#1 Iowa 36, #9 Illinois 6: The Pin Zone

By RossWB on January 31, 2021 at 4:14 pm
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Did I jinx Iowa when I called for a 42-0 shutout victory in my preview? I mean, they could only muster a 36-6 victory when the matches actually played out on the mat. A truly shameful prediction effort on my part. 

So yeah: this dual was expected to be a lopsided rout and that's exactly what it was. Iowa won the first five bouts, grabbing two pins and two major decisions to open up a 23-0 lead on the Illini at intermission. Illinois got their first takedowns of the match -- and their first win -- at 165, as regular starter Alex Marinelli missed out on the dual due to COVID protocols. Hopefully he's back in the lineup soon. Iowa won three of the final four matches of the dual, with a major decision from Michael Kemerer and a dual-ending pin from Tony Cassioppi at heavyweight. It's always nice to bookend a dual with pins. 

WEIGHT WINNER RESULT LOSER TEAM SCORE
125 #1 Spencer Lee FALL (2:27) #13 Justin Cardani IOWA 6-0
133 #4 Austin DeSanto MAJ DEC (18-6) #23 Lucas Byrd IOWA 10-0
141 #1 Jaydin Eierman FALL (6:05) #13 Dylan Duncan IOWA 16-0
149 #5 Max Murin DEC (3-1) #8 Michael Carr IOWA 19-0
157 #6 Kaleb Young MAJ DEC (13-4) Johnny Mologousis IOWA 23-0
165 Luke Odom DEC (10-6) Joe Kelly IOWA 23-3
174 #1 Michael Kemerer MAJ DEC (10-2) #26 DJ Shannon IOWA 27-3
184 #11 Zach Braunagel DEC (3-1 SV) #6 Nelson Brands IOWA 27-6
197 #3 Jacob Warner DEC (4-0) #24 Matt Wroblewski IOWA 30-6
285 #3 Tony Cassioppi FALL (3:25) #5 Luke Luffman IOWA 36-6

A few weight-by-weight thoughts: 

* Spencer Lee remains absurd. He had his longest match of the season today... and he still only wrestled two-and-a-half minutes. Just as he did in the first two matches of the year, Lee ended things with a first period pin today. Cardani made him work a little bit harder than Cronin or McKee did in the other bouts, but this was the same formula as he used to great effect there: takedown, tilts, eventual pin. He's truly unbelievable. 

* DeSanto continued his torrid scoring pace as well, though it took him a little while to get going. Byrd was able to stymie DeSanto's attacks early on, but eventually DeSanto connected on a dump from a fireman's carry -- and was able to expose Byrd's back for four nearfall points (and a lot of pain) in the process. DeSanto didn't totally blow the match open until late in the second period, when he was able to string together back-to-back-to-back takedowns in a little over 10 seconds. In the third period it was just a question of whether or not he could get enough takedowns to secure a technical fall; alas, he had to settle for an 18-6 major decision instead. He's still averaging over 20 points per match, though, which is pretty absurd: 

* It would be hard to find two wrestlers with demeanors more diametrically opposed than DeSanto and Eierman. Where DeSanto is all intensity and bullheaded aggression, Eierman is one of the most languid wrestlers I've ever seen; he doesn't ever seem to be concerned or panicky about a position or a match situation. That's the benefit of having superb defense and being an exceptional counter-wrestler. Most wrestlers want to keep opponents off their legs (for obvious reasons), but Eierman seems to invite it because it enables him to get to some of his own preferred attacks out of the counter. And if you get out of position and let Eierman get you in a cradle, well, then it's curtains for you: 

* Murin continues to provide workmanlike wins for Iowa at 149 lbs. There's certainly none of the fireworks or splashy attacks that you get from Iowa's lighter weights -- but his 3-0 record is identical to theirs, too. So he's been getting the job done. Murin had a tight match with Carr here, tied 1-1 in the third period before he was finally able to finish the winning takedown with under a minute to go. Murin has shown a good knack for getting winning takedowns in the third period or overtime, but the next step for him needs to be scoring more in the first and second periods -- so he hopefully doesn't need to score as many late takedowns to earn a victory. 

* Kaleb Young hasn't been a prolific bonus point technician for Iowa over the years, so it's always worth tipping our cap to him when he does light up the scoreboard, which he did in this match to the tune of a 13-4 major decision. It was good to see Young actively pushing for those bonus points in the second and third periods by continuing to seek out (and finish) takedowns. The outcome of the match was well-decided by that point, but he didn't coast to the finish. 

* As noted, Alex Marinelli missed this dual due to COVID procedures. Hopefully he's back in the lineup soon. In his absence, Joe Kelly got a start and, well, he had some struggles. He got caught flat-footed by Odom on several occasions, which led to multiple takedowns conceded. He managed to earn escapes, but wasn't able to finish any of his own shots during the match. Brands didn't offer many additional comments re: Marinelli's status after the dual

* Kemerer added another bonus point win for Iowa with a 10-2 major decision win. This was kind of a "Kemerer plays the hits" match, as he never really seemed to get out of second gear -- nor did he need to. He scored a few slick takedowns, rode well, and fended off any attacks from Shannon with ease. Kemerer looked in control throughout this match. 

* Brands vs Braunagel looked like one of the more intriguing -- and competitive -- matches of the dual before the day began and that's exactly how it played out on the mat; outside of Murin-Carr, it was easily the most tightly-contested bout of the night. Brands fell short here, just as he did two years ago against Braunagel, and his biggest problem appeared to be his offense -- or lack thereof. He spent too much of regulation hand-fighting and locked in tie-ups with Braunagel and didn't spend enough time shooting or making good attacks. Brands got to Braunagel's leg on a nice shot at the beginning of sudden victory, but wasn't able to finish; less than a minute later, Braunagel was finishing a shot on him to win the match. It felt like Nelson wrestled Braunagel's match here; if he wants to beat him in the future, he probably needs to do a better job of forcing Braunagel to wrestle Nelson's style of match, which ought to involve a faster tempo, more attacks, and (hopefully) more points. For now, let's hope this loss can be a source of motivation for Nelson. 

* Warner's win was as comfortable as you're likely to see a 4-0 win look, if only because he kept Wreblowski from being able to put him in any danger whatsoever due to powerful, controlling rides in the first and third periods. Warner finished the match with over four minutes of riding time -- but no significant attempts to score nearfall points or get a pin. Warner is good at riding opponents, but if he's not going to use that control to threaten your opponents and score more points, it seems a bit pointless. I would have preferred to see Warner cut Wreblowski loose and attempt to score more points from his feet. Trying to win every match with a single takedown is tricky business.

* Happily, Tony Cassioppi managed to end the dual with an exclamation point -- and Iowa's third pin of the day. You couldn't have scripted a better response by Cassioppi to last week's disappointing loss; he was facing a quality opponent -- and he came out and absolutely dominated. He picked up a takedown midway through the first and then put on a strong ride for the rest of the period, while trying to turn Luffman for back points. Then in the second he got a quick escape  and went back on the attack, quickly locking up a cradle  and planting Luffman on his back. Game, set, match. Really tremendous showing for Cassioppi and hopefully one that will be a big confidence-booster for him moving forward. 

NEXT: Iowa returns to action next weekend for a pair of duals in a triangular (or tri-meet) against Ohio State and Purdue in West Lafayette. The Ohio State dual is scheduled to get underway at 1 PM Central on Sunday, with television coverage on BTN. The Purdue dual does not currently have a start time, and is likely to be broadcast on BTN+. 

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