#2 Iowa wrestling rolled into Evanston on Friday night with a bit of roster uncertainty, due to a pre-meet lineup card that featured multiple options at several weights. I said that Iowa's margin of victory in this dual would likely depend on how many regular starters Iowa kept out of action. As it turns out, only two of Iowa's regular starters -- Austin DeSanto at 133 and Jaydin Eierman at 141 -- didn't compete here; not coincidentally, those were also the only two weights that Northwestern won in this dual meet. Iowa's regular starters won all eight other weights, highlighted by a Top 10 showdown at 125 and a string of bonus point wins at 165, 174, 184, and 197. Would Iowa have posted a shutout if DeSanto and Eierman had wrestled? Perhaps, although it's fair to also point out that Northwestern's best wrestler -- Ryan Deakin, #2 at 157 -- also didn't wrestle tonight and he certainly would have been favored to beat Kaleb Young if he had competed.
It was a back-and-forth, competitive dual meet at the beginning; Drake Ayala got Iowa on the board with an impressive 6-5 victory over #7 Michael DeAugustino, Ayala's second-straight win over a Top 10-ranked opponent. The absence of DeSanto and Eierman was keenly felt at the next two weights, where Cullan Schriever lost a narrow 4-3 defeat to #9 Chris Cannon at 133 and Drew Bennett got out-horsed by #32 Frank Tel Shahar at 141. Iowa was headed to three consecutive losses in the dual before Max Murin recorded takedown with under 30 seconds to go in the third period to upset #5 Yahya Thomas. The first half of the dual ended with Kaleb Young grinding out a very narrow win over Trevor Chumbley; that victory gave Iowa a 9-6 lead heading into intermission.
Northwestern's lineup is front-loaded with quality at the lower weights, though; they're much weaker at the upper weights and that became very apparent against this Iowa lineup. Alex Marinelli got the post-intermission scoring binge started with a forfeit win at 165; Michael Kemerer actually had to wrestle to earn his six team points, but he still cruised to a first period pin at 174. Abe Assad took only slightly longer to finish off a 16-0 technical fall win at 184. Even Jacob Warner got in on the bonus point action at 197, putting on a mini-takedown clinic en route to an 11-2 major decision win. Tony Cassioppi wasn't able to make it 5/5 for Iowa wrestlers and bonus point wins after intermission, but he did get a solid 7-3 win to wrap up another dual meet victory for Iowa.
#2 Iowa 33, #23 Northwestern 6
|125||#12 Drake Ayala||DEC (6-5)||#7 Michael DeAugustino||IOWA 3-0|
|133||#9 Chris Cannon||DEC (4-3)||Cullan Schriever||TIE 3-3|
|141||#32 Frank Tel Shahar||DEC (10-6)||Drew Bennett||N'WESTERN 6-3|
|149||#12 Max Murin||DEC (4-3)||#5 Yahya Thomas||TIE 6-6|
|157||#12 Kaleb Young||DEC (6-4)||Trevor Chumbley||IOWA 9-6|
|165||#1 Alex Marinelli||FORFEIT||--||IOWA 15-6|
|174||#2 Michael Kemerer||FALL (2:36)||Ankhaa Enkmandakh||IOWA 21-6|
|184||#18 Abe Assad||TECH FALL (16-0)||Jack Jessen||IOWA 26-6|
|197||#5 Jacob Warner||MAJ DEC (11-2)||#28 Andrew Davison||IOWA 30-6|
|285||#6 Tony Cassioppi||DEC (7-3)||#14 Lucas Davison||IOWA 33-6|
A few thoughts:
Ayala has certainly been thrown into the fire; his first three dual meets have all come against Top 10 opponents at 125. He's handled that challenge with aplomb, though, going 2-1 with the only loss being a narrow defeat to Minnesota's Patrick McKee. Ayala got to DeAugustino's legs with ease early in the match, but struggled to finish. He actually went down 2-0 late in the first period off a slick DeAugustino counter. An escape made it 2-1 headed into the second period, though, and in the second Ayala kept attacking DeAugustino's legs and finally managed to not just succeed in scoring a takedown, but also locking up a cradle and taking DeAugustino to his back. Ayala only got a two-count of that move -- frankly, it looked like the ref was a little slow to get into position and start his count -- but those four points helped him go from 3-1 down to 5-3 up. He added an escape in the third period to extend his lead and stayed strong in the third period until getting a little sloppy in the final seconds and giving up a (very) late takedown to make the final margin 6-5. It's still another big win for Ayala and another promising sign that he's ready to compete -- and win -- against some of the best guys at his weight. Iowa may not have a phenom like Spencer Lee at 125 for the rest of this year, but it looks like they've still got a very strong option there.
