The last time Iowa lost a dual meet? February 24, 2019, a 27-12 stomping at the hands of Oklahoma State. The last time Iowa lost a Big Ten dual meet? February 10, 2019, a 28-13 thumping at the hands of -- who else? -- Penn State. Those streaks -- 29 dual meets overall, 28 Big Ten dual meets -- are over now, after #2 Iowa fell to #1 Penn State, 19-13, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd.
It was a dual meet that didn't lack for drama, even if it did lack for action at times. The first five matches of the dual featured scoreless first periods, which is a fairly ridiculous streak. The first first-period points of the dual came at 165, from Alex Marinelli. The lack of scoring was disappointing, but did lead to some tense action and close matches at multiple weights. Unfortunately, Penn State got the better of Iowa at most of those close matches.
The dual started on a strong note for Penn State, as they earned wins in the first three matches of the night, including a major decision from Drew Hildebrandt at 125 and narrow decision wins from Roman Bravo-Young and Nick Lee at 133 and 141. Iowa needed to win 149, 157, and 165 in order to have any hope of winning the dual meet and they managed to do that -- just. Max Murin and Kaleb Young eked out wins at 149 and 157, before Alex Marinelli thrilled the CHA crowd with a 10-2 major decision that tied the dual at 10-10 after six matches.
It was all up for grabs in the final four matches, starting with a Big Ten and NCAA Tournament final rematch at 174 lbs between Carter Starocci and Michael Kemerer. Starocci edged Kemerer 3-1 in sudden victory in their last encounter, at the NCAA Tournament final, and he earned another overtime win here, eking out a 2-1 win deep in overtime. (Lots more to say about this match in a bit.) That loss was a tough blow to Iowa's hopes of winning the dual, especially with Aaron Brooks earning an easy win at 184. The dual was officially lost at 197, where Jacob Warner lost a 3-1 lead in the third period and fell 8-3 after conceding a late takedown and near fall points. That made the dual meet score 19-10 with just one match to go, officially clinching victory for Penn State. Tony Cassioppi did manage to send the Iowa fans home with a win, earning an impressive 7-2 win to cap off the dual.
#1 Penn State 19, #2 Iowa 13
|125||#7 Drew Hildebrandt||MAJ DEC (9-0)||Jesse Ybarra||PENN ST 4-0|
|133||#1 Roman Bravo-Young||DEC (3-2)||#3 Austin DeSanto||PENN ST 7-0|
|141||#1 Nick Lee||DEC (6-4 SV)||#2 Jaydin Eierman||PENN ST 10-0|
|149||#10 Max Murin||DEC (4-1)||#19 Beau Bartlett||PENN ST 10-3|
|157||#12 Kaleb Young||DEC (2-0)||Terrell Barraclough||PENN ST 10-6|
|165||#5 Alex Marinelli||MAJ DEC (10-2)||#11 Brady Berge||TIE 10-10|
|174||#1 Carter Starocci||DEC (2-1 TB2)||#2 Michael Kemerer||PENN ST 13-10|
|184||#1 Aaron Brooks||DEC (8-3)||#17 Abe Assad||PENN ST 16-10|
|197||#2 Max Dean||DEC (8-3)||#4 Jacob Warner||PENN ST 19-10|
|285||#5 Tony Cassioppi||DEC (7-2)||#3 Greg Kerklviet||PENN ST 19-13|
A few thoughts:
Jesse Ybarra got the nod at 125 ahead of Drake Ayala for this match; Ayala is reportedly dealing with a chest injury right now. Hopefully he won't have to miss too much time. Ybarra kept Hildebrandt from scoring in the first period, but gave up a takedown halfway through the second period and got ridden out. Then he got reversed to start the third, ridden out, and gave up a four-point near fall with seconds left in the third period. Not great.
Of all the close matches Iowa lost in this dual, 133 may be the most frustrating/heartbreaking. Because DeSanto absolutely wrestled his ass off against Bravo-Young and he ended up with nothing to show for it. This was the best he's looked against RBY in any of his four losses in their past four encounters. DeSanto was able to get through RBY's initial defense and get to his legs... unfortunately, he wasn't quite able to finish when he got there. That part was disappointing, but I still thought this was an improved showing for DeSanto. He kept his cool, he kept up a high pace and got some very good attacks; if he can continue to do that in any future encounters, I'll take my chances with him turning those shots into actual takedowns. Bravo-Young did show how dangerous he can be on what ended up being the match-winning takedown late in the second period, though; he used some lightning-quick action off a shuck to get behind DeSanto for two.
While 133 was frustrating because DeSanto was able to get to Bravo-Young's legs but unable to finish, 141 was frustrating because all three of Nick Lee's takedowns came from Eierman's attacks or an Eierman brain-fart. The first came in the second period when Eierman attempted a chest wrap and a throw; Lee slipped out of it and quickly got to Eierman's legs and finished a takedown. I don't necessarily fault Eierman for going for big moves -- that's a key part of his arsenal on offense and Nick Lee is very hard to score on, so giving him something unusual is not inherently a bad way to try and get to him. But I don't think it was the right moment to try that move; it came just seconds after Eierman went for a whip-over and nearly put Lee directly on his back (to his credit, Lee showed some great defensive instincts in rolling through). I think Lee was on guard for something funky out of Eierman at that point, so the chest-wrap was not the way to go. That said, I was more frustrated at Eierman for giving up a takedown on the edge with just seconds remaining in the second period; you simply can't give up points there. That was just a straight brain-fart and it was very costly. Lee's final takedown came in sudden victory, when he was able to counter a (somewhat sloppy) Eierman double-leg attempt into his own shot, which he finished for the winning score. This was another close, thrilling match between these two and it made me eager to see one, if not two more showdowns between them in March. Eierman made some errors here and Lee punished him for those mistakes, but there's very little gap between these two and I'd love to see Eierman get another crack at him.
