NCAA WRESTLING

Iowa sends 7 to NCAA wrestling quarterfinals, including pair seeded in 20s

Hawkeyes in third after first day; Penn State leads

Iowa’s Max Murin wrestles in a home match earlier this season. Murin is one of seven Hawkeyes advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa’s Max Murin wrestles in a home match earlier this season. Murin is one of seven Hawkeyes advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

PITTSBURGH — Iowa’s Max Murin wasn’t concerned with his national tournament seed.

The redshirt freshman didn’t even find out until a teammate told him he was No. 22 in the 33-man 141-pound bracket. He questioned what those seeding the field knew about the sport and was determined to prove them wrong.

”I kind of got excited and I was like ‘I guess I’ll be a dark horse in the tournament then,’” Murin said. “It put a chip on my (shoulder).”

The chip remained in place after his first two opponents failed to knock it off. Murin was one of seven Hawkeyes to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. Iowa posted a 16-2 overall record on the first day, sitting in third place with 24 points. Penn State leads with 32.5 points and has all nine wrestlers alive. Ohio State is second at 25.5.

“It’s just awesome,” said Murin, who will face Penn State’s third-seeded Nick Lee next. “Take it one match at a time. Just keep knocking guys off.”

Murin showed his toughness in a 3-2 victory against Wisconsin’s No. 11 Tristan Moran in the first round. He defeated Illinois’ sixth-seeded Michael Carr, 4-3, beating him for the second time in two weeks.

“Especially when you look where we’re at in the bracket,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “Once your bracket is laid out, you go wrestle one match at a time, so good for him not getting rattled by who’s seeded higher.”

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Brands said before the tournament that Murin was a wrestler who leads with his face. After his seventh-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, Murin’s head was swollen and bruised. His eye was blackened and the white had a blood spot.

“He was right, figuratively and literally,” Murin said. “I do lead with my face. It hurts, but it’s just a toughness battle.

“I’m not athletic enough to keep a clean face and clean body, so I have to tough it out.”

Murin used a third-period escape for the final point in a 4-3 decision over Carr, but it was a takedown as time expired in the first period that gave him his first lead at 3-2 and was key for him to move within a win of All-America status.

“In this tournament it’s just massive,” Murin said about short-time points. “Getting a last-second takedown and riding him out was huge.”

Murin wasn’t even the worst-seeded Hawkeye to reach the quarters. Heavyweight Sam Stoll, seeded 28th, powered his way to a pair of victories, including a 1-0 decision over Northwestern’s No. 12 Conan Jennings in the second round.

“His best wrestling can still be ahead of him,” Brands said. “It is still ahead of him. That’s how he’s approached it all year. He’s had a lot of adversity, but we’re in the tournament, right now.”

Iowa scored eight bonus points, receiving a technical fall and major decision from both NCAA champion Spencer Lee at 125 and sixth-seeded 157-pounder Kaleb Young. Top-seeded Alex Marinelli (165) recorded a major after his opening-round 7-4 decision over Oklahoma State’s two-time All-American Joe Smith.

“Those guys get bonus points,” Brands said. “Bonus points are huge.”

Young is making his NCAA tournament debut after not making the postseason lineup a year ago.

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“It’s a hell of a lot more fun wrestling than it is sitting in the bleachers watching,” Young said. “So, it’s awesome. Love it.”

Young was impressive, tallying 30 total points in his first two matches, dropping Ohio State’s No. 11 Ke-Shawn Hayes 14-2 to reach the quarterfinals. The key for him is to remain loose and relaxed.

“I feel good,” Young said. “I feel like I’m controlling the mat. I feel strong, so it’s always good.”

Iowa opened the tournament going 9-0 in the first session and winning its first 15 bouts. Austin DeSanto (133) and Pat Lugo (149) also reached the quarterfinals as the Hawkeyes rolled through much of the first day.

“I feel like we definitely feed off each other,” Young said. “Spencer Lee is a good guy to start us. He goes out and gets big wins and DeSanto follows him up. He’s a hammer himself. Those two start us off well each round and we just keep it rolling.”

Northern Iowa was impressive as well. The Panthers went 9-3 overall with Bryce Steiert (165), Taylor Lujan at 174 and 184-pounder Drew Foster reaching the quarterfinals. UNI finished the first day in 10th with 15 1/2 points.

Lujan reached the quarters with a fall but Steiert recorded the biggest win of the day for the Panthers. He scored a reversal and erased Michigan’s sixth-seeded Logan Massa’s riding time for a 2-1 victory.

“Find a way and when you feel an opportunity you’ve got to take it,” Steiert said. “Just taking advantage of what’s in front of me and finding a way, whether it’s riding tough or scoring takedowns. There’s going to be a lot more opportunities ahead.”

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The Panthers still have all six wrestlers alive with Jay Schwarm (125), Josh Alber (141) and Max Thomsen (149) in consolation competition.

“It’s really important that nobody’s tournament is done, right now,” UNI Coach Doug Schwab said. “We can score a lot of points. What matters right now is getting ready for the next match in front of all of them. I like how our guys are competing.”

Iowa State is 11th with 14 1/2 points. The Cyclones’ Jarrett Degen (149) and 184-pounder Sam Colbray advanced to the quarterfinals. Degen topped North Carolina State’s Justin Oliver, 11-8. Colbray beat Oklahoma State’s Dakota Geer, 7-4.

Former Independence prep and Big 12 champ Chase Straw rebounded from an opening loss with a wild 13-12 consolation victory in tiebreaker 1 over Princeton’s Quincy Monday. He is one of seven Cyclones in the consolations. Iowa State also has all nine qualifiers left.

“We got nine guys scrapping still, so it is still too early to get too high or too low,” Cyclones head coach Kevin Dresser said. “I was really excited and proud of our fight tonight. Especially in the wrestlebacks. We had five guys lose this morning, and five guys came back and two of them bonus pointed. We got to keep doing that because that is ultimately what is going to get you on the podium.”

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

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