No opposing wrestling team is safe in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The arena, voted the best place to watch college wrestling by NCAA.com readers, is always hostile, always loud and always passionate for the Black and Gold. This is an environment where No. 1 seeds fall, teams are upset and the Hawkeyes reign.
UNDEFEATED HAWKEYES: Here’s what we learned from Iowa’s dominant Big Ten weekend
The No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers were the latest team to invade Iowa territory, but they couldn’t stop the Hawkeyes. Iowa prevailed in eight of the ten matches to stay undefeated on the year and walk away with a 26-6 win.
The dual started off at 125 pounds where No. 1 Spencer Lee rolled to another quick tech fall in the first period. He ended the dual as the only wrestler to record bonus points, but teammates Austin DeSanto, Pat Lugo, Kaleb Young, Alex Marinelli, Michael Kemerer, Abe Assad and Tony Cassioppi also recorded wins.
Here are the three things we learned from wild dual between No. 1 ranked Iowa and No. 7 ranked Nebraska.
1. Iowa couldn’t shut out Nebraska, but the Hawkeyes showed off their strength with a series of All-American stars.
Head coach Tom Brands has developed quite a lethal roster this season, led by No. 1 Spencer Lee at 125 pounds and No. 1 Pat Lugo at 149 pounds. Austin DeSanto, Alex Marinelli and Michael Kemerer are all ranked No. 2 in their respective weight classes as well, while the other five starters are also ranked in the top six. Nebraska brought nine ranked wrestlers to the mat with four All-Americans in the lineup and three athletes in the top six. 165-pounder Isaiah White and 184-pounder Taylor Venz pace the Cornhuskers with their No. 5 rankings, while No. 6 Mikey Labriola and No. 9 Chad Red also sit within the top 10. The Nebraska lineup is solid, but on Saturday, it wasn’t solid enough to top Iowa.
Last weekend, Iowa barreled past the No. 14 Purdue Boilermakers 41-0, as Lee tech-falled the then-No. 5 wrestler in the country, Kaleb Young topped the No. 8 guy at 157 pounds, Kemerer out-wrestled No. 4 Dylan Lydy and Jacob Warner upset No. 2 Christian Brunner at 197 pounds. Any match where Purdue might have had an advantage, Iowa shut them down. The team did not show the same dominance against the Cornhuskers, however, giving up two of the ten duals to Iowa. To any other team in the country, winning eight of ten duals would be considered dominant. For Iowa, losing two duals means it’s time for some adjustments.
Lee, as expected, earned a bonus point win at 125, while No. 2 Austin DeSanto worked hard for his 7-4 decision over No. 13 Ridge Lovett at 133. No. 1 Pat Lugo also wrestled tough for his decision win over Collin Purinton 4-1 at 149 pounds while Kaleb Young took a 6-4 win behind a game-changing late takedown at 157. Marinelli and Kemerer both also earned third-period takedowns at 165 and 174 pounds to help six of Iowa’s seven All-American add a W to their resume.
2. Carver-Hawkeye Arena loves Abe Assad
Abe Assad. What a story. The true freshman 184-pounder for Iowa earned his starting spot after finishing second at Midlands and out-placing his teammates Nelson Brands and Cash Wilcke, and he faced his biggest test against Nebraska’s No. 5 Taylor Venz on Saturday night. Assad was 17-3 on the year with losses to No. 4 Taylor Lujan, Julien Broderson and Kendrick Jone heading into the dual, but he walked off the mat 18-3 with his first top-five win in the Big Ten.
THE EMERGENCE OF ABE ASSAD: Here’s what you need to know about how the freshman impressed at Midlands
There’s by no means a weak spot in the Iowa lineup, but this was a considered a weight where Nebraska could have a shot to put up points. That statement will no longer be applied to 184 pounds.
Nebraska’s Venz earned the first takedown in this intense weight battle, but it was Assad who kept fighting and attacking. He escaped (twice) and then went in for his own shot, giving himself a 4-3 lead but not stopping there. Another takedown built Assad’s lead to 6-4, and that’s where he ended the dual. Undefeated in Carver-Hawkeye and undefeated in the Big Ten, Abe Assad is ready for the rest of this season.
3. Two upsets gave the Cornhuskers their six points, but those six points weren’t enough.
As previously mentioned, this Iowa team is the most dangerous squad in the country and putting all of its effort into winning the 2020 NCAA title. The Cornhuskers were ranked as high as No. 2 before the loss to Wisconsin, and they showed why after battling Iowa in every match and prevailing in two.
