#1 Iowa 19, #5 NC State 15: Grinders

By RossWB on December 22, 2021 at 1:21 pm
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#5 NC State promised to pose #1 Iowa's stiffest test of the 2021-22 wrestling season so far and they more than lived up to that promise on Tuesday night, pushing Iowa to the limit in a tense, exciting dual meet. The Wolfpack won four of 10 matches in the dual, including back-to-back victories at 149 and 157 and 174 and 184. The win at 184 lbs actually gave NC State a lead in the dual heading into the final two matches, by virtue of a big bonus point victory at 157 pins, where Ed Scott pulled off a stunning first period pin over Kaleb Young. Jacob Warner stopped the bleeding for Iowa with a tight win at 197 lbs, using a late takedown to secure the winning points. That restored Iowa's lead in the dual (16-15) and Tony Cassioppi secured the victory with a 6-1 win at heavyweight. 

A win is a win is a win, and beating a Top 5 opponent like NC State is nothing to sniff at, but there were certainly more warning signs for Iowa in this dual meet, indications that things will need to improve if Iowa is going to add to their Big Ten and NCAA championship hauls in a few months. The good month is that it's still December and we're still three months away from the biggest and most important matches of the season; there's still time to improve. Now we just have to wait and see if that improvement takes place. 

#1 Iowa 19, #5 NC State 15

125 #1 Spencer Lee DEC (6-1) #5 Jakob Camacho IOWA 3-0
133 #3 Austin DeSanto MAJ DEC (16-7) #17 Kai Orine IOWA 7-0
141 #2 Jaydin Eierman DEC (7-6) #16 Ryan Jack IOWA 10-0
149 #3 Tariq Wilson DEC (7-3) Cobe Siebrecht IOWA 10-3
157 #23 Ed Scott FALL (1:10) #8 Kaleb Young IOWA 10-9
165 #1 Alex Marinelli DEC (7-2) Donald Cates IOWA 13-9
174 #5 Hayden Hidlay DEC (4-2) Nelson Brands IOWA 13-12
184 #3 Trent Hidlay DEC (6-0) Abe Assad NC STATE 15-13
197 #7 Jacob Warner DEC (3-2) #15 Isaac Trumble IOWA 16-15
285 #6 Tony Cassioppi DEC (6-2) Tyrie Houghton IOWA 19-15

A few thoughts: 

  • Spencer Lee had to wrestle a full seven minutes for the second time in three matches, with a narrow (by his standards) 6-1 decision victory over Jakob Camcho the result here. At least right now, Lee is certainly not the unstoppable and untouchable force that has dominated this division for the last four seasons. How much of that is due to rust (his matches over the last few days were his first in real competition since last March) and how much of that is due to physical limitations from his knee issues is probably TBD. And, you know, he still remains very very very very good. 
  • DeSanto continued his bonus point tear, recording a cool 16-7 major decision win over a game opponent in Orine. DeSanto's season is ultimately going to be measured by what he does against the other top contenders at this weight, but it's still gratifying (and fun) to see him romp over the weight's lesser contenders, too. 
  • I think I said not to worry too much about Jaydin Eierman's performance yesterday? Uh, it might be time to worry at least a little bit, based on his showing here. Another bad start dug him an early hole and while he got out of it, he did so by the slimmest of margins (literally, a point) and he was in significant danger of giving up a defensive fall late in the match. Eierman's funky style and risk-taking approach serve him well more often than not, so it would be a mistake to try to stop him from wrestling that way entirely. But he probably needs to temper that with a little more pragmatism at times and, at the very least, do a bit more to avoid going down five or six (or more!) points in the first period. We'll see if these last few matches were just a small hiccup for him. 
  • Max Murin got the night off, with Cobe Siebrecht replacing him in the lineup at 149. He avoided conceding bonus points to #3 Tariq Wilson, which is probably the biggest positive we can take away from that bout. 
  • Speaking of things to worry about... Kaleb Young and the 157 lb lineup spot definitely belong on that list. Young's loss last night drops him to 6-4 on the season and even that is deceptive -- four of those wins came against lower level competition at the Luther Open; he's just 2-4 against Division I opponents this year, with losses in three of his last four matches. Half of his losses at the weight have come against some of the best in the country at this weight (ISU's David Carr, Princeton's Quincy Monday), but now he's also losing to fringe Top 10 guys (Lehigh's Josh Humphreys) and a guy further down the Top 20 rankings (Ed Scott). Losses like that will lead to a quick exit from the NCAA Tournament and leave Iowa with a hole at 157 lbs. The bad news is that Iowa doesn't have a lot of other options at 157 likely to be much better this year. Hopefully Young can figure things out ASAP. 
  • Alex Marinelli got Iowa back on track with a win at 165, albeit a fairly workmanlike 7-2 victory. Bonus points were sorely lacking for Iowa as a whole last night; only DeSanto contributed extra points to Iowa's victory. 
  • Marinelli's win was the only oasis for Iowa in a sea of losses, though, as they dropped back-to-back matches to the Hidlay brothers at 174 and 184, with Nelson Brands losing a close 4-2 decision to Hayden and Abe Assad dropping a less-close 6-0 decision to Trent. Neither loss was surprising -- the Hidlays are each ranked in the Top 5 at their respective weights -- though the latter defeat did perhaps show the gap between Assad and one of the top guys at 184 lbs. Improvement is needed, for sure. And at 174 lbs, the sooner Iowa can get Michael Kemerer in the lineup, the better.  
  • As noted, Jacob Warner stopped Iowa's skid -- and preserved their shot at winning the dual -- with a late win at 197 lbs. His winning takedown came with under a minute to go in the third period. Given the other disappointing results last night, we'll take a positive like that win, no matter how tight it was. 
  • And Tony Cassioppi once again got the job done at heavyweight, getting a solid 6-1 win thanks to takedowns in the first and third periods. 

NEXT: Iowa will next be in action at the Midlands Tournament in Hoffman Estates, IL (12/29 and 12/30). (EDIT: Just kidding, Midlands has been canceled. Sigh.)

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