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IOWA PAUSES SEASON: Week 5 Wrestling Wrap-up

Iowa, Nebraska sweep tri-duals, Illinois splits Minnesota and Northwestern

Big Ten Championship
Steveson made quick work of top ten Luke Luffman
Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Atinat: Unfortunately, the biggest news of the weekend didn’t come on the mat. On Monday, it was announced that the Iowa Hawkeyes would be suspending wrestling activities following more positive tests within the program. This will affect their scheduled dual with Penn State this Friday, and likely their final two duals against Northwestern and Wisconsin, too. Head coach Tom Brands, along with All-Americans Kaleb Young and Alex Marinelli, was forgoing action following a positive test. This sucks, man. Fortunately, there’s nearly four weeks between now and Big Tens (March 5th & 6th), so the Hawkeyes should be healthy and able to compete by then.

#14 Minnesota 25, #9 Illinois 13

WhiteSpeedReceiver: You’ll have to forgive me for this being a bit short, but it’s that magical time of year for accountants. Minnesota is better than Illinois. The Gophers started with a bit of wild luck when Patrick McKee beat Carani 4-2 at 125 thanks to a mat-edge reversal and some back points with about a minute left to go in the 3rd in a move that could probably be described as “NO DON’T DO THA...OK, perfect. Good job.”

The announcers immediately referred to Dylan Ness, and it was a perfect comparison. Boo Dryden lost to Lucas Byrd 11-3 because he’s confusing as hell and when he doesn’t have it going he loses (sometimes quite badly). Illinois cranked out a pair of 2-point wins at 141 (4-2 Duncan over Polancos) and 149 (5-3 Carr over Blockhus), and that wasn’t good enough to give them a shot. Brayton Lee and the astonishing Andrew Sparks got tech falls for the Gophers at 157 (over the disgustingly overmatched Johnny Mologousis) and 165 (over Danny Braunagel’s stand-in Luke Odom), and things were pretty much settled then. Jake Allar had a good win 8-3 over D.J. Shannon at 174, Owen Webster upset Zac “The other” Braunagel at 184, and Matt Wroblewsky beat Garrett Joles 6-4 in OT to give the Illini a small ray of light before the finale. #9 Luke Luffman didn’t give me any opportunities to laugh at him for making faces while questioning his life choices because #1 Gable Steveson pinned him in 34 seconds. I’ll just wrap it up by saying that this match was completely unfair, and you can decide how to interpret what I meant by that.

Next: Illinois idle; Minnesota at Wisconsin (2/12)

#8 Nebraska Cornhuskers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Michigan State Spartans, and Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington (2/6)

Kind of…: Rutgers couldn’t go, and with their withdrawal went any hopes of drama. What remained was one good team (Nebraska Cornhuskers), one bad team (Indiana Hoosiers), and one bleh team (Michigan State Spartans). Little drama ensued. Nebraska went 2-0, beating Indiana 47-0 (ooooofffff), and MSU 27-10. MSU beat Indiana 28-10.

Going 2-0 on the day were #9 Liam Cronin (125, Neb), #9 Chad Red (141, Neb), Chase Saldate (157, MSU), #18 Peyton Robb (165, Neb), #4 Mikey Labriola (174, Neb), #16 Layne Malczewski (184, MSU), #2 Eric Schultz (197, Neb), and #10 Christian Lance (HWT, Neb).

There were no major upsets. Cronin’s win over #13 Rayvon Foley was by a 14-13 score which suggests action and a fun viewing experience. However, BTN+ decided not to have visuals until the 133 match had already started, so…

Labrola’s win over reigning B1G Wrestler of the Week, #17 DJ Washington (Ind) was a highlight. Labriola was dominating, leading 11-0 in the 3rd when Washington grabbed an escape, quick takedown, and 4pt NF. Not only did this suddenly cut the lead to 11-7, but Washington almost grabbed the pin. Labriola worked free, got an escape and a 13-7 victory. At 133, Nebraska’s Alex Thomsen, DID erase a 10-0 deficit with a fall vs. Indiana’s Kyle Luigs:

The marquee match was the showdown at 197 between #2 Eric Schultz and #5 Cameron Caffey. Schultz gave up a first period takedown, but registered two of his own in the second to go up 6-4. Caffey got an escape in the third, but that was all of the scoring. With #1 Noah Adams being upset this weekend, Schultz should ascend to #1. This loss should do nothing to diminish Caffey’s potential, and with Jacob Warner’s tendency to uneven performances (see elsewhere in this recap), a rematch for the B1G title is quite possible.

