Present and future of Iowa wrestling on display on first day of Midlands

Hawkeyes send 5 to semifinals, plus 2 unattached wrestlers

Iowa’s Sam Stoll wrestles Friday at the Midlands Championships in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Iowa’s Sam Stoll wrestles Friday at the Midlands Championships in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Iowa meshed a little of the current strength with what is to come.

The Hawkeyes relied on some accomplished veterans to propel them into the Midlands semifinals, while catching a glimpse of the new wave of talent, waiting in the wings.

Iowa advanced five into the semifinals and two more highly-touted wrestlers with Hawkeye ties moved into the top six Friday night at the 55th Annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at the Sears Centre Arena. Iowa tallied 91 team points, leading second-place Arizona State by 16. Rutgers was three back in third.

All-Americans and No. 1 seeds Brandon Sorensen (149) and Michael Kemerer (157) rolled through the quarterfinals as expected. Freshmen and current redshirts, Spencer Lee and Jacob Warner, reached the semifinals at 125 and 197, respectively.

They were part of 11 still alive representing the Hawkeyes and four unattached from Iowa that reached the second day.

“You look at the present,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “You’re building for the immediate future.

“Sorensen and Kemerer are doing a good job, leading the charge there. We have the future with Lee. He can be the immediate future of that weight class. Then, you have (Max) Murin, (Pat) Lugo and Warner and some good things happen there.”

Many eyes have been fixed on Lee, the three-time World freestyle champion. Lee dominated his way to the semifinals with a 15-0 technical fall over Edinboro’s second-seeded All-American Sean Russell, leading 12-0 by the end of the first.

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“I just went out and did what the coaches told me to do,” Lee said. “Go out and score points. Just relax and be yourself and the points are going to be there. That’s how it’s got to be. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

Lee opened with a first-period pin and throttled Illinois’ No. 7 seed Travis Piotrowski, 17-2. Lee wrestled just three matches – winning the UNI Open earlier this month – after rehabbing from a spring knee surgery. He appreciates being able to compete after missing time each of the last two years to injury.

“Just being back on the mat is awesome,” said Lee, noting he’s not wrestling for Iowa officially. “Being a Hawkeye has been awesome. I’m just glad to be out here wrestling again.”

None were as dominant as Kemerer. He wasted little time putting away opponents. He pinned his way to the semifinals, ending four matches in a combined 9:54. Kemerer decked Indiana’s ninth-seeded Jake Danishek in 4:24.

“The deepest he’s gone is a minute into the second period,” Brands said. “We like that as well.”

Sorensen, who is looking for his third straight Midlands title, and heavyweight Sam Stoll manhandled foes.

Sorensen had three bonus-point victories, including a technical fall before beating Rutgers’ No. 8 Eleazar Deluca, 12-2, in the quarterfinals. Sorensen scored a combined 38 points in his final two matches, setting up a rematch with former NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis, who is competing for Arizona State.

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“He didn’t let that guy keep it close,” Brands said. “There’s clear strategy with teams, especially with Sorensen. It seems like his scouting report is all he’s got is this or that. If he just wrestles that high pace, in and out stuff. They can know what he has. It doesn’t matter. Just open it up and let it fly.”

More Midlands: Iowa's Carter Happel looks to make claim for starting spot

Stoll was challenged often Friday. He won his first two matches by disqualification for stalling. He closed the night with a 17-5 major decision of Ohio’s Zack Parker. Stoll handled opponents’ lack of engagement in stride.

“It’s fine,” Stoll said. “It’s (bonus) points, so it is what it is. Maybe I should have ended matches a little bit earlier.

“I rode the (crap) out of guys. I need to turn them. I’m really close. I need to get there more and finish matches.”

In his final two matches, Stoll showed his versatility, using leg attacks for points. Something that will make his go-to upper body locks more effective.

“It’s something I’ve been working on,” Stoll said. “It’s something I think everyone knows I need to develop into my offense, getting more of those things will open up my other holds.”

Alex Marinelli gave the Hawkeyes three straight semifinalists with his 3-2 decision over Brown’s Jonathan Viruet at 165. He forced a semifinal rematch with Rutgers’ Richie Lewis. Marinelli beat the U23 World champ in his debut at Rutgers, winning in sudden victory.

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“I’m excited to wrestle,” Marinelli said. “I’ll wrestle whoever is ahead of me. He’s the next opponent ahead of me and I’m ready.”

The Hawkeyes have a head-to-head semifinal battle at 197. Third-seeded Cash Wilcke and No. 7 seed Warner will face off. Wilcke had a pin and two decisions to advance. Warner scored a takedown in the final second to beat West Virginia’s No. 2 Jacob Smith, 3-1, in the quarters.

Warner won the wrestle-off between the two by a point before the season. Brands said he’s happy with both of them.

“You want to see that in the finals, but they are seeded on the same side and are going to meet,” Brands said. “Let the best guy win.”

Iowa has five semifinalists and six alive in the consolations, including Paul Glynn (133), Carter Happel (141), Jeren Glosser (149), 174-pounder Joey Gunther and Mitch Bowman at 184. The unattached corps have four of its five remaining, including transfer Lugo (149) and Murin at 141.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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