#1 Iowa vs #6 Nebraska Wrestling: Preview

By RossWB on January 15, 2021 at 1:38 pm
go hawks go
@Hawks_Wrestling (Twitter)

WHO: #6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
WHEN: Friday, January 15, 2021
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
START TIME: 8:00 PM Central
ONLINE: FoxSports.com
RADIO: Hawkeye Sports Network (check local listings); TuneIn (maybe)
ANNOUNCERS: Shane Sparks and Jim Gibbons

And we're back! It's been over 10 months since the last time Iowa wrestling competed in a dual meet (a 34-6 win over Oklahoma State in last year's regular season finale), but after a long absence, Iowa wrestling is finally set to be back in our lives tonight. Huzzah! 

Iowa gets the 2021 season underway with a visit from a a feisty border rival, #6 Nebraska. Nebraska-Iowa duals have often been chippy in recent years and there's no love lost between the Iowa and Nebraska coaching staffs; how will that dynamic play out in a Carver-Hawkeye Arena without fans? TBD, although we might be able to better hear any insults directed from one bench to the other. 

The Huskers should bring a pretty strong side to this dual -- they have a ranked wrestler at each weight, even if many of those rankings are in the teens or 20s. Chad Red should provide a nice early test for Jaydin Eierman in his Iowa debut at 141 lbs, but the real fireworks are likely to occur at the upper weights. There's the potential for a trio of Top 10 showdowns from 174 to 197, all three of which could be previews of future Big Ten or NCAA semifinal (or even final) matchups. Kemerer-Labriola (174) and Warner-Schultz (197) are particularly interesting in that sense. 

A final note: there are multiple wrestlers listed at several weights for both teams in the match notes. The NCAA is allowing schools to compete in "extra" matches at duals that do count toward a wrestler's official record. Sometimes these bonus matches occur before the main dual meet, sometimes after. I don't know that the "extra" wrestlers listed below (like Aaron Cashman or Patrick Kennedy) will be wrestling in those bonus matches, but it seems like a possibility. Given the limited schedule this season, I do expect the primary starters to wrestle in virtually every match, unless they're unable due to injury or illness. 

125 #1 Spencer Lee (SR, 0-0)
Aaron Cashman (SO, 0-0)
vs #16 Liam Cronin (SR, 1-0)
133 #5 Austin DeSanto (SR, 0-0) vs #20 Alex Thomsen (SO, 0-1)
Tucker Sjomeling (JR, 0-1)
141 #1 Jaydin Eierman (SR, 0-0)
Carter Happel (SR, 0-0)
vs #7 Chad Red (SR, 1-0)
Ridge Lovett (SO, 0-0)
149 #6 Max Murin (JR, 0-0)
Bretli Reyna (FR, 0-0)
vs #16 Brock Hardy (FR, 1-0)
Jevon Parrish (SO, 0-1)
157 #7 Kaleb Young (SR, 0-0) vs #29 Kaleb Licking (SR, 0-1)
165 #2 Alex Marinelli (SR, 0-0) vs #17 Peyton Robb (SO, 0-1)
Isaiah Alford (RS FR, 0-0)
174 #1 Michael Kemerer (SR, 0-0)
Patrick Kennedy (FR, 0-0)
vs #4 Mikey Labriola (JR, 1-0)
184 #8 Nelson Brands (SO, 0-0) vs #6 Taylor Venz (SR, 0-0)
197 #3 Jacob Warner (JR, 0-0)
Connor Corbin (JR, 0-0)
vs #2 Eric Schultz (SR, 1-0)
Silas Allred (FR, 0-1)
285 #3 Tony Cassioppi vs #23 Christian Lance (SR, 0-1)
Cale Davidson (JR, 0-0)

Let's go weight-by-weight: 

125: Spencer Lee's a senior?! Where has the time gone... There are a lot of good things about the NCAA's decision to grant an additional year of eligibility to winter sports athletes, but one of the best is definitely the fact that we don't have to say our goodbyes to Lee this season. His year is set to get underway with a match against Cronin, who cruised against Minnesota's Patrick McKee (8-1 decision win) in his season opener last week. Lee defeated Cronin, a transfer from Indiana, twice last year, with a 54-second pin and a 15-0 technical fall. I see another lopsided victory in his future.

