinals or finals, depending on how everything shakes out. Lewallen has been excellent this year (18-1, 63% bonus rate) after injuries robbed him of his season a year ago. But he's also only faced a few Top 10 wrestlers at this weight and he lost to one of those he did face (Missouri's Brock Mauller, who beat him 5-3 in sudden victory). This is Lugo's last-ever match at Carver-Hawkeye Arena; he'll surely want to go out a winner. This is a tough match to call... a flip of the coin says Boo wins this round, though. 

157: Like 125, this match is another rematch from last year's dual (assuming Sheets wrestles for Okie State); Young won that bout 9-5, one of the few bright spots for the Hawkeyes. Sheets has been decent this year, but he's struggled against top opponents for the most part. This will be a fairly close match, because that's the way Young wrestles almost every match, but I expect young to win by 2-3 points. 

165: This match is the third of the three Top 10 showdowns we could get in this dual. Wittlake was a big deal recruit who's had a pretty dazzling redshirt freshman season (25-1); he's also faced a much weaker slate of opponents than Marinelli has in his grind through the Big Ten. Wittlake could be a force at this weight for the next few years, but for now The Bull will get it done.

174: Another old rivalry renewed potentially -- Kemerer and Smith have history with one another from back when they were down at 157 lbs a few years ago. They're both at 174 now, and while Kemerer has looked every bit as fearsome (and maybe even moreso) at his new weight, Smith has had some ups and downs. Smith is still a talented wrestler, so Kemerer will need to be wary -- but Kemdawg is wrestling at a supremely high level right now and I don't think Smith will get the better of him. 

184: Assad is expected to make his return to Iowa's lineup after a few weeks on the sideline with some minor injury concerns. This is a big match for Assad -- it's his last match before the pressure ramps up at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, it's his first match in three weeks, and it's against a talented opponent. Assad is going to have to beat guys like Montalvo if he wants to be an All-American this year; here's a chance for him to prove that he can beat a guy like that. I think he'll get it done. 

197: Geer has nose-dived in the rankings at this weight because he's taken losses to a few lesser opponents and he enters this bout on a two-match losing streak. That said, he's still a dangerous opponent and one who could make Warner pay if he's not careful or if he let's this be a one-move match. If the Warner who wrestled against Minnesota shows up again here, I expect a pretty solid win. If the Warner we've seen in too many other matches turns up, though, this could be an uncomfortable match and a potential upset. I think Warner does enough to get the win. 

285: Oklahoma State has a strong tradition of good heavyweight wrestlers -- they had the NCAA runner-up just last year, in fact. Their heavyweights this year won't be adding to that proud tradition. Cassioppi has eaten a couple of losses in back-to-back duals, but those were against the two best heavyweights in the sport. This match should be just the pick-me-up he needs heading into the postseason. 

If Iowa takes care of business in this dual, the final score could be pretty lopsided. That said, a lot of the individual matches could be pretty close. I'm only picking Oklahoma State to win one match (and that one's a toss-up), but it wouldn't stun me to see them win a few more than that, either. The problem for the 'Pokes is that they probably aren't going to be favored in any of these matches -- it's tough to win a dual that way. We'll find out how it plays out on Sunday night, though. 

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