116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — When Cael Sanderson left Iowa State for the recruit-rich wrestling rooms of Pennsylvania, the landscape of the University of Iowa’s rivalries shifted east.
The Hawkeyes have had a special series with the Cyclones. Iowa and Oklahoma State is and will always be epic. The Hawkeyes’ border battles with Minnesota have had a ton of memorable moments.
Iowa and Penn State has surpassed them all now.
The teams have combined to win all but one NCAA Division I title since 2008. Both programs are led by stellar head coaches — Iowa’s Tom Brands and Sanderson have Olympic gold medal resumes. They have some of the country’s best staffs and facilities to attract the elite high school wrestlers to reload.
Second-ranked Iowa will host No. 1 Penn State Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, beginning at 8 p.m. (BTN).
The teams have produced numerous memorable moments. Here is a list of Iowa’s top five moments against the Nittany Lions.
5. Alex Meyer beats Mark Hall
Penn State’s Mark Hall was a highly-touted prodigy, winning six Minnesota state titles for national power Apple Valley High School. High expectations accompanied the folkstyle and freestyle phenom.
Iowa’s Alex Meyer wasn’t a gracious host when Hall came out of redshirt, making his debut against the Hawkeyes in CHA in 2017.
Meyer was ranked 13th, facing an unranked Hall, who went on to win the 174-pound NCAA title later that season. Meyer used a couple of late takedowns for a 7-5 decision.
Meyer scored in the waning seconds of the second period to break a 3-3 tie. He executed the decisive takedown with 15 seconds left in the match and rode Hall out for a 7-5 win. Second-ranked Penn State defeated No. 3 Iowa, 26-11.
Meyer was an All-American for the Hawkeyes. Hall was a three-time national finalist, winning it his first season.
4. Montell Marion returns, comes back to beat Andrew Alton
Fresh off a suspension, Iowa’s Montell Marion produced a thrilling comeback when the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes wrestled No. 1 Penn State in State College, Pa., on Jan. 30, 2011. The three-time All-American and two-time NCAA finalist made his season debut against No. 5 Andrew Alton — one of highly-touted twin brothers.
Things didn’t start well for Marion, who had to fight off his back after being taken down and held for three nearfall points. Alton’s 5-0 lead seemed a steep hill to climb. Marion cut into the lead in the second, but the third period was all Marion.
Marion exploded for three takedowns in the final stanza. He finished with 1:16 of riding time when it concluded. Marion had his hand raised with an exciting, come-from-behind 11-9 victory.
When asked about Marion’s performance the following week, Iowa teammate Tony Ramos praised Marion’s ability.
“He’s tough,” Ramos said. “He can go with anyone and he can probably wrestle longest out of anyone. He never gets tired.”
The Hawkeyes recorded a 22-13 win in Rec Hall.
3. Alex Marinelli beats Vincenzo Joseph with late move
Each time Alex Marinelli and Vincenzo Joseph faced each other it was a slugfest. Two of the nation’s top 165-pounders like to mix it up and battle in tight spaces. A match made for a phone booth.
The first one set the tone for the head-to-head rivalry. Joseph was ranked first and Marinelli was No. 7 as a redshirt freshman at 165 on Feb. 10, 2018 at Penn State.
Joseph held an advantage for most of the match, leading 5-3 in the third. The pair locked up again late and Marinelli, true to his “Bull” nickname, overpowered Joseph, a two-time NCAA champion. He connected on an inside trip, putting Joseph on his back for a takedown and nearfall points. Joseph fought off his back and escaped but it wasn’t enough. Marinelli earned the 9-6 decision. It was one of only a few bright spots in a 28-13 team loss.
“They had an awesome rivalry,” said Iowa’s Michael Kemerer, who won the 157-pound match that night. “I just remember being in the back tunnel of the Bryce Jordan Center. I was watching it on TV. They got in that big exchange. Marinelli put him on his back.
“I was like, ‘Dang.’ It was pretty crazy. I remember seeing him in the tunnel afterward. He was pretty pumped up.”
Marinelli ended with a 3-1 record against Joseph, beating him in the Big Ten finals twice. Their four matches were decided by a total of 12 points.
