Iowa competes in the Big Ten Conference Wrestling Championships hosted by Rutgers Saturday and Sunday in Piscataway, N.J. The Hawkeyes are looking for their first conference tournament team title since 2015 and first outright crown since 2010. All 10 Iowa wrestlers are seeded third or better. Here is how the Hawkeyes stack up at each weight:
125 – Two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee is the top seed and the clear favorite. Lee is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field that stands between him and his first Big Ten championship. The top-ranked junior is 15-0, recording bonus-point victories in 14 and outscoring opponents, 183-13. His ability to dominate and provide extra team points will be big for the Hawkeyes.
133 – All-American Austin DeSanto is part of a deep weight class that has seven automatic NCAA berths. The weight is so competitive that a returning Big Ten champion (Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera) is the fifth seed. DeSanto is 14-2 with a victory over Wisconsin’s top-seed Seth Gross. He has the ability to win it all and certainly can match or exceed his No. 3 seed. DeSanto has returned from a knee injury at the end of January, so it will be interesting to see how that is handled with bigger goals ahead in two weeks.
141 – Max Murin has wrestled at a higher level this season, overcoming injury as well. The sophomore is seeded third with a 12-1 record. He wrestled well in last year’s tournament to earn an NCAA berth. With Penn State’s top-seeded Nick Lee and Ohio State’s No. 2 Luke Pletcher distancing themselves from the field in the regular season, matching his seed will be a solid finish.
149 – Senior Pat Lugo (18-1) is a serious title contender. The second-seed was ranked No. 1 in the country for part of the season. His lone loss was to Ohio State’s top-seeded freshman Sammy Sasso. If Lugo opens up offensively, he shouldn’t have any problem making the finals and will have a good shot of overturning that 2-1 loss in an overtime tiebreaker, if Sasso advances.
157 – Kaleb Young is seeded second and should be a lock to improve last year’s fourth-place finish. The returning All-American is 15-3 but has not lost to a Big Ten foe this season. Young has had some tight matches, including a one-point win over Purdue’s third-seeded Kendall Coleman. Young is 2-1 against Northwestern’s top-seeded Ryan Deakin, beating him twice in the 2019 postseason. A finals appearance is a good boost for Iowa.
165 – Defending Big Ten champ Alex Marinelli is seeded second in a loaded weight that includes Penn State’s top-seeded Vicenzo Joseph, Wisconsin’s No. 3 seed All-American Evan Wick and Nebraska’s No. 4 Isaiah White. Marinelli (17-1) beat Joseph in the finals last year, but dropped a decision this regular season. He has had the upper hand in recent matches against Wick. Two straight titles is a strong possibility and so is extra bonus points from “The Bull” along the way.
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174 – Michael Kemerer is the top-seed powered by his impressive 11-6 victory over Penn State’s No. 2 Mark Hall. Expect a rematch in the finals. Kemerer has been impressive as a full-sized 174-pounder. He is 13-0 with three technical falls, two pins and two major decisions. He has scored double-digit points in seven bouts in matches not ended by fall. He could pad Iowa’s point total.
184 – Freshman Abe Assad is the No. 3 seed in one of the tournament’s most wide open brackets. He is 6-2 against the current field, including highlight wins against Nebraska’s Taylor Venz, Ohio State’s Rocky Jordan and Illinois’ Zac Braunagel. Penn State’s Aaron Brooks is the top seed and Michigan State’s Cam Caffey is the No. 2 seed. This is a weight Assad could win. A finals appearance would bode well for the Hawkeyes’ team success.
197 – Jacob Warner comes in as the No. 3 seed, finishing third in this meet last year. The All-American has won five straight since a two-point loss to Nebraska’s second-seeded Eric Schultz. The two could meet in the semifinals. Warner has the chance to reach the finals for a likely crack at Ohio State’s top-ranked Kollin Moore.
Hwt. – Freshman Tony Cassioppi has become a fan favorite and will make his college postseason debut. Cassioppi is a powerful and athletic heavyweight who can tally bonus points, given his five pins and three majors in 16 wins this season. He competed well against Minnesota’s second-seeded Gable Steveson, wrestling to a two-point decision. Cassioppi is seeded third and can get at least third-place points with bonus along the way.
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