After dropping three straight matches to start the dual, Iowa had to have a win from Max Murin at 149. They got that, but not by a lot. Murin used a big ride in the second period to give himself an advantage, but the match wasn't really secured until a takedown late in the third period. Any win would do in this situation, though, so credit to Murin for getting the job done on that front.
Murin's win was practically a Fourth of July fireworks show compared to Kaleb Young's win at 157, though. Young got an escape in the second and then rode Barraclough for the entire third period. There wasn't much to exalt in this match, unless you like mat returns. Like at 149, though, Iowa needed a win here more than anything and they did get that -- just nothing else.
Iowa finally got that "something else" from Alex Marinelli at 165. He scored the meet's first points in the first period with a sharp takedown, then kept up the pressure on Brady Berge throughout the bout, earning points via stall calls, two more takedowns, an escape, and a riding time point. This was a much-needed bounce-back effort from Marinelli after his loss last weekend; this was a much more active and aggressive Bull and it paid dividends with not just a win, but a bonus point win. I thought Berge might give Marinelli some difficulty, but that was very wrong; Marinelli controlled this bout from start to finish and looked clearly better than Berge.
With the dual tied after six matches, whoever won at 174 was going to have a notable advantage heading into the final three bouts. Like so many matches in this dual, this one had a scoreless first period -- but this was also proof that not all scoreless first periods are built the same. This first period was only scoreless because Michael Kemerer has cast-iron hips and displayed some incredible defense. Starocci appeared to have him dead to rights on not one, but two takedowns -- only for Kemerer to somehow, someway wiggle his way free. He had some more impressive escapes in the second as well, but also started to get to his own offense a bit more. Unfortunately, Starocci's defensive chops aren't too shabby, either, and he was able to tie up Kemerer and prevent him from finishing a few very solid attacks; Kemerer is one of the best in the country at finishing when he gets to a leg, but Starocci did an excellent job of stymieing and stalemating those attacks.
Ultimately, neither man could find the winning score in regulation, though Kemerer nearly got a takedown as time expired, so the match headed to sudden victory... where they also couldn't find the winning score, though not without some controversy. After a scramble situation near the end of the OT period, Kemerer again looked to have a takedown as time expired -- the ref even signaled two. But after video review it was determined that the takedown call came after time expired. To make matters even more confusing, it didn't seem clear why he called the takedown when he did -- that is, the position didn't really seem like it had changed much from what it had been a few seconds prior (before time had expired), so why didn't the takedown call come sooner than it did? We'll never know. After the sudden victory period, the match went to tiebreakers; Starocci escaped in the first 30 seconds, but managed to ride out Kemerer in the following tiebreaker period. This too was not without controversy as at one point Kemerer was awarded a point for locked hands against Starocci; like the takedown at the end of sudden victory, this too was taken away by video review. The officiating and general wonkiness of the ending left a bad taste in the mouth, but this was still a pretty thrillingly intense encounter between two very good -- and very evenly-matched -- wrestlers. Like 133 and 141, I would very much like to see a rematch between these two at Big Tens or NCAAs (or both).
Perhaps the biggest surprise at 184 was that Aaron Brooks only won 8-3. He took Assad down with ease early in the first period and it looked like he could get to Assad's legs whenever he wanted. But he only got one more takedown in the match and, frankly, didn't seem hugely interested in pushing for too many more. Assad kept fighting and even had a couple decent shots on Brooks in the third period, though he was unable to finish.
197 started well for Iowa with Jacob Warner using some active attacks to earn a slick first period takedown and racked up some riding time after that. Warner carried a 3-1 lead into the third period, but things fell apart a bit there; Dean earned a stall point against Warner, then got a takedown to take a 4-3 lead and, worse, wrenched into a near fall situation with time running out in the third, giving up four near fall points. Warner wrestled well for a lot of this match, but got into a bad spot in the third period and things spiraled down hill pretty quickly; hopefully Warner can learn some lessons for a potential rematch with Dean down the road.
- For the second week in a row, Tony Cassioppi gave up an early takedown, this time falling prey to an explosive double-leg attack from Kerkvliet. And for the second week in a row, Cassioppi shrugged off that early deficit and went to work. This time out Cassioppi used his Greco prowess to turn a couple of upper-body situations into takedowns and points for himself. After the hiccup at the start, Tony looked very good here. The win didn't do anything for the dual meet outcome, but it could pay big dividends for Cassioppi at Big Ten and NCAA seeding.
I'm disappointed that Iowa lost this dual, as I always am when Iowa comes up short. They had opportunities to win this dual -- 133, 141, and 174 were touted as coin-flip matches before the dual and that's pretty much exactly what they wound up being, incredibly tight matches decided by razor-thin margins. Tonight that coin fell in Penn State's favor in all three matches. If the coin landed in Iowa's favor in two of those matches, though, the Hawkeyes would have won this dual. (Winning just one of those matches wouldn't have been enough because that would have only tied the dual at 16-16 and sent it to tiebreakers to determine a winner; the relevant tiebreaker would have been total match points, which probably would have favored Penn State -- they ended up outscoring Iowa 41-36 in match points in this dual.)
So while I'm bummed that Iowa lost the dual, I thought they wrestled better -- against tougher opposition -- than they did in an oft-listless performance in their win over Ohio State last week. That feels like an encouraging sign heading into February and Iowa's last few dual meets of the season -- and March and the looming Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. They still may not have the firepower needed to win either of those events as it stands, but a showing like this at least suggested that they'll go down swinging.
NEXT: Iowa hosts #10 Wisconsin (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) on Senior Day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena next Saturday, February 5 (2:30 PM CT, BTN).