The 2021 NCAA Wrestling Tournament got underway on Thursday and it was, on the whole, a very, very good day for Iowa. The Hawkeyes went 18-2 overall (10-0 in the first round for the first time since 1992) and placed eight wrestlers into the quarterfinals. As I said earlier in the week, tournaments aren't won on the first day -- but they can be lost. With one exception, Iowa successfully avoided upsets today and positioned themselves to do make the push for a title tomorrow.
|125||#1 Spencer Lee||TECH FALL (16-1; 1:33)||#32 Patrick McCormick (Virginia)|
|133||#4 Austin DeSanto||TECH FALL (19-4; 4:34)||#29 Paul Bianchi (Little Rock)|
|141||#1 Jaydin Eierman||TECH FALL (20-5; 6:19)||#32 Cayden Rooks (Indiana)|
|149||#12 Max Murin||DEC (8-7)||#21 Graham Rooks (Indiana)|
|157||#5 Kaleb Young||MAJ DEC (10-2)||#28 Caleb Licking (Nebraska)|
|165||#1 Alex Marinelli||MAJ DEC (19-6)||#33 Austin Yant (UNI)|
|174||#1 Michael Kemerer||TECH FALL (23-7; 4:08)||#32 Drew Hughes (Michigan State)|
|184||#12 Nelson Brands||DEC (8-6)||#21 Dominic Ducharme (CSU-Bakersfield)|
|197||#5 Jacob Warner||DEC (9-7 SV)||#28 Nick Reenan (NC State)|
|285||#5 Tony Cassioppi||MAJ DEC (9-1)||#28 Jon Spaulding (Edinboro)|
Not going to recap this one much -- Iowa came out and largely dominated. Lee, DeSanto, and Eierman got Iowa started with back-to-back-to-back technical falls to bring the fireworks to the party early and often. DeSanto, in particular, looked improved on his patchy form from the Big Ten Tournament, which was encouraging to see (though he's still sporting a pretty noticeable wrap/splint on his hand). Max Murin made things awfully exciting, but was able to eke out an 8-7 thanks to riding time. Kaleb Young and Alex Marinelli contributed comfortable major decision wins from the middle of Iowa's lineup, before Michael Kemerer used a takedown clinic to pick up another tech fall for Iowa's first round. Like Murin, Nelson Brands had a tight match, but was able to earn a narrow 8-6 victory to advance. The most dramatic match of the day for Iowa was Jacob Warner's heart-stopping win in the first round, as he turned around an early 6-0 deficit (and nearly getting pinned) to score a late takedown to tie the match at 7-7, before winning in sudden victory with another takedown. Tony Cassioppi ended the first round with another easy major decision win for the Hawkeyes. 10 wins, seven with bonus points? That's very much a winning formula.
|125||#1 Spencer Lee||MAJ DEC (15-5)||#17 Killian Cardinale (West Virginia)|
|133||#4 Austin DeSanto||FALL (1:36)||#20 Ryan Sullivan (West Virginia)|
|141||#1 Jaydin Eierman||DEC (5-3)||#16 Cole Matthews (Pitt)|
|149||#12 Max Murin||DEC (5-3)||#5 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)|
|157||#12 Brady Berge, Penn State||DEC (3-2)||#5 Kaleb Young|
|165||#1 Alex Marinelli||MAJ DEC (13-2)||#17 Thomas Bullard (NC State)|
|174||#1 Michael Kemerer||TECH FALL (17-1; 5:06)||#17 Benjamin Pasiuk (Army)|
|184||#5 Hunter Bolen, Virginia Tech||DEC (6-2)||#12 Nelson Brands|
|197||#5 Jacob Warner||DEC (3-0)||#12 Lucas Davison (Northwestern)|
|285||#5 Tony Cassioppi||MAJ DEC (11-0)||#21 Tate Orndorff (Ohio State)|
The second round didn't have the fireworks of the first round -- or the perfect 10-0 record. But an 8-2 mark is still quite good and Iowa did get bonus points in five of their eight wins. The second round got underway with Iowa's usual bonus point beast in action, but Spencer Lee wasn't his usual dominant self -- he wrestled a full seven minutes for the first time this season and was taken down twice by Cardinale. This was certainly not the razor-sharp Lee we've seen slice through the field all year (and last year); hopefully it was just a hiccup and we see the Lee we're familiar with tomorrow. (And, yes, the fact that we're griping about a 15-5 major decision win is a hell of a testament to just how much Spencer Lee has spoiled us.)
The big bonus point fireworks at the light weights came from Austin DeSanto and while that's not unexpected given his track record, it was a surprise to see him score a pin just over 90 seconds into the match. But he saw an opening and took advantage of it brilliantly. Surprisingly, that's the only pin Iowa has managed to score so far in the tournament. Eierman followed up his first round takedown frenzy with a more pedestrian performance in round two, winning just 5-3 and struggling to get the points flowing from his feet or on turns on the mat. Eierman should still be fine, but hopefully he can stretch the margin of victory in some of his upcoming bouts.
