116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DETROIT — Alex Marinelli’s voice cracked as he reflected on his college wrestling career.
Austin DeSanto noted the University of Iowa made his life better and prepared him for whatever is next, while Michael Kemerer said he was content with his decision to extend his time as a Hawkeye.
The emotion was nearly palpable, regardless of the end resulting in victory, defeat or a forfeit, as a handful of seniors donned the black-and-gold singlet one last time.
Each earned All-America honors and helped third-ranked Iowa to a third-place finish at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena.
The Hawkeyes had five placewinners, including 197-pound finalist Jacob Warner, and locked up their spot in the team race with 74 points before the championship matches.
Kemerer became Iowa’s first five-time All-American, receiving National Wrestling Coaches Association honors in 2020 when the national tournament was canceled. He was fourth at 174.
“I’m a competitor, so I hate losing,” Kemerer said. “It’s hard to put that aside. At the same time, the other voice inside me is trying to tell me how much I have to be thankful for and how good my college career has been.
“All the good things I’d tell somebody else I’m trying to tell myself. That little battle there.”
The leader, affectionately known as “Grandpa Mike” due to his age, and 2021 NCAA finalist chose to return for a seventh season, enduring injury to grab his fourth top-four finish.
“It’s funny,” Kemerer said. “It makes me feel old and then I realize I am 25 and I have a lot of my life left to live. The joke has been fun.
“Honestly, even though not getting what I wanted, I have zero regrets about coming back. I learned a lot about myself. It’s just been an incredible journey.”
Kemerer’s season was indicative of the team’s — filled with injury and adversity. He made a habit of dazzling Hawkeye fans and overcame a shoulder injury to log consecutive sudden-victory consolation wins to reach the bronze-medal bout. He defeated Michigan’s Logan Massa, 6-4, in the consolation semifinals before falling to North Carolina State’s fourth-seeded Hayden Hidlay in his finale.
He demonstrated the “no quit” and selfless nature, doing whatever it took to win for the team. Kemerer had an idea of the lasting impression he wanted to make.
“Someone that was fun to watch wrestle and did it right,” said Kemerer, who became the 41st Hawkeye with 100 career wins, “and that left it all on the mat.”
DeSanto and Marinelli joined Kemerer as four-time All-Americans. Marinelli notched his best finish, fighting back from a quarterfinal upset. The achievement also came with the sobering reality that it may not have included the ultimate individual prize for any of them.
“It’s a big deal but you guys know what I wanted,” Marinelli said. “You guys know I wanted the title. I’ve got to be thankful and appreciative of what I did but I know I’m better than that. This tournament is tough. I have to appreciate the ride and the journey. It’s been great.”
Marinelli was just one of eight Hawkeyes to be a four-time Big Ten Conference champion. The national gold eluded him, but he made an overall impact.
“My goal and my word that I like to describe myself is a champion,” Marinelli said. “If I don’t get what I want, I can still be a champion off the mat. I can still be a champion the way I carry myself.”
DeSanto reached the semifinals and won both of his matches Saturday. He went 5-1 in the tournament, improving to 20-4 this season. He defeated Illinois’ Lucas Byrd, 10-6, to start the day and closed with a 7-4 decision over Arizona State’s third-seeded Michael McGee.
DeSanto had to respond after his title hopes were dashed Friday.
“You can’t just give up,” DeSanto said. “There are people in the trenches and people working. You’ve got to get the next best thing. You’ve got to.”
DeSanto, who began his career at Drexel, said his experience has been awesome since transferring to Iowa. He said he is a better person being a part of the Hawkeye program, which readied him for a transition from a student-athlete to the real world.
DeSanto surmised what would have been had he not arrived in Iowa City.
“At home living with my parents, playing video games the entire time,” DeSanto said, “and being a bum.”
DeSanto also shared what he wanted people to remember.
“How hard I worked, not just in the room, but the mental side of things and being a good teammate,” DeSanto said.
Heavyweight Tony Cassioppi round out Saturday afternoon’s medalists. He defeated Nebraska’s Christian Lance, 2-0, for seventh.
“I think I’m a lot better than I finished today in the bracket,” Cassioppi said. “There are a lot of tough heavyweights, but I think I just should have been better.”