116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Sports / Iowa Hawkeyes / Hawkeye Wrestling
Iowa’s Spencer Lee upset in NCAA wrestling semifinals, Real Woods advances
Hawkeyes have 6 All-Americans; ISU’s David Carr and UNI’s Parker Keckeisen advance to finals
TULSA, Okla. — University of Iowa wrestler Real Woods took one step closer to his ultimate goal.
The Hawkeye celebration was subdued, coming on the heels of a crushing loss that shocked them and most of the wrestling world when Purdue’s Matt Ramos derailed Spencer Lee’s attempt for a fourth national title.
Ramos hit a big move in the final 30 seconds and secured a pin with one second left to upset the three-time champion in the semifinals of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Friday night at BOK Center. Woods advanced to the 141-pound final with a convincing 11-1 major decision over Nebraska’s Brock Hardy.
The major upset was one of the few glitches in the fourth session as the Hawkeyes went 6-0 in consolation bouts, leading to six All-Americans and putting Iowa in second place with 77 points.
“We’ve got to move on,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “The next step is to take the next step. You’ve got to look at Real Woods got a win. Did it for Spencer. We won six matches in a row on the back side. Did it for Spencer.
“Sometimes it’s easy to fold up your tent when your leader goes down but these guys are principled.”
Lee and Ramos had an eerily similar start to their dual earlier this year. Ramos caught Lee on his back but Lee was able to come back for a first-period fall. This time, Ramos caught Lee again for an early 4-0 lead before Lee came back again with an escape in the first and four nearfall in the second.
Lee seemed to be in control when he scored a takedown for a 7-4 lead after Iowa won a review. Ramos rolled for an escape on the restart and a few seconds later mayhem ensued with Ramos putting Lee on his back for a six-point move and then closing with the fall.
“I trust my ability and sometimes you've got to let it fly and just not really think,” Ramos said. “So, I went for that. And I felt the pop-through, and I knew it was going to be good in the end, but just trusting in that belief and able to execute all your attacks.”
Lee surrendered nearfalls in the quarterfinal and had to fend off a turn late as well. Brands did not want to dissect the final flurry but Lee may have strayed from his strength at the moment.
“I know he is best when he’s wrestling,” Brands said. “I know he’s best when he’s flowing and moving. He’s got very wicked quickness. I don’t know if he was in that mode.”
The result sent shockwaves through the arena and beyond, giving former Hawkeye Tony Ersland his first ever finalist as the Boilermakers head coach. Lee calmly walked from the arena floor and was handling it with the help of his closest supporters. He will have to refocus for Saturday’s consolation matches.
“The cliché and easy thing to say is he’s got to move on,” Brands said. “It’s hard. This is really hard, but you still have to move on. As easy as it is to say, that’s really the next step in all of this.
“It seems cruel to say that because the magnitude of it is high.”
Woods helped soothe the sting, winning two matches later. The victory secured his first finals appearance. Something he hoped for when he transferred to Iowa.
“It's another step in accomplishing a dream that I set out to since I was a little kid,” Woods said.
Woods was aggressive from the start, bursting in for a takedown in the first 12 seconds of the match. He followed with four nearfall and a 6-0 lead. He set the tone early.
“I've said this over and over, I like to score points and getting that done immediately is right on theme with what I like to do in my ideal match,” Woods said. “So, I just go out there and get right to it, you know, that's that.”
Heavyweight Tony Cassioppi joined Lee, Max Murin (149), Nelson Brands (174) and 197-pounder Jacob Warner in the consolation bracket with a top-six finish. Cassioppi lost to Michigan’s top-seeded Mason Parris in the semifinal.
ISU’s David Carr, UNI’s Parker Keckeisen reach finals
Iowa State and Northern Iowa will also be represented in the finals. The Cyclones’ top-seeded David Carr topped Princeton’s Quincy Monday, 6-5, on riding time to reach the 165 championship bout.
Carr used riding time to edge Monday, a returning national finalist, and Stanford’s former NCAA champion Shane Griffith in the quarterfinals.
