Iowa Hawkeyes

'Good Murin, America': Max Murin entertains Iowa wrestling fans

Sophomore 141-pounder is 10-0 on the mat, good sense of humor off it

Iowa's Max Murin (left) drives Purdue's Nate Limmex to the mat during their 141 lbs. first-round match at the Big Ten Co
Iowa's Max Murin (left) drives Purdue's Nate Limmex to the mat during their 141 lbs. first-round match at the Big Ten Conference Wrestling Tournament in Minneapolis, Minn., Saturday, March 9, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Describing Max Murin as entertaining and unique might be a considerable understatement.

Iowa’s sophomore 141-pounder doesn’t fit the robotic wrestler stereotype.

After all, Murin started a chess club in high school without even knowing how to play. His entrance music is a gimmicky 1990s rap song. Don’t forget about his pet snake that apparently makes teammate Alex Marinelli uneasy.

If you’re still undecided, just watch his online segment, “Good Murin, America,” where he has interviewed Hawkeye freshmen, giving each of them interesting nicknames.

 

“I’m not a very serious person,” said Murin, who comes out to “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. “I like to have a little fun and joke around with my teammates and stuff.”

Don’t be mistaken by his high jinks, Murin has been all business on the mat this season. He owns a 10-0 record, entering top-ranked Iowa’s dual against No. 7 Nebraska Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena beginning at 8 p.m.

Murin, ranked third by trackwrestling.com, is expected to face No. 9 Chad Red in a rematch of last year’s round of 12 bout at the national tournament. Red won that match to earn All-America honors and keep Murin off the podium.

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“There’s definitely a little more motivation, only because I lost to him last year,” Murin said. “He’s a good competitor. I’m excited.”

Murin has always been able to flip the switch, transitioning from loose and comical off the mat to determined and successful when he toes the line. It has produced his best collegiate start.

“I feel like I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Murin said. “I’m kind of used to it. I like to stay relaxed and joke around with the guys before my matches. I don’t want to get too nervous and when the time comes (to wrestle) I’m ready.”

Murin credits his parents for his sense of humor. His media guide bio lists Chess Club President as a high school accomplishment along with his National Honors Society and Student Council membership. The two-time Pennsylvania state champion for Central Cambria High School started the chess club on a whim and others followed.

“No one really knew how to play,” Murin said. “We all just went there. We ended up learning chess and had fun with it.

“I play sometimes. I just played (Iowa associate head coach) Terry Brands a couple months ago. He destroyed me. I’m not as good as some of the other guys on the team.”

When Iowa Sports Information Director Chris Brewer pitched a hilarious skit, Murin was a natural fit. He was all for the piece that includes an intro with Murin in a cowboy hat, glasses, and red, white and blue shirt with his snake draped over his shoulders.

The mock interviews have discussed Abe Assad’s favorite casserole, Zach Glazier’s feet and Cobe Siebrecht’s hair and his ties to Lisbon.

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“Brewer gave me a great opportunity to express myself and have fun with it,” Murin said. “That’s what I did.”

Marinelli heard stories of Murin’s fun-loving shenanigans from the past. He said you don’t know what to expect from Murin, who can be a bit of a prankster or instigator.

“He’s unpredictable,” Marinelli said with a laugh. “He has a pet snake and it’s exactly like him. I don’t trust snakes. I don’t like animals you can’t read and it’s a little bit like Murin. He’s very spontaneous. He’s funny.

“Murin is a great guy and we have a great group of guys like him on the team. They’re awesome.”

Murin has been very good this season. He has two pins and a major decision and has beaten three ranked foes. Murin won his first Midlands title in December. He attributes the improvement to adjustments in his personal life and wrestling technique, including quicker takedown finishes.

The best lessons may have come from when he came up short last season.

“I feel losses always help me in the long run,” said Murin, referring to last year’s blood round loss to Red. “I feel like I was working harder and more focused. I just figured out what I needed to do to get to that next level. I want to continue to build and grow and continue to learn from my mistakes.”

Murin admits he hasn’t learned from one mistake — wrestling face first. It isn’t uncommon to see Murin with a black or swollen eye, bump or scratch on his face. He said he seems to catch a head butt or elbow, but the wounds are worth it for a win.

“It’s a good thing,” Marinelli said. “The first line of defense is your head, then your hands and then your hips.

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“He uses his head, which is great, but come on, Murin. Put your full head down a little bit. He gets his eyes in there, which is fine, and it’s funny.”

Murin said he joked with teammates about it making him ugly in the future. Marinelli responded with his own observation.

“He’s already ugly,” Marinelli said with a laugh. “Not as ugly as me, but he’s ugly.”

Results have helped Murin climb the national rankings. Iowa Coach Tom Brands has witnessed the progress and Murin still has gains to make.

“He’s doing well,” Brands said. “We feel like his best wrestling still is out there and he’s going that direction right now.”

More confidence and a different mindset has accompanied this season. Brands said Murin settled for moral victories at times as a freshman, but he isn’t thinking that way anymore.

“I think he wants to be king of the heap, king of the mountain,” Brands said. “In order to do that, you have to show up every time. You have to send messages to the rest of your weight class. I think he’s doing that better than he has previously and that’s what we need.”

Murin has simple goals for the final two months. He isn’t looking to just reach the podium. Murin wants to be on top of it, helping the Hawkeyes win their first NCAA team crown since 2010.

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“I want to be a national champion and I want our team to be national champs as well,” Murin said. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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