Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa sends 3 to NCAA wrestling quarterfinals

Lee, Kemerer, Marinelli advance, as does UNI's Lujan; Iowa's Sorensen upset in round 2

CLEVELAND — Michael Kemerer did everything he could for himself and Iowa.

The sophomore was a force, recording a pair of pins and helping the Hawkeyes stockpile bonus points Thursday.

“That is the most amount of team points I could’ve gotten so a successful day,” Kemerer said. “Got to move forward.”

Kemerer was one of three Iowa quarterfinalists, helping the Hawkeyes to third place with 27 points after the first day of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Ohio State lead the team race with 36 points, leading second-place Penn State by 7 1/2.

The sophomore All-American built a 12-2 lead when he decked Stanford’s Paul Fox in 4:52. He won his sixth straight nationals match, placing third a year ago. The sixth-seeded 157-pounder opened with a first-period fall over Cal State-Bakersfield’s Coleman Hammond as well.

He turned things around from his last outing, sharing sixth place at the Big Ten Championships.

“Just knowing how good of a wrestler I am,” Kemerer said, “and going out and wrestling.”

Kemerer (24-1) will compete in one of the marquee quarterfinals Friday, facing Penn State’s defending NCAA champion and No. 3 seed Jason Nolf. The pair shared sixth at the Big Ten tournament after both defaulted from the meet. Earlier this season, the match was considered a likely finals bout.

“I’m excited for it,” said Kemerer, who is 0-2 against Nolf. “That is the match everyone wants to see. That is the match I want. That is the match I train for. Looking forward to going and scoring as many team points as I can for my team.”

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Kemerer’s feat was mirrored by freshman 165-pounder Alex Marinelli and nearly matched by Spencer Lee at 125. Marinelli (18-3) wore down foes and earned two third-period pins to move a win away from the awards stand.

Iowa Coach Tom Brands said all three consistently wrestle hard in all positions. Marinelli provided a good example, refusing to settle for major decision when he stuck Minnesota’s No. 12 seed Nick Wanzek in the second round.

“That’s how you wrestle matches,” Brands said. “You wrestle to dominate. You wrestle matches to score bonus points or whatever. It’s more fun that way.”

Lee (19-2) was dominant in his NCAA Championships debut. He posted two technical falls by 18-0 margins. Lee needed just 1:41 to thump Chattanooga’s Alonzo Allen. He bounced Purdue’s 14th-seeded Luke Welch midway through the second period.

Lee said he was locked in, hearing nothing but voices of Hawkeye associate head coach Terry Brands and others in his corner.

“I’m ready to go,” Lee said. “This is the NCAA Tournament and if you’re not in the zone you have to make yourself be in the zone.”

Putting up lots of points was important for the freshman to find his groove, taking down and tilting opponents at will.

“Score points,” Lee said. “Move hands and feet. Seven minutes hard. That was what was going through my head the whole time.”

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Iowa held the team lead after the opening sessions and bonus points were key to placing them among the contenders. The Hawkeyes tallied 15 total bonus points, including 9 1/2 after the first round.

“It’s a big deal,” Brands said of bonus points after the first session. “It’s a philosophy tougher to execute than it is to say it. Our guys did a good job this round.”

Upsets soured the round, and day, a bit. Second-seeded Brandon Sorensen was upset at 149. Lock Haven’s 15th-seeded Ronald Perry scored a takedown with about 30 seconds left for a 3-2 win, knocking off the three-time All-American.

“We let him hang,” Brands said. “He picked one and took us down. We were kind of off the whole time there timing-wise, I thought.”

Fifth-seeded heavyweight Sam Stoll led 2-0 in the third, but was put to his back in the final minute of a 7-2 loss to Maryland’s 12th-seeded Youssif Hemida. Brands said Stoll might have become gun shy after one of Hemida’s scoring attempts.

“Stoll froze at the end,” Brands said. “I think the guy scared him when he picked him up and threw him out of bounds and ran through him.”

Iowa still has five alive in consolation bracket and the way they rebound will be crucial for chance at a team trophy.

“We have to come back strong (Friday),” Brands said. “This is a three-day tournament (and) this is day one. We’re in session two. We didn’t do well.”

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Northern Iowa had a chance to match the Hawkeyes’ quarterfinalist total, but 174-pounder Taylor Lujan was the lone Panther to advance. Lujan survived a wild second-round bout with North Carolina’s Ethan Ramos, scoring a reversal and four nearfall in the final seconds for a 16-12 decision.

“I got nothing to lose and I might as well make something happen,” Lujan said about the late score. “It benefited me in the end.”

Lujan (30-5) trailed most of the match, taking his first lead at 10-9 with about a minute left. Ramos scored an escape to tie it and went back ahead by two with a takedown. Lujan was unfazed the entire time.

“I’m confident,” Lujan said. “There was a point in the second period where I almost had him on his back, flip-flopping around, but I feel pretty confident in my abilities when guys are on my legs and flurries start happening like I’ll come out on top.”

UNI’s two returning All-Americans Max Thomsen and Drew Foster lost decisions in the second round. They are still alive in the consolation round. Lujan was jealous of their fifth- and seventh-place finishes. He moved a victory away from his own trip to the podium.

“That’s not the goal but it’s the first step to the goal,” Lujan said. “Last year not being on the podium and watching Max and Foster stand proud on that podium, man that hurt. That hurt bad. I was a little jealous of them, you know, because we all wanted to be there.

“I did what I needed to do this summer, even with shoulder surgery. Came back, did stuff I needed to work on and hopefully get it done tomorrow.”

UNI is tied for 25th with seven points. The Panthers have three alive in consolation matches.

Ohio State took control in the second session and led the team race after Day 1. The Buckeyes went 19-1 on the first day, advancing nine to the quarterfinals. Penn State has seven in the quarterfinals.

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

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