149 and 157 were a good news/bad news situation for Iowa. The good news: Max Murin avenged his loss to 5-seed Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) at the Big Ten Tournament with a controlled 5-3 win here to spring a 12-over-5 upset and advance to the quarters. Murin avoided Lovett's funk and big moves and took (and finished) a pair of nice shots of his own, including the match-winner in the third period. Very solid performance from Murin. The bad news: Iowa gave back that 12-over-5 upset by taking part in one of their own, with 5-seed Kaleb Young falling to 12-seed Brody Berge. Worse, Iowa got upset by a Penn State wrestler. Young gave up a takedown in the first, got a pair of escapes after that, but couldn't finish any of his own shots. Not an unfamiliar story with Young, unfortunately.
Business picked back up with Marinelli and Kemerer at 165 and 174. Marinelli methodically broke down his opponent with a series of takedowns and a few near fall points en route to a methodical, but lopsided 19-6 major decision win. Two nice wins for The Bull today, with him opening things up on offense in both matches. Kemerer put on a top wrestling clinic in his match; it lasted barely over five minutes and I think Kem spent all but 20 seconds of that match on top, either riding the snot out of his opponent or tilting him for near fall points. Just complete and utter domination from Kemdawg.
Iowa's second loss of the night game at 184, where Nelson Brands was outclassed by 5-seed Hunter Bolen. Bolen used a pair of takedowns, an escape, and a riding time point to cruise to victory; he also easily stuffed any offense attempted by Brands. Nelson had a very nice showing in the Big Ten Tournament consolation bracket, so hopefully he can reproduce that form tomorrow (and Saturday). Jacob Warner used a takedown and escape to get a simple 3-0 win at 197 (much less dramatic than his earlier victory), while Tony Cassioppi used a handful of takedowns and a mountain of riding time to rack up an 11-0 major decision win in Iowa's final match of the day. Well done, fellas.
|125||#1 Spencer Lee, 9-0||vs||#9 Devin Schroeder, 11-4 (Purdue)|
|133||#4 Austin DeSanto, 9-1||vs||#5 Micky Phillippi, 10-1 (Pitt)|
|141||#1 Jaydin Eierman, 10-0||vs||#9 Dresden Simon, 11-1 (Central Michigan)|
|149||#12 Max Murin, 6-3||vs||#4 Boo Lewallen, 18-1 (Oklahoma State)|
|165||#1 Alex Marinelli, 7-0||vs||#8 Shane Griffiths, 8-1 (Stanford)|
|174||#1 Michael Kemerer, 9-0||vs||#8 Daniel Bullard, 10-1 (NC State)|
|197||#5 Jacob Warner, 10-2||vs||#4 AJ Ferrari, 17-1 (Oklahoma State)|
|285||#5 Tony Cassioppi, 10-2||vs||#4 Cohlton Schultz, 14-0 (Arizona State)|
Lee is facing a familiar foe in Schroeder (he's faced him -- and beaten him -- in each of the last two Big Ten Tournament finals), but the other Iowa wrestlers have fresh opponents. There are some very good tests here for Iowa wrestlers, especially in Phillippi, Lewallen, Ferrari, and Schultz. The latter two are highly touted freshmen who have made a big impact so far; hopefully Warner and Cass can use some veteran wiles to earn some big wins for the Hawkeyes. Iowa met expectations on Thursday -- they were seeded to get eight wrestlers into the quarterfinals and they did (albeit not exactly the eight wrestlers that the seeds would have predicted). By seed, they're expected to place five of these eight into the semis -- the four 1-seeds and then DeSanto, the 4-seed at 133 lbs. Upset wins for Cassioppi and Warner (though a 5-over-4 upset is more of an "upset" than anything else) and Murin would really help the Hawkeye cause a lot tomorrow. If Iowa can continue meeting expectations tomorrow, they'll move one step closer to a national championship this weekend.
|157||#5 Kaleb Young, 6-2||vs||#22 Benjamin Barton, 11-3 (Campbell)|
|184||#12 Nelson Brands, 8-5||vs||#22 Devin Kane, 9-4 (North Carolina)|
Just win, guys. Survive and advance is the name of the game as Young and Brands begin their paths to possible All-America status from the consolation bracket. Though a few bonus points along the way would be appreciated as well.
Again, Iowa had a very good day. Unfortunately, so did Penn State, who benefited from an upset win at 125 in the first round, as well as an upset win at 157 (at Iowa's expense, no less) and a bracket that's fallen to part in their section of the 197 lbs ranks. It would be nice to see a few more Nittany Lions fall into the consolation bracket during the quarterfinals tomorrow; fingers crossed that's what we'll get. In the meantime, the focus for Iowa needs to be just continuing to do what they've been doing. Keep wrestling hard, keep scoring points, and keep winning. Do that and everything else will take care of itself.