IOWA CITY, Iowa — The top-ranked University of Iowa wrestling team defeated No. 2 Penn State, 19-17, on Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes won six-of-10 bouts. They traded technical falls at 125 and 141. They dropped a one vs. two decision and 165, and flipped the script on a one vs. two at 174. They led early, trailed in the middle, and kept punching until the dust settled with a 7-0 win at heavyweight.
“That’s a heavyweight boxing match,” said Iowa head coach Tom Brands. “A fist-fight. Not a fist-fight because you get in trouble for saying that, but it’s a fist-fight back and forth. Whatever the crowd was, I don’t think anybody left, do you? I don’t think anybody left.”
Tom Brands following Friday’s win. (He liked it) pic.twitter.com/jFYR1V3qDZ
— Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) February 1, 2020
No one left until Tony Cassioppi walked off the mat to the applause of 14,905 fans bellowing in admiration. His shutout gave Iowa its first lead since the dual’s opening match. It punctuated a rally that saw Iowa erase an early seven-point deficit, and it dealt Penn State its first Big Ten loss since the Hawkeyes topped the Nittany Lions on the road in 2015.
“It was awesome. We have great fans. It was loud,” Cassioppi said. “We have a great group of guys and we stayed in our matches. We didn’t let the effects of the other matches boil over into our match. We all were focused on what we had to do.”
Iowa found itself trailing 11-10 at the break, despite winning three-of-five first-half matches. Spencer Lee opened with a 16-1 technical fall at 125, his sixth straight, but an injury default at 133 and a team point deduction for failing to control the mat saw the Nittany Lions jump in front, 6-4.
Penn State stretched its lead to 11-4 after three bouts, but wins from Iowa’s Pat Lugo and Kaleb Young trimmed the lead to one. The second-half opened with consecutive matches featuring one vs. two. Top-ranked Vincenzo Joseph used a six-point throw to top No. 2 Alex Marinelli, 7-5, at 165, and at 174, Michael Kemerer put on a performance that could have otherwise sealed Iowa’s fate.
The second-ranked Kemerer scored takedowns in every period, tossed in a reversal, and added 1:22 of riding time to finish on top of No. 1 Mark Hall, 11-6.
The win was Kemerer’s fourth straight against a top eight opponent, and likely means he is one win away on Sunday from earning his first career No. 1 ranking.
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“I’m not really about proving stuff to anybody but myself,” Kemerer said. “The goal is March. It was good to go out and get this win and prove, but at the same time nationals is what we’re looking to and we have to just keep getting better every day until then.”
Kemerer’s win set up a best-of-three in the dual’s final three bouts. The Nittany Lions struck first when No. 9 Aaron Brooks won by 4-2 decision against No. 6 Abe Assad. That set up a do-or-die for Iowa, and it started with Jacob Warner’s 4-2 win over Shakur Rasheed. Warner scored a takedown in the opening minute and used 1:27 of riding time to earn the win, setting up the winner-take-all at heavyweight.
“Warner learned from the Nebraska match,” Brands said. “He got caught up and wrapped up in all the noise from Assad’s match. That is how you become a seasoned veteran. That is how you learn to take care of business in here and do what you are here to do, and that is wrestle your match.
“We grew up a little bit. Cassioppi lives for that. I don’t think we had to find out if he can handle that. He lives for that. Now we have to keep getting better. We are getting on bus and heading to Michigan State and we have to be ready to go. We are onto Michigan State.”
Iowa wrestles at Michigan State on Sunday beginning at 12 p.m. (CT). The dual is streamed at BTN Plus.