Iowa Hawkeyes

5 things to watch for Iowa at NCAA wrestling

Lee's first, Sorensen's final NCAA tournament; Iowa's team trophy chances

Iowa's Spencer Lee wrestles OSU's Nick Piccininni at 125 pounds during the Hawkeyes regular season meet against Oklahoma State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, January 14, 2018. Lee won the match 10-5. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)
Iowa's Spencer Lee wrestles OSU's Nick Piccininni at 125 pounds during the Hawkeyes regular season meet against Oklahoma State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, January 14, 2018. Lee won the match 10-5. (Ben Roberts/Freelance)
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Seventh-ranked Iowa qualified nine for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, starting Thursday. Here are five things to watch.

1. Spencer Lee's first NCAA tournament

The hot topic early in the season was whether freshman phenom Spencer Lee would shed his redshirt. Despite a loss in the Midlands semifinals, the 125-pounder joined the Hawkeyes lineup in early January, winning nine straight with a 3-2 victory over Ohio State’s NCAA champ Nathan Tomasello, who won their bout in the Big Ten semifinals.

Lee could meet No. 2-seed Tomasello in the semifinals again. Lee has been impressive in a loaded weight.

“My mind’s good,” Lee said. “My body is good and I’m ready to wrestle hard.”

2. Brandon Sorensen's last ride

Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen has become synonymous with consistency. He is a three-time Big Ten runner-up, placing third the other time. He hasn’t placed lower than fourth at the NCAA tournament, reaching the 2016 finals.

Will this be the year he can capture a title? Can he conquer Penn State’s Zain Retherford, who is 6-0 against Sorensen, who is 18th all-time at Iowa with 121 career victories?

A postseason title is the only thing missing on his resume.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is go out there and fight,” Sorensen said. “Toward the end of the year, some guys may let up a little bit. You just go out there and out fight them.”

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3. Where will Iowa finish?

The Hawkeyes placed fourth at the national tournament last year, getting fifth in 2016. The Hawkeyes were second in 2015, which is their only top-three national team finish since 2012.

Iowa is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, but it has nine qualifiers.

Penn State and Ohio State are near locks for the top two spots. The Hawkeyes have five seeded sixth or better and will need a complete effort to earn one of the other two trophies.

4. How will Michael Kemerer rebound?

Michael Kemerer (22-1) leads the Hawkeyes with wins and pins (8).

He suffered his only loss in the Big Ten Championships and medically forfeited to sixth place. The result was a sixth seed this week.

The returning All-American and Iowa Coach Tom Brands said he is fine and ready to go.

 

He could have a tough quarterfinal with Penn State’s Jason Nolf, who is returning from injury and also defaulted from the conference tournament, sharing the sixth-place spot on the awards stand. The winner has a strong shot at a finals appearance.

“This is the best time of year,” Kemerer said. “This is the last thing and where you’re like we’re on spring break now so all I have to do is wrestle. There is nothing else, so I’m excited about it. I’m feeling good about it.”

5. Vin to win

Last year, at-large pick Cash Wilcke made a run at the podium, coming up a win short. Does Iowa have anyone with potential to do the same and even complete the job?

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Vince Turk (141) might be the guy. He is just 13-8 and needed a late-season wrestle-off to win the spot. Turk did finish fifth at the Big Ten Championships to earn a berth and has five wins over ranked foes, including a decision over Nebraska’s then-No. 12 ranked Chad Red.

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

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