Nebraska faced its biggest disparity in strength against Iowa at 125 pounds, where unranked Alex Thomsen lost to No. 1 and two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee in less than three minutes. A junior, Lee is undefeated on the year at 9-0 now and he also won seniors nationals in December, showing his dominance both on the college and senior level circuits. Lee has also now bonused all nine of his opponents and teched or pinned all but one of them. He’s on a roll and looking as strong as ever,
The remaining nine matches were ranked duals, and Iowa had the advantage in all but one of them. Nebraska did better than just the one match win, but they didn’t one the one they were expected to win. Prior to the match, we predicted that the biggest challenges would come at 184, 165 or 174, but Iowa had other plans. No. 2 Alex Marinelli stopped No. 5 Isaiah White at 165 pounds with a killer third-period takedown, giving the Cornhusker a back-to-back Big Ten loss. The only time these two athletes wrestled, Marinelli took the 3-0 decision victory, and the margin was small again on Saturday at 4-3. Marinelli is now 2-0 against his Cornhusker foe.
Iowa senior Michael Kemerer followed Marinelli with a gritty third-period performance of his own, thriving off the Carver-Hawkeye momentum and sneaking past No. 6 Mikey Labriola 3-1. The win marks another top-10 win for Kemerer, who just beat No. 4 Dylan Lydy of Purdue last weekend.
In the one match where the Huskers had the advantage, 184 pounds, Iowa freshman Abe Assad earned the upset win, but the Cornhuskers found points in other places.
At 141 pounds, Chad Red used his speed and pace to shut down previously undefeated Max Murin 6-2, and at 197 pounds No. 14 Eric Schultz turned the motors on against All-American No. 4 Jacob Warner and stopped the Hawkeye with a third period takedown of his own 3-1. Nebraska may have just one these two matches, but they fought the entire seven minutes in nine of those duals and proved why they are still worthy of being a top-ten team.
Read below for a full match-by-match recap:
— Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) January 19, 2020
125 POUNDS: No. 1 Spencer Lee vs. Alex Thompson
- The broadcast is delayed slightly as the Indiana vs. Nebraska basketball game wraps up.
- The dual is still delayed on the broadcast, but the wrestlers are on the mat. Spencer Lee is still sporting his thick knee brace but looking confident as he is greeted by the Hawkeye faithful.
- Well, that was quick.
Spencer Lee with first period tech fall! That’s a 5-0 Hawkeye lead.
We can’t type fast enough to keep up with Spencer Lee! The two-time NCAA champ didn’t even need three minutes to earn another tech fall. Iowa leads Nebraska 5-0.
????: @Hawks_Wrestling pic.twitter.com/1wK2uCw1Cz
— NCAA Wrestling (@ncaawrestling) January 19, 2020
133 POUNDS: No. 2 Austin DeSanto vs. No. 13 Ridge Lovett
- Austin DeSanto is on the move. He has a 4-1 lead after the first period.
- Nebraska’s Ridge Lovett trails 4-2 now with 1:30 left in the second period.
- Make that another takedown as DeSanto extends his lead. He’s looking for bonus. It’s just the Iowa way.
- POINTS, POINTS, POINTS. It’s now 7-3 DeSanto.
- The second period will end 7-3, and Lovett chose top to start the third. He’s looking to ride the fast-paced DeSanto.
- Lovett still trails 7-3, but what a ride! The Cornhusker has racked up over a minute of riding time, and DeSanto has not been able to get out. The Hawkeye is struggling. Ten seconds left in the match.
DeSanto wins 7-4, but he wasn’t smiling. No bonus points and a tough final period. Hawks lead 8-0.
141 POUNDS: No. 3 Max Murin vs. No. 9 Chad Red
— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) January 19, 2020
- Red with the early takedown, but Murin earns the escape. It’s 2-1 after a minute
- Another takedown for Red. We end the first period 4-1
- Murin with an escape, but Red has been the workhorse in this match. The Nebraska All-American has over a minute of riding time and looks for second takedown before the end of the period.
- A brick was thrown, but nothing came of it.
- Red leads 5-2 now after an escape with time ticking down in the third period.
- Red is on fire. Murin is looking for something but coming up short. Ref calls a stalemate with less than a minute to go in the match.
- 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. That’s a Nebraska win!
Chad Red takes this one! The Cornhusker All-American wins 6-2 over No. 3 Max Murin to give his team three points.
149 POUNDS: No. 1 Pat Lugo vs. No. 16 Collin Purinton
— NCAA Wrestling (@ncaawrestling) January 19, 2020
- Lugo with the first takedown in just over a minute
- This Iowa crowd is wild!
- Lugo picks up the escape, and the No. 1 Hawkeye leads 3-0. This one is tight, competitive and scrappy.
- Purinton is looking to make something happen, but Lugo has nearly two minutes of riding time. Time to start the third period.
- Escape Purinton. It’s 3-1 now in favor of Lugo.
- Lugo is looking to hold on. Less than a minute to go.
LUGO SURVIVES! That’s a 4-1 decision for the No. 1 149-pounder. Hawks lead 11-3.
157 POUNDS: No. 6 Kaleb Young and No. 11 Peyton Robb
Young gets a clutch takedown in the third to WIN 6-4!!!! pic.twitter.com/22yjwSgy0b
— Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) January 19, 2020
- No score yet, but these boys are scrambling. Lots of action here in the first period.
- Young picks up the first takedown, but those first two and half minutes were fun.
- Escape Robb. The period will end with a 2-1 advantage for Young, but Robb came here to compete.
