116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A title this weekend certainly would be a prize catch for Alex Marinelli.
Iowa's 165-pounder also knows there are bigger fish to fry at the end of the season.
'When people say that, it's awesome,” Marinelli said about his chance to win a third straight conference crown. 'I don't take it for granted at all but people remember national champs. People don't remember really how many times Spencer Lee has won the Big Ten. They remember his national championships, honestly.”
Marinelli is one of four top seeds for the top-ranked Hawkeyes at the Big Ten Conference Championships hosted by Penn State at Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pa. Wrestling begins Saturday at 9 a.m. (CT) with the finals set for Sunday afternoon.
The two-time All-American has won the last two years at 165. If he goes 3-for-3, he will become Iowa's 19th three-time Big Ten champion and the first to win three consecutive conference golds since T.J. Williams accomplished the feat from 1999-2001.
'It's not as much weight (as a national title),” Marinelli said. 'It is important because it's the next thing on the calendar and you get your name up on the wall.
'The Big Ten Championship is that qualifier, technically, for nationals.”
This season has been unusual for all of college wrestling. The Hawkeyes, especially Marinelli, haven't been spared. Marinelli was placed in COVID-19 protocol and missed a little more than two weeks. Then, in-person activities were suspended by medical staff due to positive tests within the program. Wisconsin backed out of the regular-season finale.
Marinelli is just 2-0 this season and hasn't competed since Jan. 22 at Minnesota. He said the amount of matches is not a concern.
'I'm just going to go out and wrestle how I know how,” Marinelli said. 'We wrestle so many times in the practice room and we know how to wrestle. Tom said one time to me that I could take three months off of wrestling and still go back and do exactly what I know how to do. We've wrestled our whole lives.
'Even though I have two matches in, I don't care. I have to win nine straight to be a national champ.”
Practice can't replicate competition. Aspects like the atmosphere, routine before and between matches and the intensity aren't the same in the wrestling room. The Hawkeyes will be prepared and Marinelli said that is due to workout partners on the team and the knowledge from Tom and Terry Brands.
'Tom and Terry's training cycle, nothing in the world beats it,” Marinelli said. 'People are seeing that and we're No. 1 in the country for a reason and we have to prove it this weekend and then a few weeks later we have to do it again.”
Two-time NCAA champion Lee, three-time All-American Jaydin Eierman (141) and 174-pouncder Michael Kemerer are all seeded No. 1 for Iowa. Lee will look to win his second straight conference crown. Eierman and Kemerer are vying for their first Big Ten title. Eierman, a transfer from Missouri, won Mid-American Conference titles his first three seasons.
The Hawkeyes have seven wrestlers seeded in the top two of their respective weights. Austin DeSanto (133), 149-pounder Max Murin (149) and Kaleb Young at 157 are projected to reach the finals. Jacob Warner (197) and Tony Cassioppi are seeded third, while Nelson Brands is ninth at 184.
Iowa is attempting to win its 37th conference tournament title and its second straight. The Hawkeyes are ready for another challenge in a year full of them.
'We've been talking about getting through anything, no matter what the circumstances, since I was a freshman,” Lee said. 'The coaches talk to us. It doesn't matter what's going on, what's going on in the world. You can only control what you can control - your mindset, how hard you train, how ready you get, going to bed early, your diet, so we're ready to go. It doesn't matter what's coming after us, we're going to do our best to win titles.”
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