Entering Sunday, only one thing stood in the way of Iowa and a perfect 13-0 regular season: a dual meet with one of the Hawkeyes' most bitter rivals, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys handed Iowa their only regular season defeat a year ago and they've been a thorn in Iowa's side for decades. They wouldn't have a chance to play spoiler today, though -- Iowa jumped on them from the start and squashed them into the mat and barely let up over the course of 10 matches. Iowa won 8 of 10 matches in the dual and cruised to 34-6 victory over their longtime nemesis, recording one of their biggest wins in the history of the rivalry.
The 34-6 drubbing was Iowa's most lopsided win over the Cowboys in 25 years -- since a 31-3 victory in 1994-95. 34 points was the most Iowa has scored in this dual since they posted 35 in a 35-2 win over Oklahoma State in 1990-91. Overall, this was an absolute stomping and one of Iowa's most comprehensive wins of the season. Iowa picked up bonus points in six of their eight wins, including a pair of thrilling first period pins and four major decision victories. Only a handful of matches were even close.
The dual started at 125, where Iowa's usual sparkplug, Spencer Lee, got off to a quick 6-0 start and was able to earn a 12-3 major decision victory over a Top 5 opponent. Just Spencer doin' Spencer things. Austin DeSanto followed and proved why Iowa's 1-2 punch at 125 and 133 is so thrilling by decking Reece Witcraft in just 2:38 of action. DeSanto had over 10 points on Witcraft even before he managed to secure the pin, so his normal high tempo attacking style was definitely paying dividends. Max Murin kept the bonus point train rolling at 141 with a very impressive 15-4 dismantling of Dusty Hone; Murin has looked excellent since returning from a month-long injury absence. Pat Lugo completed Iowa's hot start to the dual with the most stunning result of the dual, a first period pin of his own -- over one of the best wrestlers at 149 lbs. Neither Lewallen nor Lugo had been able to make much happen in the first few minutes of their bout, but Lugo took advantage of a slight opening to throw Lewallen to his back -- and get the pin. That gave Iowa a 20-0 lead after four weights and Carver was absolutely rocking.
Unfortunately, the good times halted briefly at the next weight, as Kaleb Young was surprisingly upset by Okie State's Wyatt Sheets. Sheets went down early and roared back in the second and third periods to outwork Young and earn a 9-5 win. Oklahoma State's joy was short-lived, though, as Alex Marinelli earned a narrow win for Iowa in the first match out of intermission. Michael Kemerer followed that win with an utterly dominant 12-2 major decision win over a familiar face (Joe Smith, son of Oklahoma State coach John Smith). Oklahoma State's second and final win of the night came at 184, as Nelson Brands got a surprise start for Iowa but was outmatched by Anthony Montalvo's size and strength in an 8-2 defeat. Jacob Warner answered that loss with a confident 8-3 win over his own at 197, before Tony Cassioppi wrapped up the dual with a lopsided 11-1 win at heavyweight. This was a comprehensive victory for Iowa, with several guys on the team looking very good -- an encouraging sign with tournament season coming up in a few weeks.
#1 Iowa 34, #9 Oklahoma State 6
|125||#1 Spencer Lee||MAJ DEC (12-3)||#4 Nick Piccininni||IOWA 4-0|
|133||#3 Austin DeSanto||FALL (2:38)||#14 Reece Witcraft||IOWA 10-0|
|141||#4 Max Murin||MAJ DEC (15-4)||#12 Dusty Hone||IOWA 14-0|
|149||#4 Pat Lugo||FALL (2:22)||#3 Boo Lewallen||IOWA 20-0|
|157||#19 Wyatt Sheets||DEC (9-4)||#4 Kaleb Young||IOWA 20-3|
|165||#2 Alex Marinelli||DEC (3-2)||#7 Travis Wittlake||IOWA 23-3|
|174||#1 Michael Kemerer||MAJ DEC (12-2)||#13 Joe Smith||IOWA 27-3|
|184||#14 Anthony Montalvo||DEC (8-2)||Nelson Brands||IOWA 27-6|
|197||#4 Jacob Warner||DEC (8-3)||#19 Dakota Geer||IOWA 30-6|
|285||#3 Tony Cassioppi||MAJ DEC (11-1)||Austin Harris||IOWA 34-6|
A few additional thoughts:
Spencer Lee's shocking loss to Piccininni in last year's dual set the tone for what became an Okie State rout; Lee's dominant win over Piccininni here set the tone for what became an Iowa rout. Lee looked masterful in the first two periods, especially in the top position where he twice turned Piccininni for near fall points and rode the hell out of him. He looked a bit more worn down in the third period and did concede a takedown to Piccininni, but when Lee is able to score 8-10 points in the first two periods, it doesn't matter too much if he isn't as sharp in the third period. He spends so much energy building those big leads and trying to finish matches early that his tank does seem a little emptier come the third period. The results are pretty hard to argue with, though.
Austin DeSanto, in contrast, tends to be the Energizer bunny when it comes to his proverbial gas tank -- not that it mattered much in this bout. Witcraft stymied DeSanto for about a minute, but eventually DeSanto was able to get a slick takedown on the edge of the mat and get four near fall points to open up a 6-0 lead. That opened up the floodgates for DeSanto and the points started flowing freely at that point. He had over 10 points on the board by the time he finally got the pin -- which he secured after some very savvy movement on the mat.
