Alex Marinelli feels at home with Iowa wrestling

Iowa redshirt freshman heads back to home state for dual with No. 2 Ohio State

Iowa’s Alex Marinelli (right) works to control Michigan State’s Austin Hiles (left) in their 165-pound match at an Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling dual with Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. Iowa won the dual 49-6. Marinelli won the match by technical fall. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa’s Alex Marinelli (right) works to control Michigan State’s Austin Hiles (left) in their 165-pound match at an Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling dual with Michigan State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. Iowa won the dual 49-6. Marinelli won the match by technical fall. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Alex Marinelli recalled a recruiting visit from Iowa Coach Tom Brands and Hawkeye assistant Ryan Morningstar.

The redshirt freshman from Miamisburg, Ohio, can still picture the coaching duo emerging from a pickup in jeans and T-shirts.

The appearance made an impression on the four-time Ohio state champion for national wrestling power St. Paris Graham. It also played a role into plucking the national blue-chipper from Ohio State’s backyard.

“They’re weren’t trying to be flashy,” Marinelli said. “They were their regular normal selves. That’s what I like. They weren’t trying to win you over.”

Marinelli will make a homecoming of sorts Sunday when fourth-ranked Iowa wrestles the No. 2 Buckeyes in a Big Ten Conference dual in Columbus, Ohio, beginning at 2:30 p.m. (Iowa time).

“It’s another team on our schedule,” Marinelli said. “People may say there is bad blood but I’m just looking to go and face whoever I have, whoever they put on the mat.

“I’m excited to fight alongside my brothers and we’re a family.”

Wrestling at Carver-Hawkeye Arena had been a dream for Marinelli, who improved to 2-0 at home with a 5-2 decision over Oklahoma State’s No. 8 Chandler Rogers last Sunday. Iowa City and the Iowa campus has the small-town feel that he experienced in high school.


“I went to St. Paris Graham and that’s a country town,” Marinelli said. “They know how to work hard and that’s just Iowa. They’re not flashy. They put their noses down to work.

“I just felt the coaching staff were genuine people. They know how to work hard. They believe in you.”

Morningstar was instrumental in bringing Marinelli to campus. Maybe it was the shared interests like country music or fishing. The instant connection that Marinelli and Morningstar had was enough to overcome the pressure of pleasing the home-state fans and make the choice that suited him best.

Morningstar frequently worked with him during the redshirt season last year.

“Morningstar is one of many guys on this roster or coaching staff that are genuine people that I get along with very well,” Marinelli said. “I just felt Morningstar was pretty much a brother to me. He’s like a father figure.

“He’s a great guy right away and he showed interest. He knew he believed in me and that’s what you’re looking for as a wrestler.”

Marinelli’s presence is felt in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex as well as on the mat during competition. He’s a hard-nosed wrestler with a constant motor, earning the nickname “The Bull” from fans.

“Number one is his work ethic and how hard he likes to work out there on the mat,” Brands said. “That work ethic happens in the practice room but it carries over and he’s a handful.”

Marinelli has been molded by a lifetime of sports, including baseball, football and wrestling. He is wired to be gritty and tough. He said he wants to get the job done and that Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands says he has “high octane” approach.

His physical nature comes through in daily workouts.


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“I would say he’s not very popular to wrestle with for some guys in the room because he punishes you,” Tom Brands said. “He’s one of those guys you might even be getting the best of but he’ll cut your eye with a stray elbow. Not intentional. I’m talking just very physical.”

Marinelli’s insertion into the lineup helped solidify the 165-pound class. Tom Brands said the staff knew the difference Marinelli could make, seeing him in practice and posting a 13-2 mark as a redshirt. He showed his power against Rogers, thwarting two takedown attempts and turning them into his own points.

“He doesn’t concede anything and you saw it,” Brands said. “He was in trouble a little bit. Guys are taking things away from him and then he gets to a good solid position and then ended up scoring. It’s about not conceding those positions because he is a handful.”

Marinelli is ranked ninth by and has an 8-0 record. In addition to beating Rogers, he has topped Rutgers’ 2017 U23 World champion and 12th-rated Richie Lewis twice.

A victory over Ohio State’s No. 13 Te’Shan Campbell (14-4) would help solidify him among in one of the Big Ten and college wrestling’s deepest divisions. The first month of competition for Iowa — returning from a knee injury to debut. Dec. 8 — has gone as well as expected.

“My mood’s the same a little bit,” Marinelli said. “Walking around you’re a little bit happier that you’re finally in the lineup.

“My goals are the same. I still want to be a national champion. Every day I wake up and say I want to be a national champion. Being in the lineup is just a great thing.”

Marinelli has one of the seven matches to include two ranked wrestlers. Iowa freshman Spencer Lee (125) has opened with two victories, including a 10-5 decision over the Cowboys’ No. 6 Nick Piccininni. He has top-ranked Nathan Tomasello, an NCAA champion and three-time All-American who is dropping back down after one season at 133.


“We have to be ready,” Tom Brands said. “It’s similar to both the other matches, the preparation. Both those other guys were capable. We have to figure some things out. The thing about Spencer Lee is he’s moving forward in his head and always thinking.”

Iowa’s second-ranked duo of Brandon Sorensen (149) and Michael Kemerer (157) face sixth-ranked foes. Sorensen has Ke-shawn Hayes, while Kemerer will wrestle Micah Jordan. Third-ranked heavyweight Sam Stoll faces Ohio State’s World and Olympic champion and top-ranked Kyle Snyder. Fifth-ranked Cash Wilcke will take on top-ranked Kollin Moore at 197.

The Hawkeyes (9-0, 4-0) have ascended the rankings with the 20-12 win over then-No. 3 Oklahoma State. Another tough task awaits in the Buckeyes (9-0, 4-0), who are a favorite along with defending national champion Penn State.

“Always easier to move forward with success,” Tom Brands said about the win over the Cowboys. “It was important and it was something that you were waiting to move to the next level. Now, you’re at the next level.”

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