That’s pretty much it. Nebraska is currently ranked #9 at Intermat, but I think they are more likely to make a move toward the top 5 than to fall out of the top 10. (That said, Taylor Venz didn’t go for Nebraska at 184. While he’s had some struggles this year, he would be part of any scenario that sees Nebraska overachieve in March, team-wise.) Michigan State doesn’t have much depth, but if Caffey wrestles to seed at the NCAAs and Saldate, Foley, and Malczewski each toss in some points, they could be looking at a score that puts them in the 20-25 range. As for Indiana, well, DJ Washington is an exciting and talented wrestler, and is only a freshman. He has All-American potential this year, and the future is bright.

Next: Indiana vs Maryland (2/14); Michigan State vs Purdue (2/12); Nebraska idle

#9 Illinois 31, Northwestern 6

He was a high school quarterback: Illinois steamrolled the Northwestern Wildcats Sunday as they won 8-10 bouts and added 7 bonus points to notch the 31-6 victory. It might’ve been closer, but 3 of Northwestern’s 5 ranked wrestlers did not take the mat as #15 Chris Cannon remains out at 133, Lucas Davison missed his first match of the year at 197, and we still can’t be sure that 157 #1 ranked wrestler Ryan Deakin will actually wrestle at all this year.

The match started with one of two ranked matchups as #16 Cardani from Illinois and #6 DeAugustino countered for Northwestern. Cardani was able to get to single leg numerous times, but never threatened to finish a shot and neither wrestler scored on offense, but DeAugustino was able to accrue enough riding time for a 2-1 victory. Next up, #17 Lucas Byrd pinned Utterback in the 2nd period to give the Illini a 6-3 lead they would not relinquish. #15 Dylan Duncan and Collin Valdiviez faced off for the eighth time in their veteran careers. Duncan won 14-4 to claim his sixth win in those eight tries against the Wildcat.

Next up was the match I (and probably lots of other wrestling fans) was most looking forward to as #9 Mike Carr took on #18 Yahya Thomas and it didn’t let down. Both of these guys really bring it and take a lot of shots. Carr ended up winning a 3-2 thriller in which Thomas had Carr’s leg elevated with 11 seconds to go, but couldn’t finish the takedown. Freshman Maxx Mayfield beat Mologousis at 157 to get Northwestern back on the board, but it would be the last points of the day for Northwestern.

At 165, Danny Braunagel returned to the mat after three weeks off due to a wrist injury. He looked rusty to start and Ferrante took advantage and led 4-2 after one period. From there on out, Danny hulked out and smashed Ferrante for the 24-11 victory. Don’t make him angry!

At 174, Trey Sizemore picked up the win in place of the injured DJ Shannon for Illinois. Zac Braunagel notched another bonus point win at 184 for Illinois, beating Jack Jessen 12-2. Matt Wroblewski (197) got an 8-0 major and Luke Luffman (HWT) also picked up a comfortable win to finish off the men in purple.

The win locks up a winning dual season for the Illinois Fighting Illini as they are 5-2 with a remaining dual against Nebraska and perhaps a makeup date with Michigan to close out the season. Northwestern falls to 1-5 on the year and has two rough remaining duals left against Minnesota and Iowa and also they will face Wisconsin next week.

Next: Northwestern vs Wisconsin (2/14)

#1 Iowa Hawkeyes, #10 Ohio State Buckeyes, and Purdue Boilermakers at West Lafayette (2/7)

Atinat: The tri-dual started with Iowa and host Purdue on the Big Ten Network, and it started with two surprises. First, it was announced shortly before the dual that All-American Kaleb Young was withdrawn from competition in accordance with Covid protocols. It was hinted at by Tom Brands after the duals that Young had tested positive. Then, taking the mat first for the Hawkeyes was backup Aaron Cashman instead of Hodge winner Spencer Lee.

Cashman gave up a tech fall to #12 Devin Schroder in 5:26, and the Hawkeyes were suddenly 11 points off track from where they had started every other dual this season. The ship was quickly righted by fifth-ranked Austin DeSanto, who teched Jacob Rundell late in the third period (officially it was scored at 6:59, but it was stopped later than it should have been). Jaydin Eierman took a 6-0 lead into the second period against Parker Filius, where he earned a quick escape and then ran a double-arm bar to flatten out the Boilermaker for a 3:47 fall. Max Murin earned his first collegiate tech fall over Trey Kruse, and then Iowa hit a wall.

