Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa needs mix of firepower and depth to improve at NCAA wrestling

Hawkeyes looking for better performance than 4th-place Big Ten finish

Iowa's Alex Marinelli controls Iowa State's Skyler St. John in the 165-pound match at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Sunday, February 18, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa's Alex Marinelli controls Iowa State's Skyler St. John in the 165-pound match at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Sunday, February 18, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CLEVELAND— Cleveland serves as home to a shrine dedicated to history’s best musicians.

Iowa Coach Tom Brands is bringing the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes to town, including second-seeded senior Brandon Sorensen, No. 3-seeded freshman Spencer Lee and All-American Michael Kemerer, who is a No. 6 seed despite only one official loss.

They are ready to rock and roll for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, beginning Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena. Iowa enters the tournament with nine automatic qualifiers.

“I know we have six guys seeded and five of those are in the top six,” Brands said. “I know we have firepower and I know we have guys, when you look at it maybe from a Hawkeye fan point of view, you scratch your head maybe at the number behind their name and where they’re seeded.

“That doesn’t matter now. It’s laid out. It’s time to go. One match at a time.”

Sorensen (149) is making his fourth appearance, placing fourth or better the last three seasons including a national runner-up finish in 2016. He is 21-2 and opens his last tournament as a Hawkeye with Navy’s Jared Prince (22-4).

“The final time just going in not holding anything back,” Sorensen said. “Letting it fly, giving it everything I’ve got.”

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On the other end of the spectrum, Lee (125) is making his first NCAA trip. Lee and the Iowa staff elected to pull his redshirt in January. He has gone 17-2 with a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. Lee will face the winner between Cal State-Bakersfield’s Sergio Mendez (22-12) and Chattanooga’s Alonzo Allen (21-8).

“He’s been a hugely positive impact on our entire team,” Brands said. “We’re looking forward to watching him compete. He is where he is and we’re excited about watching him compete the next three days.”

Kemerer (157) is coming off his lone loss of the season in the conference semifinals. He medically forfeited out of the tournament, sharing sixth with Penn State NCAA champion and third-seeded Jason Nolf.

“I feel great,” said Kemerer, who is 22-1 and opens with Cal State-Bakersfield’s Coleman Hammond (27-13). “I’m really excited. I’m ready to get out to Cleveland.”

Joey Gunther (174), Cash Wilcke at 197 and heavyweight Sam Stoll are making their second national tournament appearance. Vince Turk (141), 165-pound freshman Alex Marinelli and Mitch Bowman at 184 are making their NCAA debuts.

Marinelli and Stoll are both seeded fifth. Iowa will need a complete effort to improve on its fourth-place team finish at the conference tournament. The Hawkeyes were fourth here a year ago.

“The process is always about moving forward,” Brands said. “Our guys do it better than anybody. They’re open-minded and they know their best wrestling is now. That’s the direction we’re all headed.”

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

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