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Alex Marinelli leads quartet of Iowa Hawkeyes into Big Ten tournament finals
Marinelli will attempt to become Iowa’s 8th 4-time conference champion; Hawkeyes in 3rd, Michigan leads Penn State for team lead
LINCOLN, Neb. — One more for four.
Alex Marinelli earned a shot to join a limited group of Iowa wrestlers who have won four conference titles and become the first in 24 years.
Second-seeded Marinelli returned to the 165-pound final with a victory over Wisconsin’s No. 3 Dean Hamiti in the semifinals of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships Saturday night at University of Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena. He was one of four finalists for the second-ranked Hawkeyes, who were third in the team race with 109 points after the first day.
Michigan led after the first day with 116 points, only 4 1/2 ahead of Penn State. Both teams have five finalists and go head-to-head in three finals.
Iowa also qualified all 10 wrestlers for the NCAA Championships on March 17-19 in Detroit.
“Day 1 is in the books and we have 10 qualifiers and four in the finals,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “Four where they want to be. We’ve got to keep wrestling to be in the best positions to go to Detroit, whether it’s seeding, emotionally or everything that goes with it.”
Marinelli defeated Hamiti for the second straight time. The pair exchanged escapes before Marinelli countered a Hamiti shot, circling behind for the decisive takedown in the third.
“Let’s put another championship in his belt,” Brands said. “Finalist is great. Good work on Day 1. Now, let’s put an emphasis with a championship at four weights.”
Marinelli (16-1) will attempt to become the eighth Hawkeye to win four Big Ten crowns and the first since Mark Ironside did it at 134 in 1998. Joe Scarpello was the first to do it from 1947-50. Mike Deanna (1977-79, 1981), Ed Banach (1980-83), Barry Davis (1981-83, 1985), Duane Goldman (1983-86) and Jim Heffernan (1983, 1985-87) are the other Iowa wrestlers to achieve the feat.
Michigan’s fourth-seeded Cameron Amine now stands in Marinelli’s way. Amine spoiled a chance for Marinelli to avenge his only setback of the season, beating Ohio State’s top-seeded Carson Kharchla, 3-1, in sudden victory. Marinelli was aware of the other semifinal result.
“He’s funny because he had his eyes on the other mat, too, because that’s his only loss on the year,” Brands said. “We’re going to be wrestling Michigan in the finals. He’s got to be ready.”
Heavyweight Tony Cassioppi capped Iowa’s 4-2 semifinal round with a thriller over Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet. Cassioppi (15-2) surrendered a takedown with 40 seconds remaining, but pulled out a reversal to tie it with four ticks left and force sudden victory.
In the extra stanza, Cassioppi hit a leg-attack and finished the takedown for a 6-4 decision and his first trip to the conference finals.
“It was actually a 38-second score to go to overtime, then keep your composure and hit a shot,” Brands said. “He converted and that shot shows he can go earlier.”
For the second straight year, Austin DeSanto climbed his way into the finals, stepping over Illinois’ Lucas Byrd to do it. He did it with a one-point decision for the second straight season as well.
Second-seeded DeSanto scored a takedown with 15 seconds left for a 4-3 victory. Byrd actually scored the first points with a reversal in the second. DeSanto escaped and opened the third with an escape before hitting a go-behind and executing a mat return for the score. DeSanto released Byrd after a restart with the match in hand.
“I think that he gutted out a win, that he doesn’t have a plan and he just wrestles hard,” Brands said. “He did his job.
“The thing about DeSanto is his awareness is so good that when he gets an opportunity he puts it in the bin (on the scoreboard).”
The win sets up another repeat of last season. DeSanto (16-2) will face Penn State’s top-ranked Roman Bravo-Young in the finals. Bravo-Young has won the last four meetings, including a 5-2 decision in last year’s Big Ten final and a 3-2 win in a January dual. DeSanto, a two-time All-American, has notched his fourth straight top-four conference finish.
Jaydin Eierman (14-1) followed DeSanto into the finals and will also have a rematch from the 2021 finals. The second-seeded 141-pounder didn’t even have to take the mat, receiving a medical forfeit from Rutgers third-seeded Sebastian Rivera. Eierman opened with a 10-3 quarterfinal win over Ohio State’s Dylan D’Emilio.
Lee has edged Eierman in three straight meetings, including in sudden victory in last year’s NCAA finals and in this season’s dual. Lee posted a 6-5 decision in last year’s conference final.
Max Murin (149) and Michael Kemerer (174) also reached the semifinals. Murin dropped a 3-1 decision to Ohio State’s top-seeded Sammy Sasso, while Kemerer medical forfeited to Penn State’s Carter Starocci. Kemerer opened with a pin and then was injured before finishing off his 5-4 quarterfinal win over the Buckeyes’ Ethan Smith.
“It’s not Detroit,” Brands said. “If it’s Detroit, he’s wrestling.
“It’s not easy for him, but very smart. Without a doubt the right decision.”
All 10 Iowa wrestlers reached the podium and were assured of a top-eight finish. Kaleb Young (157) and 197-pounder Jacob Warner advanced to the consolation semifinals, earning top-six finishes. Drake Ayala (125) and Abe Assad at 184 will wrestle for seventh Sunday.