Iowa won their 29th consecutive dual meet on Friday night but while they topped Ohio State in match points (21-12), matches won (6-4), and bonus points (3-0), I don't think think this is a result they'll feel especially great about. Or at least they probably shouldn't feel great about it, because there was -- and is -- ample room for improvement from Iowa. And if they want to achieve their championship goals this season, they're going to need to turn that improvement into reality.
The recipe for an Ohio State upset in this dual relied on them winning the matches they were favored in (check -- barely), scoring some upsets (check), and winning the close matches (check). Obviously they needed more upsets than they were able to pull off -- especially with Iowa's three bonus points effectively giving them an extra win in the dual -- but they accomplished at least some of what they needed to do in order to make this a competitive dual.
Let's talk about those close matches for a moment. Five matches were decided by three or more points; Iowa won all of them. The other five matches were decided by two points or less and Ohio State won four of those. All four of their wins featured match-winning points scored in the final 20 or so seconds of the third period or in overtime. When the match was a toss-up, Ohio State wrestlers found ways to get the winning points, whether it was an overtime takedown by Malik Heinselman and Kaleb Romero at 125 and 184, respectively, or a late reversal by Sammy Sasso at 149. The 149 and 184 losses might sting a little bit less if only because Iowa was "supposed" to lose those matches based on the rankings. And the loss at 125 maybe doesn't hurt as much because Ayala's still just a true freshman and true freshmen are going to have their ups and downs.
Marinelli's loss at 165 stings, though, because he wrestled a poor match and got the result he deserved as a consequence. After a scoreless first period, Marinelli got a quick escape to start the second period and carried that 1-0 lead into the third period. He put on a strong ride in the third period, with the intent of either riding Kharchla out or riding him long enough to pick up a riding time point and try to grind out a 2-1 win. He did ride him long enough to get over a minute of riding time, but he couldn't keep Kharchla at bay for the final minute and finally conceded a takedown on a slick attack near the edge with just 20 or so seconds to go. Kharchla had to shoot to win, but the wrestling gods rewarded his effort and aggressiveness; Marinelli seemed too cautious throughout the match and it ended up costing him the win. We've seen that same pattern too often in his losses over the last few seasons. It's better to lose like that here, in a regular season dual meet, than in either the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament in a few months, but Marinelli is going to have to show that he can learn a lesson from this result. Trying to win a match without scoring a takedown -- or even scoring just one takedown -- leaves you extremely vulnerable to an upset because it just takes one good move or one slick attack to set your plan alight. That's what happened here.
#2 Iowa 21, #6 Ohio State 12
|125||#18 Malik Heinselman||DEC (7-5 SV)||#10 Drake Ayala||OHIO STATE 3-0|
|133||#3 Austin DeSanto||TECH FALL (19-4)||Dylan Koontz||IOWA 5-3|
|141||#2 Jaydin Eierman||DEC (4-0)||#23 Dylan D'Emilio||IOWA 8-3|
|149||#2 Sammy Sasso||DEC (3-2)||#10 Max Murin||IOWA 8-6|
|157||#12 Kaleb Young||DEC (4-0)||Jashon Hubbard||IOWA 11-6|
|165||#7 Carson Kharchla||DEC (3-2)||#1 Alex Marinelli||IOWA 11-9|
|174||#2 Michael Kemerer||DEC (6-3)||#7 Ethan Smith||IOWA 14-9|
|184||#7 Kaleb Romero||DEC (3-1 SV)||#18 Abe Assad||IOWA 14-12|
|197||#4 Jacob Warner||DEC (6-5)||#20 Gavin Hoffman||IOWA 17-12|
|285||#5 Tony Cassioppi||MAJ DEC (13-4)||#12 Tate Orndorff||IOWA 21-12|
A few other thoughts:
Ayala has gotten off to slow starts in a few matches this season and it cost him here, as giving up an early takedown to Heinselman put him in a hole that he was trying to escape for the rest of the match. He showed some great effort in scoring the tying takedown practically as time expired in the third period (a rare instance of an Iowa wrestler getting a clutch score in this dual), but he spent too much time fighting from behind in this one. Again: true freshman, ups and downs, shit will happen. His overall trajectory is still very positive. This was also a reminder that 125 is a definite meat grinder weight in the Big Ten this year without Spencer Lee lording over things.
