116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
LINCOLN, Neb. — Max Murin focused on feeling good, physically and mentally.
Good rest, good sleep and rejuvenate his body to reach his “prime ready-to-compete mode” for the postseason.
“Now is the easy part,” Murin said before the competition. “We’ve been doing the hard training all year. Now, it’s about laying it out there, competing and having fun. That’s the fun part.”
His performance was downright enjoyable for second-ranked Iowa and its fans during the opening session of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships on Saturday at University of Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena. Murin was one of six semifinalists for the Hawkeyes.
» Photos: Big Ten Wrestling Championships day 1
Fourth-seeded Murin posted a come-from-behind victory with late dramatics to defeat Northwestern’s No. 5 Yahya Thomas, 6-5, in the 149 quarterfinals. Interestingly, Murin edged Thomas by one point with a takedown late in the third.
Thomas controlled the first two periods, using a takedown for a 2-1 lead after one. He extended his lead to 5-2 with 46 seconds left after his second takedown of the match just seconds after his first stalling warning.
Murin escaped and seemed like he might come up short. He remained persistent, firing off multiple shots in the final 30 seconds. Another shot forced a second stall call and a penalty point with nine seconds remaining. Murin didn’t stop, continued to battle, capitalized for a takedown on the edge one tick later when Thomas couldn’t hold up and posted the 6-5 victory.
The victory secured an automatic NCAA berth, pushing him into the top six with the Big Ten getting seven bids. He was an automatic qualifier with a seventh-place finish at 141 as a freshman. Last season, Murin received an at-large NCAA berth after going 0-2 at the conference tournament. He was determined to take advantage on another opportunity.
“I’m definitely grateful and blessed,” Murin said. “Not a lot of people get a second chance to do stuff ever again. I got another chance. I’m going to go out there and right the wrong. Just go out there and compete hard and wrestle like I know how.”
Murin set up a rematch with Ohio State’s top-seeded Sammy Sasso in the semifinal. Sasso scored a late reversal to beat Murin, 3-2, in their regular-season dual. Facing the same opponents during the postseason doesn’t affect Murin.
“Coach emphasizes it doesn’t matter who we have,” Murin said. “We just focus on ourselves. We’re ready to go. Ready to wrestle whoever, whenever.”
» Results: Big Ten Wrestling Championships day 1
Murin also produced bonus points in his first-round match, recording a 12-0 major decision over Michigan State’s Peyton Omania. He was joined in the semifinals by seniors Austin DeSanto (133), Jaydin Eierman at 141, 165-pounder Alex Marinelli and Michael Kemerer at 174. Heavyweight Tony Cassioppi also moved into the semifinals.
Kemerer opened with a pin as the Hawkeyes won all five opening-round matches to go along with five byes. He edged Ohio State’s fifth-seeded Ethan Smith, 5-4, for his fifth top-six conference finish.
Drake Ayala won his postseason debut, beating Michigan State’s Tristan Lujan. The sixth-seeded 125-pound freshman almost knocked off Wisconsin’s No. 3 Eric Barnett in the quarterfinals, but Barnett’s escape with one second left gave him a 4-3 win.
All six Hawkeye quarterfinal victories were by decision. They also came up short, losing four bouts by a total of seven points.
“You have to put the fear of what you do really well into your opponent, and that means we have to pick up our pace,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “We have to pick up our pace and put guys under fire. There is a lot of wrestling left to go.”