Down 16-5, Purdue had the opportunity to face two Iowa backups. #7 Kendall Coleman majored Young’s backup Zach Axmear, while Joe Kelly was pinned in 4:27 by Purdue’s Gerrit Nijenhuis. Michael Kemerer earned 6 back for the Hawkeyes, cradling Emil Soehnlen in exactly 4 minutes. Nelson Brands couldn’t keep the momentum going, losing to #20 Max Lyon after getting caught on his back for a 4-count in the third, losing 6-1.

With the match just 22-18 in favor of the Hawks, Jacob Warner started off electric against #18 Thomas Penola, collecting a quick takedown and then picking up 4NF a la Spencer Lee with a wrist tilt. Warner rode out the first, then escaped in the second to lead 7-0 going into the final frame. Then the wheels sort of fell off. Warner surrendered a takedown and was dinged three times for stalling, but escaped the match with a 9-4 win. The final tally looks fine, but Warner was totally gassed in the third period, which could be a bad sign for the future for the #3 Hawkeye. Big Tony Pins ended this one the right way, racking up an 8-1 score before cranking Dorian Keys over late in the first for the fall. The Hawkeyes have certainly looked better, but down three starters, they still took the dual 31-18. Four falls (three for Iowa, one for Purdue) and three techs (two for the Hawks, one for Purdue) helped to get this dual to a combined 19 bonus points.

Iowa and Ohio State did battle next, and this time it was Ohio State whose starter couldn’t go at 125. Spencer Lee found quick work in backup Brady Koontz, going up 14-0 on three arm bars before pinning him in the fourth at 1:32. DeSanto added his second takedown of the day over (presumed) brother Dylan Kootz, officially scored 19-4 at 3:57. Again, the ref failed to stop the match, as DeSanto released his hold and was awarded nearfall points to make it 19-3 somewhere around 3:30.

Ohio State freshman Anthony Echemendia proved a challenge for top-ranked Jayden Eierman, forcing the three-time All-American to engage in more upper body holds than he was used to. Echemendia nearly threw Eierman in the first 20 seconds, but the senior stayed on his feet to avoid the takedown. Soon after, Eierman got in a single leg attack, but he couldn’t get Echemendia off balance to convert. Another side-by-side lock nearly resulted in a takedown, as this time the Hawkeye couldn’t land the throw. A scoreless first period was matched by a scoreless start to the second, as the wrestlers started on their feet. However, with less than 20 seconds left, Eierman connected on a slide-by with a strong leg lace on Echemendia’s left side. If there was more time on the clock, Eierman probably takes Echemendia to his back by elevating his hips and breaking down the freshman’s right plant arm, but he did land the takedown to carry a 2-0 lead into the final frame. Echemendia elected to start the period down, but Eierman quickly got his right leg in, then locked up a cradle on an attempt by Echemendia to stand up. The Buckeye was injured during the roll, but the match wasn’t stopped and Eierman finished it with the 5:25 fall.

The red-hot Max Murin faced off with #2 Sammy Sasso next, but ultimately was undone by his own offense like so many others against the Big Ten finalist and favorite. Murin did a good job of getting in on shots, namely on high crotch single leg attacks, but he could never convert, and twice Sasso took advantage of the stretched Murin to lock up a cradle. The second time proved fatal, as Murin was rolled over and pinned at the 6:53 mark. He trailed 5-3 before the cradle was locked, and would have lost 11-3 if he could have held off the pin for another seven seconds.

Iowa lost the next two matches as freshman Bretli Reyna couldn’t handle Elijah Cleary at 157, getting edged out 4-3 with the difference coming from a late first period takedown and rideout from Cleary. Joe Kelly was teched by #19 Ethan Smith 18-3 at 3:13, cutting the score to 17-14 Iowa.

Michael Kemerer defeated #3 Kaleb Romero next at 174 pounds in a low-scoring, defensive bout that saw no takedowns. While neither wrestler was too active, I’m not sure Romero took a single committed shot all match. Kemerer started down after a scoreless first frame and earned an escape to put the first point on the board. Later in the second, Romero was docked a technical violation for pulling on Kemerer’s headgear, giving the senior a 2-0 lead. Romero started down and escaped in eight seconds to draw the match to 2-1, but injured his left leg during an exchange on the edge of the mat. Kemerer chased him out of bounds, getting the Buckeye dinged with a stall warning. A second call followed when Kemerer drove him out again after the restart, giving the Iowa wrestler a 3-1 advantage. Romero was unable to generate enough offense in the final half-minute, and that was our final score.

Brands and Warner both avenged lackluster first performances, with Nelson shutting out Rocky Jordan 3-0 and Warner using takedowns in all three frames to major Chase Singletary 11-1. Cassioppi lead 2-1 late the second when he and #12 Tate Orndorff were locked in matching over-under locks (where each wrestler has an underhook and an overhook, with hands locked behind the back), and where in lighter weights this would usually involve an outside trip, here Big Tony just overpowered the Utah Valley transfer to his back before settling him into a 4:53 fall. It was the third consecutive pin for Cassioppi, and the second defeat by pin for Orndorff.