2. Tony Ramos sticks to Penn State twice in 2013
Ramos has provided a spark that ignited Iowa fans inside CHA multiple times. His win over Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver was one of the loudest moments of the facility.
He was able to produce two pins in consecutive home duals against the Nittany Lions a little more than 10 months apart. The first came in the third-ranked Hawkeyes’ 22-16 victory over No. 1 Penn State on Feb. 1, 2013.
Ramos dominated Jordan Conaway, decking him in 4:23 at 133. The crowd erupted and Ramos followed with a two-arm flex that was referred to as the “Tony Rainbows” moment due to the arc of his arms. The pin came on the heels of a Matt McDonough decision over Nico Megaludis in a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup at 125. Mike Evans added a 4-3 win over Matt Brown as well for one of Iowa’s six wins.
“Going into the matches you could feel the electricity in the air and the crowd just was waiting to explode,” said Ramos, who is currently an assistant coach at North Carolina. “They just need something to ignite it.
“I loved putting on a show and I loved challenging myself more. I told myself leading into the weeks that the team wouldn’t win unless I pinned. So, that’s what I went out there and did. I went out a gave the fans something to get loud about.”
Lightning struck for a second time on Dec. 21, 2013. This was a non-conference dual that was an impromptu addition to the schedule when the Big Ten Conference neglected to pair No. 3 Iowa and top-ranked Penn State. Sanderson and Brands garnered attention, exchanging posts on Twitter hinting about the dual in Iowa City.
This time, Ramos was ranked third and faced Jimmy Gulibon at 133 in front of a crowd of 13,747 that included celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. Ramos built a 9-4 lead when he hit Gulibon with his patented cowcatcher and got the pin in 5:22.
Unlike February, Penn State won the December meeting, 24-12.
1. Michael Kemerer beats Mark Hall
Kemerer is one of Iowa’s most popular wrestlers on the current roster and has been since he stepped into the program. The three-time All-American and national finalist owns a whopping 25-1 record in CHA.
His most notable and memorable win at home came the last time these two programs met in Iowa City. Second-ranked Kemerer took on No. 1 Hall at 174 in front of 14,905 fans.
The fireworks started immediately. Hall threw a big headlock shortly after the opening whistle. In a tremendous scramble, Kemerer was somehow able to slowly roll through, grab a single leg and finish for the first points.
The match turned into a seesaw affair, exchanging scores until a Kemerer reversal near the end of the first gave him a 5-4 lead.
“Honestly, it’s a blur to me,” Kemerer said. “I’ll have to go back and watch the match. It’s just believing in what God’s given me and just letting it happen. It’s been that way my whole life. Good things happen the less I think (and) the more I just do it.”
Kemerer added takedowns in the second and third. After the final score, Hall had little left to muster an escape. Kemerer rode him out and capped off his 1:22 of riding time for an 11-6 win. Scoring 11 points on Hall was unheard, but Kemerer energized the Hawkeyes’ fans with that performance.
Iowa received wins from Jacob Warner and Tony Cassioppi for a 19-17 win.
“At the end of the match, I do remember feeling that energy, finishing the match on top and it hits you a little bit, coming off the mat with all my teammates being there supporting me,” Kemerer said. “It was a different experience. It was pretty awesome.”
Kemerer hasn’t re-watched the match, but has seen clips here and there. This is one that won’t be forgotten by the Hawkeyes or their followers.
“It was a great moment,” Kemerer said. “It’s a great memory that is never going to be taken away. It happened. Just kind of the way we are as athletes we’re forward looking (and) looking to the next thing.”
Whose moment is next?
Penn State (13-0, 5-0 Big Ten) and Iowa (11-0, 5-0) will engage in another No. 1-vs.-No. 2 battle. The probable lineups include 19 ranked wrestlers, including top-ranked Nittany Lions Roman Bravo-Young (133), Nick Lee (141), Carter Starocci (174) and Aaron Brooks at 184.
Iowa’s Jaydin Eierman (141) and Kemerer are ranked second. They are expected to have rematches from the NCAA finals won by their Penn State foes.
“There are some big matches,” Brands said. “There are a lot at stake in these matches, seeding and being able to move forward is easier with success. Just a lot of reasons to go out there, do your job and shine.”