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Iowa finishes opening day of NCAA Wrestling Championships in second place with 5 quarterfinalists
Spencer Lee, Tony Cassioppi lead the way for Hawkeyes; Iowa State’s David Carr and Marcus Coleman, UNI’s Parker Keckeisen push into quarterfinals
TULSA, Okla. — Iowa Coach Tom Brands’ assessment was direct and to the point.
His messages always are, especially in the midst of competition.
“We have to get ready for Day 2,” Brands said. “That’s real.”
Second-ranked Iowa was in second place after the first day of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Thursday at the BOK Center. Five Hawkeyes budged their way into the quarterfinals, including top-ranked Spencer Lee, who remains in the hunt for his fourth national title.
Lee steamrolled through his first two matches, including a 16-0 technical fall over Michigan’s Jack Medley in just 2:30 of the second-round bout. The win is Lee’s 57th straight, giving him 97 career victories. One more title run would put him in the same group as four-timers Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith, Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson, Cornell’s Kyle Dake and Ohio State’s Logan Stieber, as well as give him 100 career wins.
Top-seeded Real Woods also advanced. His match was much tighter, holding off a late takedown attempt and enduring a lengthy video review that upheld a no-call that secured his 7-5 win over Ohio State’s Dylan D’Emilio.
Nelson Brands moved into the quarterfinals as the No. 11 seed. He posted two tough wins, scoring late in the first round to advance. Brands scored a takedown in the final seconds of the first and beat Ohio State’s No. 6 Ethan Smith, 3-1.
“He scored a takedown in the first period,” Tom Brands said. “That’s a good thing. He has a lot of scoring ability. That’s what we want to see. Want to see more scoring ability come out. As the tournament gets deeper, we have to get tougher.”
Heavyweight Tony Cassioppi posted consecutive majors Thursday, capping Iowa’s 5-3 mark in the second round and 15-5 overall record with a 9-0 win over UNI’s Tyrell Gordon.
Cassioppi fended off a cradle attempt with about a minute to go. He seemed to fire up after a restart, scoring an escape and takedown for bonus points.
“The biggest thing is when he got off the bottom he did it with an explosive move with determination and then he scored a takedown to get the major,” Brands said. “Good job.”
Penn State held a 26-21 1/2 point lead over the Hawkeyes. Missouri was third with 17 1/2. Minnesota and North Carolina State were tied for fourth with 16 1/2.
Iowa State’s David Carr and Marcus Coleman, UNI’s Parker Keckeisen push into quarterfinals
Iowa State moved two into the quarterfinals. Top-seeded 165-pounder David Carr, a two-time All-American and 2021 national champion, had back-to-back major decisions, stopping Northern Iowa’s Austin Yant, 15-4.
Coleman outlasted Iowa’s Abe Assad in a stingy match, earning a 2-1 decision in tiebreaker-1 at 184.
The Cyclones still have eight wrestlers alive.
“The bright spot is we have eight guys – two in the front and six in the back – tomorrow morning,” Iowa State Coach Kevin Dresser said. “You find out what everybody’s made out of Friday morning. That’s for sure.”
Dresser said all eight are a day away from a desired achievement. It is a small window to push through, considering how many hours have been devoted to get to this point.
“You’ve worked awful hard all year long to get here,” Dresser said. “Everybody wants to get on the podium and you have a chance. You’re one day away.
“Look at all the time you put in all year long and it’s within one day. Really a half a day. … We have six guys still in the game on that side and two on the front side, so Friday determines a lot. Thursday night’s hard but Friday is when you’ve really got to dig deep. So, I’m curious as to how we do tomorrow.”
UNI’s top-seeded Parker Keckeisen reached the 184 quarterfinals and moved a win away from his third All-America finish. Keckeisen topped Lehigh’s Tate Samuelson, 4-2.
The result was low scoring compared to Keckeisen’s normal results. UNI Coach Doug Schwab has had to remind him to shake off any doubt of his strong offense.
“One thing I’ve told him is you’re the guy that keeps people up at night,” Schwab said. “You’re the guy that gives people nightmares. They have to think about all the things they have to stop. He’s just got to continue to remember that and he will.”
UNI started the tournament with a 7-0 record in the first session. The second round was less favorable, facing higher seeds. The effort was there and the resilience will be needed in Friday’s consolation rounds.
“One thing I know about our team is they’re a gritty group and that’s part of what we’re founded on and tenets of what we are,” Schwab said. “I know they will come back. You get on the back side of tournaments you have to be a gritty son of a bitch willing to fight for everything, which we’ve done all year.
“We’ve got seven guys. You can score a hell of a lot of points. You’ve got to take it one match at a time.”
3 Stars from Day 1 of NCAA Wrestling Championships
Top performers from University of Iowa, Iowa State and UNI
* - Iowa’s Spencer Lee, 125: The Hawkeyes’ three-time NCAA champion dominated both of his opponents. He pinned Air Force’s Tucker Owens in just 36 seconds. Lee capped the day with a 16-0 technical fall over Michigan’s Jack Medley in 2:30.
* - Iowa State’s David Carr, 165: The Cyclones’ two-time All-American and 2021 NCAA champion posted two bonus point victories in his first two matches. Carr handled Harvard’s Josh Kim, 10-2. He followed with a 15-4 win over UNI’s Austin Yant.
* - Iowa’s Nelson Brands, 174: The Hawkeyes’ senior reached the quarterfinals as a No. 11 seed. He posted two hard-fought wins, beating North Carolina State’s Alex Faison, 6-3, in the final seconds. Brands beat Ohio State’s No. 6 Ethan Smith, 3-1.
Compiled by Gazette contributor Larry Pilcher.