Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa's Michael Kemerer wins from a variety of positions

Hawkeyes face Purdue and Ohio State Sunday

Iowa's Michael Kemerer (left) lunges at Illinois' D.J. Shannon during the 174-weight bout of their dual at Carver-Hawkey
Iowa’s Michael Kemerer (left) lunges at Illinois’ D.J. Shannon during the 174-weight bout of their dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Michael Kemerer has entertained Iowa wrestling fans since he first stepped into the lineup.

The top-ranked 174-pounder has been a consistent offensive dynamo capable of scoring at will. He is technically sound, but he also demonstrates a knack of wrestling through positions that often thwart an opponent’s attack or even turning it into his own points.

“I think it’s just a lot of time spent in the wrestling room in those positions since I was a little kid,” Kemerer said. “I’ve been in these positions so many times now that it’s second nature. It’s muscle memory. When that’s going on, it’s a lot of reaction, a lot of doing what I’ve been taught to do.”

Kemerer has resumed his impressive ways, opening the season with major decisions in each of his two matches, entering top-ranked Iowa’s double-dual Sunday against No. 18 Purdue (10:30 a.m.) and No. 11 Ohio State (1 p.m.) at West Lafayette, Ind. (BTN).

Iowa Coach Tom Brands has witnessed the time Kemerer has devoted to his craft. He qualifies for mat rat status.

“He loves the mat,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “He’s good in positions that favor him and he’s good in positions that maybe look like they don’t favor him.”

Some of that skill is natural, but most of it is feel developed by repetition. Former Hawkeye Jody Strittmatter was an influence during his time with the Young Guns wrestling club in Pennsylvania. Brands and his staff have made an impact. Kemerer also credited his teammates for creating those positions in practice that prepare him when they happen in competition.

“I’ve had great coaches that have helped me work through these situations,” said Kemerer, who ignited the crowd during flurries in last year’s 11-6 win over Penn State national champion Mark Hall. “I’ve had great partners in the room putting me in these situations, so when I’m actually out there it’s not much of a thought process. It’s all reaction. It’s all flow. Guess it is just doing what I was trained (and) born to do.”

“The more wrestling positions we get in is better for me, I feel like.”


Scoring bonus points has been a regular occurrence for Kemerer. Only Spencer Lee has a much larger rate of bonus-points victories. Kemerer and Jaydin Eierman convert bonus points at about a 67-percent clip. Kemerer has 22 major decisions, 16 pins and 13 technical falls in 77 career victories.

“He’s a hustler,” Brands said. “He knows how to stay in there. He’s got a really good feel. He’s got some funky things on his body. He’s explosive.

“What he brings to the mat, it’s unpredictable.”

Kemerer is expected to open with Purdue freshman Emil Soehnlen and then face the Buckeyes’ fourth-ranked Kaleb Romero. He defeated Romero, 7-1, last season.

“Purdue is first (and) you can’t overlook anybody in Big Ten wrestling,” Kemerer said. “I’m looking for that match first.

“Obviously, Romero is a highly-ranked wrestler. We’ve wrestled before. He’s a tough opponent. The focus is usually on me, doing what I do, getting to my holds and wrestling a hard seven minutes plus, if needed.”

With tournaments wiped out this season and a previous double-dual reduced to a head-to-head matchup, this is Iowa’s only time to wrestle multiple matches in a single day. It will be the closest experience to competing in the conference and national meets.

“When you look at the postseason, you look at multiple matches,” Brands said. “It some instances you’re going to have multiple matches in the same session, so this is mimicking that to a certain degree. There isn’t a two-day or three-day weigh-in process, but this is getting there, so this is important.”

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