116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Michael Kemerer emerged from the Carver-Hawkeye Arena tunnel to thunderous applause from a sold-out crowd.
The reception was a bit overwhelming, even for a seasoned veteran who has spent almost as many years in college as Tommy Callahan from “Tommy Boy.”
The three-time All-American tried to remain calm and focused on his match but it was impossible to ignore the electric atmosphere when his entrance song, “Who Let The Dogs Out?” blared over the loud speakers.
“There’s just something different when you’re the one coming out of that tunnel,” Kemerer said. “I’m grateful for every last time. The times are dwindling, so I’m going to take advantage every time.”
Kemerer channeled the energy into a decisive 9-2 decision over Minnesota’s Bailee O’Reilly at 174 pounds Friday night. The win helped top-ranked Iowa defeat the No. 14 Golden Gophers, 22-10, in the Big Ten dual opener.
Nelson Brands held the spot for the previous duals. Brennan Swafford removed his redshirt last week and was the lone Hawkeye listed at 174 as a probable starter.
Kemerer said this wasn’t pre-determined, but this date was considered. He wore a shoulder brace and admitted he dealt with an “upper body injury” earlier. As the situation developed, this was still the right time to come back.
“I knew coming back it was going to be a little different of a year anyway,” Kemerer said. “Things change and you keep adapting. We have a deep team. We had Nelson Brands in there. Swafford was ready to go.
“We have a deep team so that helps. You just communicate, stay positive, keep moving forward and ready to go.”
Iowa coach Tom Brands said Kemerer made the choice. With his experience and accomplishments, the returning NCAA finalist has earned that right.
“It’s his decision,” Brands said. “People, fans and probably more so detractors would say that may be reckless, but he’s a seventh-year guy and it’s his call. That’s how we’re going.”
Kemerer produced a little of his patented flash for the first of two takedowns in the first period. The early scores were important.
“Score first, score fast, score often,” Kemerer said. “That’s always the mentality. It had been a little bit. It felt good to get those points and get on the board.”
He added an escape and takedown with a penalty point sandwiched between in the second. He had more than two minutes of riding time just missing the major decision.
“It felt good,” Kemerer said. “I could feel the energy. There’s no place like it, so it was awesome.”
The Big Ten titlist improved his career record to 87-8. Kemerer, 25, could have moved on, but was drawn back to the Hawkeyes by an immense desire to wrestle.
“I love to compete,” Kemerer said. “I love to do this. I feel I was made to be a wrestler. Coming back, you don’t see a lot of seventh years, but there’s a reason God wants me back on this team for my seventh year and I’m a believer in that stuff. It’s not trying to figure things out. Just go out and enjoy it.”