“Just finding different ways to win, and my coaches said find ways to win,” said Carr, who overcame a 4-0 deficit after giving up a takedown and nearfall. “You're good on bottom, good on top. He's obviously good on his feet. This year I worked on being a complete wrestler, being good on all areas of the mat, scrambling, wrestling, top, bottom.”
Carr will face Missouri defending NCAA champion Keegan O’Toole. It will be their third meeting with Carr winning in the dual and recording a sudden victory pin in the Big 12 Championships.
“Big match-up, round three,” Carr said. “We're both competitors. And honestly, I look forward to wrestling him every time because he pushes me. I love my competitors.”
Keckeisen became UNI’s first finalist since Drew Foster won the 184 title in 2019. He defeated Oregon State’s Trey Munoz, 5-1, in the semifinals.
Keckeisen broke open a scoreless match with a takedown and escape in the second, adding an escape and a riding-time point. He has already improved his third-place finishes the last two years.
“God has blessed me with an incredible moment,” Keckeisen said. “It's going to be fun. I'm going to go out there and enjoy it.”
Keckeisen will face a familiar foe in two-time NCAA champion Aaron Brooks, who beat Keckeisen in the semifinals two years ago and has beaten him each time they’ve met. His approach will be the same as always.
“I said it a lot, control what I can, be in the moment, at the end of seven minutes or longer, be proud,” Keckeisen said. “Be proud and control what I can and control your effort and let the man above control the outcome of that.”
Tanner Sloan’s progress continues
Former Alburnett two-time state champion and South Dakota State 197-pounder Tanner Sloan forged his way into the finals. Sloan is a four-time qualifier and earned All-America honors for the first time.
“Pretty emotional,” Sloan said. “When the final whistle blew, looking over at the coaches, the pure excitement that I see in their face of all the hard work we've done training, methodical, whatever you want to call it. Just to finally be in the position to reach my ultimate goal is pretty amazing.”
Sloan avenged a loss to Missouri’s Rocky Elam, who won their meeting in the Big 12 finals by a point in tiebreaker-1. Sloan was in charge this time, winning 7-2. He was powered by four crucial nearfall points in the second period, which was the difference from the previous meeting.
“I got a chance on top,” Sloan said. “I know I can turn anyone. I just have to get a chance. I can take anyone down. I just have to get a chance, get to a leg. I had an opportunity tonight, and it didn't quite come out in the first period, but I knew when I got a couple of mat returns and took something away that a turn was going to open the match-up tremendously. That's what happened.”
Sloan has thrived with the Jackrabbits. He has come a long way from the recruit that almost chose to stay closer to home and attend Coe. In the last year, Sloan has won a World silver medal and is an NCAA finalist.
“Just the support staff convincing me to believe in myself when they've had belief in me from day one when I stepped on campus,” Sloan said. “Just all in all, teammates and coaches just being a family to me.”
3 Stars from Day 2 of the NCAA Wrestling Championships
Top performers from Iowa, Iowa State and UNI
* - Iowa’s Jacob Warner and Nelson Brands, 197/174: The Hawkeyes duo made a run through the consolation round to reach the consolation semifinals and move into the top-six. Brands, as well as 149-popunder Max Murin, earned their first NCAA All-American honors. Warner claimed his fouth to go with an NWCA honor. Murin was also an NWCA All-American in 2020.
* - Iowa State’s David Carr, 165: Carr return to the NCAA finals after missing it last year. The 2021 157-pound national champ beat Stanford’s 2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith in the quarterfinals and followed it with a comeback semifinal victory over Princeton’s 2022 NCAA finalist Quincy Monday.
* - UNI’s Parker Keckeisen, 184: Keckeisen earned his first trip to the NCAA final with a win over Oregon State’s Trey Munoz in the semifinal. He became the Panthers’ first finalist since Drew Foster won the 184-pound title in 2019.
Compiled by Gazette contributor Larry Pilcher