133: Alex Thomsen was at 125 lbs last year, where he went 13-15 overall. His debut at 133 lbs didn't go well, either, as he dropped a 9-2 decision to Minnesota's Boo Dryden last week. I don't think Week 2 is going to go any better with Austin DeSanto lining up across the mat. It's been too long since we've seen DeSanto's relentless pace and varied offensive attacks on the mat. I think he'll put on a show here and score a lot of points -- enough for a major decision, at least. 

141: As noted above, Eierman-Red is one of the definite highlights of this dual meet. Red is a tricky opponent for Eierman's Iowa debut, given his explosive offensive attacks and his solid defensive base. But I think Eierman will show us just why his move to Iowa was such a huge boost for the Hawkeyes. 

149: This should be our first glimpse of Murin up at his new weight of 149 lbs -- how will that new weight suit him? Brock Hardy had a nice debut last week, picking up a 9-2 win over Minnesota's Michael Blockhus, so I expect a pretty close match here. It could be a bit of a coin-flip. but I think Murin will grind out his first win at 149. 

157: Two Kalebs enter, only one will survive! Well, that's not true. Presumably both Kaleb Young and Kaleb Licking will be just fine after this bout. Anyway, I don't think Licking can hang with Kaleb Young, who will pull away for a comfortable decision win. 

165: Bulls on parade! Alex Marinelli's 2021 campaign is set to begin with a match against Peyton Robb, up at 165 after two years at 157. Robb isn't going to have any answers for The Bull's attacks. I see Marinelli getting bonus points here.  

174: This starts the most intriguing stretch of the dual by far, as the first of three matches pitting Top 10 opponents against one another. 174 features a Mike-off, between Michael Kemerer and Mikey Labriola. They wrestled just once last year, a 3-1 Kemerer win at the Iowa-Nebraska dual, though it took some late Kemdawg points to secure that victory, if memory serves. I expect another close match and Labriola is certainly good enough to pull off the (mild) upset... but I still predict Kemerer to record the victory.

184: Venz had some notable scraps with Cash Wilcke, Iowa's former starter at 184, including a 5-2 win by Wilcke over Venz a few years ago. Venz was 20-8 at 184 a year ago and ranked in the Top 10 when the season ended; a win here would easily be the best of Nelson Brands' young career. I am very intrigued to see what Brands looks like at 184 this year, in particular to see if he's added enough weight to compete with the natural 184ers at this weight. For the record, while Brands is the only name listed at 184 for this match, I do expect Abe Assad to get some opportunities this year and that the starting role here has not been firmly decided. As for this match... I think Venz has too much strength and too much experience for Brands.

197: There are a lot of enticing matches in this dual, but 197 might be the cream of the crop, as Warner and Schultz are clearly two of the very best wrestlers at this weight this season. They're going to be top contenders for Big Ten and NCAA titles this year and odds are very good this will not be the only time they see one another this season. They have a long history against one another, with Warner winning both matches in 2019 (4-1 and 7-5 in overtime) and Schultz winning last year (3-1). This is a true toss-up match, but I'm going to side with Warner to edge out a victory. 

285: Spare a thought for Christian Lance. Nebraska's heavyweight began his year with #1 Gable Steveson; the Minnesota powerhouse rolled to a 23-8 technical fall win last week. Now he gets #3 Tony Cassioppi. Of course, given how absolutely stacked the heavyweight division is in the Big Ten this year, there won't be many easy bouts for a guy like Lance. In any event, I expect Big Tony to get his year started with a solid victory. 

Nebraska has a good team, very strong at several weights and with no truly glaring weak spots. Unfortunately, they're facing an Iowa team that's very strong at virtually every weight. It doesn't help that Nebraska's best wrestlers (141, 174, 184, 197) are at weights where (184 aside) Iowa appears to have an even better wrestler. That should all add up to a pretty comfortable win for Iowa in their season-opening dual meet. 

Feel free to watch along and join in the comments below! 

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