The back four all impressed for Iowa, as did 149-pounder Bretli Reyna in relief for Kaleb Young at 157 pounds. I was also impressed with both wrestlers at 141 and 149 pounds. Echemendia dictated the style of wrestling, and was so close to a big move or two before succumbing to the talent of Eierman. Hopefully he recovers quickly from what appeared to be an ankle injury. Eierman adapted well to wrestling away from his own style, instead handling upper-body locks comfortably. Max Murin was quick and able to find good shots, but couldn’t get the next step and eventually got broken down by Sasso. Sasso impressed me the most of the four mentioned here. His matches with Lugo last year left a poor taste in my mouth, but he is intelligent, quick, and so very strong. At one point, his whizzer was all that stood between Max Murin and a takedown, but that whizzer was in Max’s armpit and tight as a vice, ending the attempt in a stalemate.

Purdue and Ohio State started with a bit of a yawn, as both 125-pound starters failed to excite in a 1-0 victory for the Boilermaker, Schroder. Heinselman chose neutral to start the second, so it was Schroder’s escape in the third that was the deciding (and only) point. Ohio State knotted the score up with a Jordan Decatur 6-5 decision over Jacob Rundell. Dylan D’Emilio, in relief of Echemendia, then majored Parker Filius 14-4, and Sammy Sasso teched Trey Kruse 22-7 in 6:05 to put the Buckeyes up 12-3. Kendall Coleman earned a takedown a minute into the match against Elijah Cleary with an ankle pick on the edge of the mat, and rode out that lead to win 3-2 for the Boilermakers. Ethan Smith responded by majoring Gerrit Nijenhuis 15-5, putting Ohio State up 10. Purdue’s Soehnlen defeated Buckeye backup Fritz Schierl at 174, but Rocky Jordan dominated Max Lyon 7-2 at 184. Thomas Penola gave Purdue their last victory at 197, and Tate Orndorff finished things off with a major decision of backup Jared Florell.

Few matches saw both starters, and the only top-25 matchup was a snoozer. Purdue couldn’t keep their momentum from a surprising performance against the Hawkeyes, and this one ended up going just as predicted, lineup changes considered. Ohio State has bounced back well from their early season loss to Illinois, and as much as the BTN programming made it seem like Purdue was chasing Penn State, ultimately this program is just looking for All-Americans. The good news is, they’ve got a few good candidates. Devin Schroder has been ranked as high as #2 this year, and Kendall Coleman will have an inside track to the podium. Even Max Lyon and Thomas Penola are dark horse candidates in weights with a lot of question marks in the five to eight spots.

Next: Iowa ???; Ohio State at Michigan (2/12); Purdue at Michigan State (2/12)


Outstanding wrestler of the week honors are shared this week between heavyweight #1 Gable Steveson of the Minnesota Gophers and 149 #2 Sammy Sasso of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Steveson pinned #9 Luke Luffman with a cradle in just 34 seconds. It’s Steveson’s tenth career pin, and unfortunately the second time being on the wrong side of this honor for Luffman. Sasso also used a cradle to secure a third-period fall against #8 Max Murin, in addition to looking really good for the six and a half minutes before that.

Upset of the Week

Nothing really jumps off the page, so I want to talk about the 184 weight. This year, like last, sees this division full of question marks. #1 Myles Amine of the soon-to-return Michigan Wolverines has not wrestled yet this year. #3 Aaron Brooks has looked dominant, but just returned to action this past week. The rest are a bit of a mess. Illinois’s Braunagel has wins over Rocky Jordan and Nelson Brands, but losses to Max Lyon and Owen Webster. Jordan also topped Lyon, but Nelson Brands lost to the Boilermaker before defeating Jordan. Owen Webster has wins over Lyon and Braunagel, but lost to Nebraska back-up Nathan Haas. Nebraska’s presumed starter, Taylor Venz, was majored by Brands, won three in a row over unranked guys, and then lost a barnburner to Wisconsin’s Chris Weiler. Weiler has wins over Braunagel, Lyon, and Venz, but lost to Jordan and also Aaron Brooks. Only Layne Malczewski of Michigan State is also defeated, but has yet to face Lyon, Brands, or Brooks. If Amine goes, 1 and 2 are clear, but the rest are fighting for national qualifying spots (which could be huge for Michigan and Penn State catching up to Iowa come March).