- Young picks up the early escape to start the period, but Robb makes a move and and takes down the Iowa All-American. An escape for Young makes it 4-3 in favor of Iowa.
- More action from Robb, and he nearly had that one, but nothing. Young stays tough on the defense.
- Young is working HARD to hold down Robb to start the third. Iowa has just ten seconds of riding time. Escape Robb. It’s all tied up, folks!
- Blood time. One minute to go.
- Two! For Young. He takes the 6-4 lead. That was some tough wrestling from the All-American.
- More blood. Hang in there with us. Robb has blood coming out of his lip.
- Less than 30 seconds left, and Young is trying to hold him down. Ten seconds. He gets it done.
Kaleb Young with a gritty 6-4 win. That’s a 14-3 lead for Iowa after five!
165 POUNDS: No. 2 Alex Marinelli vs. No. 5 Isaiah White
- Marinelli also sporting a knee brace tonight, but he’s not wrestling hesitant. The Bull looks energized and ready to take on the competitive White.
- White (and Nebraska as a whole) is fighting
- Two points for White! He’s on the board and will end the first period with a lead. Marinelli has not taken a loss in Carver-Hawkeye yet in his career.
- Marinelli is here to ride! He’s looking to run down the period and earn some riding time. White has not been able to get up yet. Less than a minute remains in the second period.
- White could not escape. Marinelli prevents the Nebraska point and will start the third on top. The Iowa Hawkeye has over 1:30 of riding time.
- This is Marinelli’s time! WOW. An escape, a takedown and over two minutes of riding time for Iowa. White put a takedown up early to send a quick scare through the Iowa fanbase, but their leader is thriving now. Less than a minute to go.
- Escape for White. It’s 3-3. Riding time is a factor for Iowa. Ten seconds to go.
Alex Marinelli! The Hawkeyes add three to the team total as The Bull excites his fans here in Carver-Hawkeye with a win over No. 5 White. Hawks lead 17-3!
174 POUNDS: No. 2 Michael Kemerer vs. No. 6 Mikey Labriola
- Lots of action in the first period, but no points.
- Kemerer is the first one on the board with an escape to start the second.
- Kemerer’s escape is the only point scored so far. It’s 1-0 going into the third.
- Escape Labriola. It’s 1-1 with 1:30 to go.
- Labriola with a shot. A scramble that nearly give Labriola the two, but Kemerer finds a way to come out on top, and his takedown seals the match. It’s 3-1 for Kemerer — another Hawkeye win!
That’s right, another third period takedown for the Hawkeyes. Kemerer stays undefeated on the year, and Iowa moves to 20-3.
184 POUNDS: No. 5 Taylor Venz vs. Abe Assad
- We asked before the dual what we might see from Abe Assad. Tonight we’ll find out the answer to that question.
- These two guys look strong out there with some good early hand-fighting
- Nebraska gets the first takedown
- A key escape for Assad makes it 2-1 to end the period, but Labriola picks up an escape of his own to start the second period. It’s 3-1 in favor of the Husker.
- Assad with the takedown to put Labriola in a dangerous position.
- Assad rides out the rest of the period. Watching Spencer Lee cheer wildly on the sideline is so fun.
- Assad starts the third with an escape. He leads 4-3.
- Another takedown for Abe. He’s up 6-3. This crowd loves its new 184-pounder.
- Venz picks up an escape. It’s 6-4 now in favor of the Hawkeye. Riding time is not a factor.
ABE ASSAD! In his Carver-Hawkeye debut, the freshman picks up a decision against the Nebraska All-American.
197 POUNDS: No. 4 Jacob Warner vs. No. 14 Eric Schultz
- No points after the first minute.
- First period ends scoreless.
- Escape for Warner to start the second, but that’s the only score we saw in the second. It’s 1-0 Iowa.
- Escape Schultz. Tied 1-1 with 1:20 to go in the match.
- Eric Schultz with the third-period takedown for the win.
Another win for the Cornhuskers! Schultz takes it 3-1 over All-American Jacob Warner.
285 POUNDS: No. 3 Tony Cassioppi vs. No. 15 Christian Lance
- We know Cassioppi is chasing the Iowa pin record during his career. Only one athlete earned major decision points in this dual so far, but he’ll try to be second.
- The fierceness in the eyes of these wrestlers is something scary.
- No escape yet for Nebraska, but the coaches are challenging a locked hands call against Cassioppi.
- It doesn’t look like we are going to have locked hands, but there was some blood time. Action is back now.
- Escape Lance. 1:10 left in the second.
- Takedown Tony!
- The second periods ends with a 2-1 lead for Iowa.
- Cassioppi was warned for stalling, but picks up a quick escape to start the third. He now leads 3-1.
- The Hawkeye heavyweight goes in for a shot, but Lance stays tough. Cassioppi has 1:14 of riding time.
- And that’s another takedown for Cassioppi. Iowa is control of this one.
Tony Cassioppi rides out his opponent for the win! Hawks win the dual 26-6.