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Let the fun begin.
March Madness is upon us, starting this weekend with college wrestling championships in the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences.
That's not your typical March Madness, I know, but for those who love college wrestling, this is the real madness, the real fun.
The top-ranked Iowa wrestling team — for the first time since this meet last March — gets to flex its collective muscles and show the country it is ready to win the national title it was denied last year by the pandemic.
This may be the best wrestling team to ever wear black-and-gold singlets. Mark Ironside, one of the all-time great Hawkeye wrestlers. said that a couple of weeks ago — and he was part of some pretty special teams, including the 1997 team that set an NCAA record by scoring 170 points.
What's more fun that?
Iowa will be battling teams from the best wrestling conference in the country, too. That's not even debatable any more.
The Hawkeyes are followed in the rankings by Penn State, which will host this year's Big Ten meet. Then you have Michigan at No. 4, Nebraska at No. 8 and Minnesota at No. 9. That's five teams in the top 10. Illinois (11th), Ohio State (12th) and Purdue (18th) all are in the top 20.
The Big 12 — which will be in Tulsa, Okla., for its two-day championships — has Oklahoma State in the top 10, at No. 6. Iowa State is 13th. The ACC has Virginia Tech at No. 3 and North Carolina State at No. 7. North Carolina is 14th.
Missouri, champion of the MAC tournament last weekend, is ranked fifth. No other MAC team is in the top 20,
Win the Big Ten title and you're the best in the country.
What's more fun than that?
Well, apparently the once-stoic, once-robot-like Hawkeye wrestlers like to have a little fun while also working hard to be the best team in college wrestling.
During a Zoom conference on Monday, Iowa 165-pounder Alex Marinelli was asked to describe 125-pounder Spencer Lee's character.
'He's sitting right here so I don't want to give him a big, big head,' Marinelli said.
Then, a little more seriously. he said 'Spencer is one-of-a-kind. He's very unique. We call him Yoda.'
'He can do things with his opponent that is kind of, I don't know, it's just unhuman. He can just use the 'force' and turn guys and pin them and tech them in the first period.'
Lee, who is 4-0 heading into the Big Ten tournament and hasn't wrestled out of the first period this season, said he's OK with the nickname. He said Terry and Nelson Brands like 'Star Wars' and pegged him Yoda, the Zen-like Jedi master from that popular movie series.
'I'm really short. He's really short,' Lee said of Yoda. 'It all kind of makes sense to them.
'It's pretty cool being called Yoda.'
Lee laughed when he said that. He appreciates that kind of fun. He also appreciates how close this team is, how they work together, push each other and, of course, have a little fun together.
He said it wasn't that way when he arrived in Iowa City.
'It's been awesome just seeing that change,' he said.
Now let's go have some fun.
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