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Iowa, Penn State claim National Duals titles

Two Big Ten teams sweep their respective pools in Florida

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championship Photo by Scott Rovak/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Though both teams had a tough dual, Iowa and Penn State went 3-0 to win their respective pools at the Collegiate National Duals in Niceville, Florida this week.

The Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa first wrestled Central Michigan, who boasted three ranked wrestlers. The first big match was the return of three-time National Champion Spencer Lee at 125 pounds, who teched unranked opponent in the second period. After a DeSanto tech fall, Jaydin Eierman took the mat against #7 Dresden Simon. Eierman got the first takedown, but Simon was able to convert on a missed throw-by to take Eierman down before capturing the right arm and tilting Eierman for four nearfall points. Simon then showed the ref one hand, while seemingly holding the arm still with the other hand, and when the ref awarded the four, Simon cranked the tilt over again. Iowa challenged, but the call was upheld, and Eierman was in an early 11-2 hole. Eierman was able to get out and find a six-point move to end the first period, cutting the deficit to 11-9, and then get an escape, takedown, and third period rideout to win 13-12. Kaleb Young also had a ranked foe in #19 Johnny Lovett, but controlled a low-scoring match and won by decision, 6-0. The final anticipated bout was a slight disappointment, as #9 Matt Stencel took injury time after Cassioppi’s first takedown, and injury defaulted after the second with an apparent hamstring injury. Stencel would not return for Central Michigan’s day two win over Binghamton. The Hawkeyes won the dual 44-0.

Iowa’s second dual was a little more interesting, as it featured five ranked matches. The first was a bigger test for Spencer at 125, as the long-and-lanky #11 Jaret Lane was able to post out of tilts and avoid arm bars, not giving up any back points. Still, a takedown and rideout in each period, plus a third period escape and riding time, gave Spencer an 8-0 major decision. The Hawkeyes saw their first loss of the day in Max Murin losing a SV decision 7-5. Murin looked very apprehensive facing a wrestler in #30 Manzona Bryant who displayed incredible quickness, and didn’t find his offense as a result, scoring just one takedown to Bryant’s three. Iowa’s next loss was both incredibly and not at all shocking, as Kaleb Young was majored by #10 Josh Humphreys. Young got the first takedown in the second after starting neutral, but an escape then cut it to 2-1 and Humphreys started down in the third. He didn’t settle for an escape, though, finding the reversal and quickly putting Young to his back. He let him up to get the points, then found four more nearfall to go up 11-2, which would be the final score. Young looked really defeated after the reversal. Skipping ahead to the heavyweight bout, Cassioppi scored the only takedown late to defeat #9 Jordan Wood 3-2, and give Iowa the 28-7 dual win. I swear, Jordan Wood has to cut to make 285, and yet Cassioppi was largely attacking straight on, showing again where adjustments need to be made to his new body size (Cass weighed in at 239.6 pounds on day two).

The final dual for Iowa was a very close one. Lee was not able to find bonus points over #5 Jakob Camacho, and while he looked in-control the entire match, it wasn’t the Lee we saw before the NCAA tournament last year. He won 6-1, repeatedly trying to find that re-enforced bar he used to find falls so often last year but failing to do so Tuesday. DeSanto got the only bonus points for Iowa in the dual with a 16-7 major decision over #17 Kai Orine that was, in my opinion, a bit conservative on stalling calls despite having four of them on Orine. Jaydin Eierman had his hands full with #16 Ryan Jack, who scored the first and second takedowns in scrambles, which is no small feat against the ever-funky Eierman. An escape to start the second put Jack up 5-2, and that’s where we ended the period after some stalemated scrambling. Eierman went down to start the third, eventually getting out and then going right at Jack, scoring his first takedown to knot the score at 5. An escape by Jack put the Wolf(pack?) ahead, and after a potential takedown by Eierman was waved off and confirmed by review, Eierman got a slideby two right on the edge of the mat with 23 seconds left. After a review, Eierman rode Jack out to win the match, though Jack had something of a Peterson and was trying to score a defensive pin on Eierman, which the announcers certainly though he had but which I thought was too low on the body to call (Eierman’s spine was on the mat, but it was a few inches below the bottom of the shoulder blades). After Iowa was unable score bonus points in two of the three early matches, NC State had a big opportunity with #3 Tariq Wilson wrestling Cobe Siebrecht. Siebrecht, as he’s done all year, gave it his all, not shying away from action, and actually scored a takedown on the two-time All-American as time expired to lose by just four points. NC State got their biggest win in the dual at 157 pounds though, as all the energy in the building for the Wolfpack exploded as freshman Ed Scott pinned Kaleb Young with a headlock throw in the first period. Scott is definitely a name to watch, as he also defeated Jarrett Jacques this week to bring his season record to a whopping 15-1 (avenging his only loss with a pin a week later).