Max Murin made a winning return to the Iowa lineup last week with an impressive overtime win over Minnesota's Mitch McKee; he added an exclamation point to that return this week, with an impressive display of dominance against Okie State's Hone. Murin finished his shots extremely well (he recorded pair of takedowns in the first and second periods), he rode hard, and he blew the match open with a cradle that led to four near fall points. It was exciting to see Murin staying so aggressive throughout the match and continuing to look for points. This looks like a Murin who could do a lot of damage in March.
As the last dual of the regular season, Sunday night's dual was also Senior Night -- although just one senior took the mat for the Hawkeyes, Pat Lugo at 149 lbs. (Michael Kemerer is also technically a senior, but he's expected to pursue -- and receive -- a medical hardship waiver for an additional year of eligibility for next season.) Lugo certainly made the most of Senior Night, though, and concluded his Carver-Hawkeye career with the highest of highs -- a first-period pin over Boo Lewallen, one of the top contenders at 149 lbs this year. After a low-scoring, defensive battle through the first two minutes, Lugo found an opening and attacked, using his strength to muscle Lewallen to the mat on an upper body throw. Lugo took Lewallen directly from his feet to his back on the throw and finished the pin a few seconds later. Given how unexpected it was, Lugo's pin was probably the highlight of the night. This was a huge win for Lugo and should hopefully send him into tournament season with a lot of confidence.
157 was one of two missteps for Iowa on the evening and it was definitely the more surprising -- and concerning -- of the two losses. Young got on the board first in this match with a first period takedown... but it was pretty much all Sheets from that point on. Sheets used a reversal to take a 3-2 lead on Young in the second period and controlled the match from then on. Young struggled mightily on bottom against Sheets and didn't have much luck from neutral, either, as a few of his attacks ended up in scrambles that Sheets won and finished with a takedown. Sheets wrestled very well in this match and was certainly a deserving winner. We'll have to wait and see how much this defeat costs Young in the seeding at the NCAA Tournament next week.
Oklahoma State tried to make it two wins in a row a 165 lbs, but The Bull turned things back in favor of Iowa. This was a very cagey match -- it was the lowest-scoring match of the meet by far as both guys struggled to get through their opponent's defense. A scoreless first period gave way to quick escapes for both Wittlake and Marinelli in the second and third periods; the deadlock was only broken by Marinelli finally getting to Wittlake's leg with around 45 seconds to go -- and finishing his shot for the winning takedown. Wittlake didn't offer much offensively beyond a few ankle pick attempts, but his length allowed him to maintain his distance from Marinelli, which made it difficult for Marinelli to take good shots and put him in danger. But The Bull could only be denied for so long.
Michael Kemerer continued his incredibly impressive run with an absolutely dominant 12-2 major decision win over old foe Joe Smith. Kemerer was in complete control of this match and absolutely manhandled Smith. Kemerer had four takedowns and kept on top of Smith like a weighted blanket, amassing over five minutes of riding time. Smith is a talented wrestler -- and he couldn't do a thing against Kemerer. This version of Kemerer is the best one we've seen in his five years at Iowa and it's incredibly exciting to consider what he might be able to do in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments this year.
Iowa's only other stumble came at 184 lbs, where Nelson Brands got a surprise start but couldn't earn another victory. His loss wasn't for lack of trying, though -- rather it was for lack of size (and strength). Brands was clearly undersized in this bout and that size and strength gap made the difference in the bout. Brands got in deep on several shots against Montalvo... he just wasn't able to finish any of them. By contrast, Montalvo was able to finish his shots, often by using his superior strength to horse Brands down to the mat. Brands simply isn't a legit 184er -- not now and maybe not ever. The bigger question is why he wrestled this match and not one of Iowa's other options here, like Abe Assad or Cash Wilcke. After the dual, Brands indicated that Assad was held out for "precautionary" reasons, but I haven't seen any explanation yet as to why Wilcke didn't get the nod instead here. Per Brands, Assad is still going to be the wrestler who competes at the Big Ten Tournament (as well as the NCAA Tournament), but his health seems like a definite question mark at this point unless Brands & Co. are simply being extremely cautious. Assad hasn't wrestled in three weeks, since losing to Michigan State's Cam Caffey; it would have been reassuring to see him get at least one more match before getting thrown into the cauldron that is the Big Ten Tournament.
In better news, Jacob Warner followed up his good outing a week ago against Minnesota with another strong outing here, dispatching Dakota Geer with a comfortable 8-3 decision victory. Warner stayed on the attack throughout the match and was able to secure a takedown in each period, which was enormously encouraging. An aggressive, engaged Warner is one who can do some real damage for Iowa in March.
- Finally, Tony Cassioppi capped off the evening with one more bonus point win. He badly wanted to put Harris on his back for a pin, but was unable to manage that. Instead, he settled for a completely one-sided 11-1 victory, dominating Harris from neutral and from the top position. A pin for Cassioppi would have been the perfect cherry on top of this beatdown sundae, but a major decision win was quite enjoyable, too.
NEXT: Iowa heads to Piscataway, NJ for the Big Ten Tournaments on March 7-8.