Austin DeSanto made a very welcome return to lineup tonight -- and he absolutely laid waste to young Mr. Koontz. In fact, it was a real deja vu result: DeSanto beat Koontz 19-4 at last year's dual meet and beat him via 19-4 technical fall again tonight. DeSanto ran a takedown clinic in the second period to finish off his tech fall, but he worked on his mat game and near fall points in the first period, even coming close on several occasions to pinning Koontz. Just a completely dominant performance from DeSanto.
Meanwhile, Jaydin Eierman also returned to the lineup, though without the fireworks that DeSanto brought with him. Eierman got a slick takedown near the edge to take a 2-0 lead in the second period, then rode him out to earn a riding time point. He tacked on an escape in the third period. Not a lot of fireworks, but Eierman seemed in control most of the match and especially after he got the takedown.
Murin came oh-so-close to finishing the big upset over Sasso, but came up just short in the final seconds of the third period. After a scoreless -- but fairly eventful -- first period (Murin had to do some last-ditch defending on a few occasions), Murin gave up an escape in the second to go down 1-0 before getting a reversal in the third to take a 2-1 lead. He rode Sasso well for a while, but ultimately couldn't finish out the period on top and got reversed himself by Sasso with 15-20 seconds remaining. A very game effort from Max, but not quite enough.
As for Kaleb Young... well, it was not exactly an unfamiliar formula for him at 157: scoreless first period, escape and takedown in the second, then a ride-out in the third. Not the most action-packed match, but it's hard to begrudge the result too much.
After Kharchla's upset at 165 got the OSU crowd revved up for a possible upset, Michael Kemerer settled things down with a very patient, workmanlike win at 174 over Ethan Smith. Kemerer's ability to patiently and methodically finish shots is truly impressive; when he gets an opponent's leg, there's a damn good chance he's going to finish on top and with two points, even if it takes him a bit to get there. He doesn't get rattled or sucked into a potentially dangerous scramble situation; he just takes his time and improves his position until he's got the takedown. Really nice stuff from Iowa's resident old head.
Assad-Romero was another one-move match and, once again, that one move went in favor of the Ohio State wrestler. Assad and Romero traded escapes in the second and third periods but weren't able to finish any attacks (though they did have a few good scrambles); Romero found the angle and finished the job on a takedown in overtime. Not a bad showing by Assad at all, but hopefully he improves on this result the next time he sees Romero (perhaps at the Big Ten Tournament).
Warner-Hoffman was an odd match. Warner started very well, looking confident and aggressive and finishing an early takedown. He ended up riding Hoffman out for the remainder of the period (racking up over two minutes of riding time in the process), though he also got two stalling calls against him during that ride, costing him a point. Warner conceded an escape to start the second period that tied the match at 2-2, then got a stall point of his own against Hoffman to go up 3-2. He went up 4-2 after an escape to start the third, but gave up a takedown on a slick ankle trip by Hoffman. A Warner escape made it 5-4 and while a stall point against Warner made it 5-5, the locked-up riding time point gave him a 6-5 win. It was an odd match because Warner was clearly the better wrestler early and controlled the match, yet he was also clearly just hanging on by the end of the match. But this is also the sort of weirdness that can happen when you only score one takedown in a match; you don't have to worry about weirdness as much if you can get a few takedowns.
- Finally, Cassioppi made it 4-for-4 in terms of bonus point wins over Orndorff in their careers; Cassioppi had two pins and a major decision over Orndorff last season and added another major decision to that tally here. This was probably his hardest match of the four, though, as Orndorff used a very slick toss (practically a judo throw) to get a quick takedown and grab an early lead against Cassioppi. Tony went to work after that, though, methodically adding takedowns in all three periods before finishing the job with a takedown and near fall exposure in the final seconds of the third period to secure a major decision. Just a very solid overall performance from Tony.
Iowa-Ohio State was the second of two Big Ten duals on Friday night between Top 10-ranked opponents; #1 Penn State demolished #3 Michigan 29-6 in the run-up to the Hawkeye-Buckeye showdown. Iowa's next opponent? #1 Penn State, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena next Friday night. Gulp. Penn State once again looks in imperious form -- Iowa will need to be much better than they were tonight to run their dual meet winning streak to 30 in a row.
NEXT: Iowa hosts #1 Penn State in a 1-vs-2 showdown on Friday, January 28 (8 PM CT, BTN). Let's get ready to rrrrrumble.