This is DeSanto's second straight missed dual; after the meet, Tom Brands indicated that he also wouldn't compete against Illinois, though he didn't say if there was anything in particular ailing DeSanto. Three straight missed duals (over two weekends) seems like more than just an instance of rest-and-recharge, though; fingers crossed that DeSanto isn't dealing with any significant injury or illness issues right now. In his absence, Cullan Schriever rather surprisingly made his Iowa debut; he became the second Iowa wrestler (after Ayala) to shed his redshirt and compete this weekend. I'm not gonna lie: it's a little strange to burn Schriever's redshirt just so he can compete in a few duals this weekend. Does that suggest that we might be dealing with a lengthier DeSanto absence? Perhaps. Lots to watch at this weight over the next few weeks. As for the match itself, Schriever looked OK, although he did get ridden hard by Cannon and struggled to finish his offense. But he still managed to keep ti very competitive against a Top 10-ranked opponent, so that's a pretty good starting point for him.
Drew Bennett filled in for Jaydin Eierman at 141 and while he showed a little early promise (converting some early takedowns), he seemed more overpowered as the match progressed. Eierman has had some shaky results of late, so hopefully a brief break from the starting lineup allows him to come back recharged and looking more like the wrestler who was a Big Ten champion and NCAA runner-up last year.
Max Murin went down early against Yahya Thomas, but he proceeded to do some pretty standard Murin things after that: hard hand-fighting, lots of tie-ups, and a late flurry of action. Once again, he came out on top, getting behind Thomas for a critical (and match-winning) takedown with under 30 seconds to go. Murin matches can be a bit stressful, but he's getting good results for the time being; let's hope that persists.
Speaking of stressful matches... I thought a match against Northwestern's unranked back-up at 157 might be an opportunity for Kaleb Young to work out some kinks and show a bit more on offense than we'd seen in recent weeks. Instead, the match turned into an absolute dogfight and Young had to huff and puff his way to a win here. He went down 2-0 early, before getting a reversal in the second period to get some much-needed points. But he had to grind out a takedown in the third period to get the win. Chumbley isn't a scrub or anything, but Iowa still needs to see a much better Kaleb Young than what we've seen for most of this season.
Michael Kemerer made it look very easy in steamrolling Ankhaa Enkhmandakh here; he got a quick takedown and used his prowess on the mat to easily turn Enkmandakh for a pair of quick four-point near fall turns. A little more re-positioning after that and, boom, Kemdawg had a pin with 30 seconds to spare in the first period. Kemerer was much (much) better than his opponent here, but it's still good to see him dominating like this and looking pretty comfortable in multiple positions.
Speaking of steamrolling... hello, Abe Assad. Assad plowed through Jessen with a takedown and tilt for four near fall points in the first period, then did it again in the second period -- and added a second turn for another set of four near fall points to finish the match. Like Kemerer, Assad was much (much) better than his opponent, but it was a lot of fun to see him looking so dominant and aggressive. Assad has been one of the most pleasant surprises for Iowa since he returned to the lineup a few weeks ago.
And on the topic of pleasant surprises... bonus points for Jacob Warner? Yessir. Warner took a little bit to get going against Davison, but once he did he actually displayed an impressive tempo and some strong offense from his feet. We even got some rarely-seen cut-and-release action from Warner here; no complaints at all, this was a very enjoyable win for Warner.
- Cassioppi didn't get bonus points in his win, but he was in firm control of the match -- at least, he was after a nervy start in the first period when he got caught in a spladle and avoided getting put on his back. He ended up giving up two points (after the referees consulted the monitor), but he settled down after that and came back with an escape and a pair of takedowns (including one very slick trip from an upper body lock), before adding another escape and a stalling point to lock up his win.
On to Champaign.
NEXT: Iowa's Illinois road trip continues with a visit to Champaign to take on #21 Illinois (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) on Sunday, January 16 (3 PM CT, BTN).