With no intermission, the Wolfpack looked to keep momentum going, but Marinelli was able to wear down Donald Cates, winning 7-2. Nelson Brands showed great fight in a 4-2 loss to #5 Hayden Hidlay, and Assad likewise did so in a 6-0 loss to Hayden’s third-ranked brother Trent, but those two losses put NC State on top for the first time. In a 15-13 hole, Iowa needed a strong showing from Jacob Warner against #15 Isaac Trumble, and while it wasn’t flashy, Warner was able to secure the match’s only takedown on a third-period go-behind reattack to win 3-2, and put Iowa up a point going into the heavyweight match. Tony Cassioppi drew the back Tyrie Houghton, but the junior kept it close. Cassioppi threw a headlock in the first, but couldn’t cover up and wasn’t awarded two for his efforts. Likewise, Houghton had a reattack that nearly lead to a body cradle, twice getting danger zone swipes. Cassioppi was able to work out of this position somehow, and eventually got out the back, controlling Houghton for the first called takedown of the match, ending the first on top with a 2-0 lead. Cassioppi had to fight to get out to start the second, but was able to do so before Houghton had a riding time advantage. Houghton made it 3-1 with a quick escape in the third, but Cassioppi dominated the action, eventually earning a stalling point. Off the restart, Cassioppi got a go-behind for two, and Houghton was unable to get any good shots off the end the match, giving Cassioppi and the Hawkeyes the victory.

This felt like a home dual for NC State, and every one of their wrestlers left it all on the mat, coming up just short. If you’re Iowa, this is a wake up call like no other. Yes NC State is very good, but they are not close to the best team Iowa will face this year (though NC State’s lineup does match very well with Iowa’s). Iowa will return to action at Midlands next week before starting the Big Ten dual slate with Minnesota. They have duals against Ohio State, Penn State, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska, among others, left on their schedule. I know the dual streak has to come to an end sometime, but please, let us have this year. Of course, I’d trade a dual loss for a national title six days a week and twice on Sundays.

The Penn State Nittany Lions

Despite a smoother final, Penn State actually gave up more team points (25) than the Hawkeyes (22), and had a tougher time winning their initial grouping. Penn State did have six wrestlers go 3-0 (RBY, Nick Lee, Staorcci, Brooks, Dean, Kerkvliet), but they also had two wrestlers (Jakob Campbell and Creighton Edsell) go 0-3, and Tony Negron and Joe Lee combined to go 0-3 at 157 pounds.

Penn State’s first dual went almost exactly according to script, with Northern Iowa getting wins at 125, 157, and 165, and Penn State getting eight bonus points from the other seven matches. Jakob Campbell filled in for the Nittany Lions at 125 pounds for just the second time this year, and held #10 Brody Teske to just a 2-0 decision. Campbell is 0-4 on the year, by the way, with losses to Teske, the aforementioned Jaret Lane, US Olympic Trial runner-up (and 2019 NCAA fourth-place finisher) Vito Arujau, and last year’s NCAA runner-up Brandon Courtney. Tough slate. Roman Bravo-Young pinned #31 Kyle Biscoglia in the second period, and Nick Lee majored #26 Cael Happel. Holschlag and Yant got the other wins for the Panthers, and Aaron Brooks staved off #4 Parker Keckeisen 3-2 in the match of the dual. Penn State would win the dual by a score of 29-9.

Penn State’s biggest challenge came at the hands of Cornell, whose grapplers held a 16-8 lead through the first six matches. Vito, who wrestled at 125 for the first time this year at this tournament, pinned Campbell in the first minute of the match. RBY and Nick Lee gave Penn State the lead with a pair of major decisions, but Yianni (barely) majored Beau Bartlett to put the Big Red up 10-8. Colton Yapoujian and Julian Ramirez each etched out decisions over Joe Lee and Creighton Edsell, respectively, and Cornell looked like they would need one more win to take the dual. Starocci won a match without scoring a takedown (shocker!), riding out Chris Foca to get a riding point along with two escapes to win 3-2. After an Aaron Brooks major decision put the Lions within a point, Max Dean went out to face his former team with the dual potentially on the line. Dean started the second period with an escape after a scoreless first period before Jacob Cardenas got a takedown to go up 2-1. It would be Cardenas’s only points of the match, though, as he chose neutral after giving up an escape to end the second. Dean reattacked off a single leg shot by Cardenas and won the scramble, going on to ride out the Cornell sophomore to win 4-2 and put Penn State up 18-16. Kerkvliet wore down his foe, securing the dual victory with a 5-0 decision.

The final against Arizona State was less eventful, with #14 Michael McGee proving no match for RBY (not that anyone is right now) and #5 Kyle Parco, a third-year freshman, wrestling like a freshman and dropping a sudden-victory decision to Beau Bartlett. Arizona State failed to cash in on huge advantages at 157 and 165 pounds, getting just regular decisions from each. This tied the dual at 10, but Penn State found bonus points in each of the final four matches to win by a wide 29-10 margin.

Penn State is certainly in stride right now. It’ll be interesting to see what happens at 125 and 157, but with five title contenders and at least six All-Americans, they should be able to hang with the best of them Iowa in March.

So, there you have it. Quite the event. I’m certainly happy with my purchase. Did you buy the PPV? If you didn’t, do you regret it? Let us know in the comments.