IOWA CITY — Michael Kemerer has produced plenty of points and victories since he stepped into the Iowa wrestling lineup last year.
Kemerer’s penchant for an exciting style and action-packed performances made him a fan favorite.
With the infusion of more young talent, it might be easy to take Kemerer’s steady success and ability to dominate opponents for granted, but the sophomore 157-pounder’s impact is undeniable.
Kemerer leads the fourth-ranked Hawkeyes in victories entering Saturday’s Big Ten Conference dual with No. 7 Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, beginning at 5 p.m. Second-ranked Kemerer will face No. 5 Alex Pantaleo for the first time.
“Kemerer is a tough guy,” said Iowa Coach Tom Brands, who plucked the highly-ranked prep out of Murrysville, Pa. “He is an anchor. He’s a team captain. He’s what we want in our guys.”
As a freshman, Kemerer reached the Big Ten finals and placed third at the NCAA Championships, posting a 33-3 mark. This season, he is 16-0 and has his sights set on being the best.
“I think a big thing is setting my sights a little higher than last year,” Kemerer said after winning a Midlands title. “Last year, everything was a little new, going through the college scene and everything. This year, I’ve been through it now and it’s looking even higher than that, looking at the international guys. The best guys in the world are the guys I want to beat. These are all just steppingstones toward that.”
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Kemerer has been a regular bonus-point machine since his debut. Kemerer had 21 bonus-point victories last year, recording 12 major decisions, five technical falls and four pins. Already this season, he has a team-high seven pins, four technical falls, which is also a Hawkeye best, and a major.
“Just having fun with it and going out, doing what I love to do, go out and wrestle hard and score points,” Kemerer said. “When I’m focused on that and just letting it fly then the improvement speaks for itself. I’ve got great partners (and) coaches.”
Uncharacteristically, Kemerer surrendered late points in the last two matches, resulting in consecutive regular-decision wins for the first time since the first week of January 2017.
Brands and Kemerer both said closing matches is more mental and sticking to strengths is key to keep scoring points.
“We need him to finish matches stronger,” Brands said. “He knows that. More than anything it is a focus thing.”
Kemerer added, “It’s just not changing things. Just little adjustments I can make going forward.”
It is not a coincidence that Iowa has three unbeaten wrestlers in consecutive order in the lineup. Kemerer is sandwiched between second-ranked 149-pounder Brandon Sorensen and No. 7 Alex Marinelli at 165. The trio has a combined 40-0 record entering the dual with the Wolverines. They prove that whole iron sharpens iron adage.
“First off, it’s good in the room, having partners like that around my weight,” Kemerer said. “Being able to wrestle with them on a daily basis is huge. Preparing for the match is just keeping that consistency.”
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Kemerer faces his second straight ranked foe and sixth overall. Four have been rated in the top 10, including Pantaleo. The pair have never faced each other, but Kemerer remembered Pantaleo’s matches with Sorensen. Kemerer isn’t concerned with his opponent as much as his own preparation.
“I’ve gotten to watch him wrestle a couple times,” Kemerer said. “Going into my matches it’s more focused on myself, getting myself ready.”
Iowa has won nine straight against the Wolverines (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) and own a 32-25-1 edge in the series. This year’s installment features 16 ranked wrestlers, including eight in the top five of their respective weights.
The Hawkeyes (9-1, 4-1) look to rebound from a 22-12 loss to No. 2 Ohio State.
“I feel like we’re progressing,” Kemerer said. “I try not to look too far down the road. Just look at what’s in front of us.
"I feel like every day we’re getting better in all those areas and it’s starting to show. We know we still have a lot of season left, so we’re going to keep doing that. Keep getting better every day and see where it takes us, but I’m excited about it.”
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