IOWA CITY — The lower half of Iowa’s wrestling lineup has been unstoppable this season.
They each bring something different to the table, helping top-ranked Iowa feast on opponents.
There is Spencer Lee’s dominance, Austin DeSanto’s relentlessness and Jaydin Eierman’s funk. Add Max Murin’s pop at a heavier weight and the grit of a rejuvenated Kaleb Young and you have a group that has tortured the top-ranked Hawkeyes’ three opponents.
They’ve been simply perfect, combining for a 15-0 mark after Sunday’s 36-6 Big Ten Conference dual win over No. 9 Illinois Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Fifth-ranked Murin defeated a ranked opponent, while Lee, DeSanto, Eierman and Young all posted bonus points, including two of Iowa’s three pins.
“The thing you cannot coach against is pace and energy,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “If you watch Spencer Lee, there’s your example of how to handle anyone who tries to keep it close … It doesn’t really matter. The progress that you’re seeing there is you can’t slow me down, because of my pace.
“So, (Lee) is a sparkplug. DeSanto, in his own right, is his own man as well, but he definitely thrives off Spencer, but DeSanto has got a motor as well. These guys have some things built into them. Eierman has a funky style. He likes to score a lot of points, but they definitely benefit from Spencer’s the Hodge, Sullivan, the two-time national champion’s energy, walking out there. I think you feel it all the way up and down the lineup.”
On the heels of pins from Lee and Eierman and a lopsided major decision by DeSanto, Murin took the mat in the first of two battles between top-10 competitors and familiar foes. The Hawkeye All-American owned a 3-1 college record against Illinois’ Michael Carr, winning the last two in the 2019 postseason.
“We’re definitely more familiar with each other,” Iowa’s 149-pounder said. “I think it makes it a little bit harder, but that’s no excuse. I think I need to score more points. I don’t think one takedown is going to do it at the end of the year. I think I need to keep scoring points, looking to score points. I like wrestling that guy. Hopefully, I get another shot at him.”
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This was like most of those previous four matchups that were decided by a total of seven points. The pair was deadlocked 1-1 in the third period. Murin made a good adjustment on his last attack, cutting across to a double-leg quickly, preventing Carr from rolling and holding onto Murin’s ankles like he did to defend earlier shots.
Murin was able to finish the decisive takedown on the edge in the final minute and for a third straight win over Carr.
“I want to look to score the whole match, the whole seven minutes no matter what,” Murin said. “That was kind of my game plan going in there.
“He scrambled out of it a couple times, but I knew if I kept on getting to his legs I was eventually going to finish and that’s what happened.”
Murin’s persistence paid dividends. He continued to initiate the offense, creating angles with a slide-by setup that opened the door for the winning move.
“Max Murin is a competitor,” Brands said. “He makes it a war every time.
“I think the offense that he was hitting was there and it was like one of those things where you’re watching it as a coach he took the words right out of my mouth, meaning hit that little slide to the right and you’re there because he’d been doing it a couple times. He hit it nice at the end there and converted.”
Young followed with a 13-4 major over Johnny Mologousis at 157, putting Iowa up 23-0 at the midway point.
Top-ranked Michael Kemerer (174) added a major decision and heavyweight Tony Cassioppi capped the dual with a second-period pin over No. 5 Luke Luffman after Jacob Warner’s decision at 197.
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Cassioppi handled Luffman, scoring two takedowns and turning the final one into a cradle for the victory.
“It’s good,” Cassioppi said. “I wasn’t expecting to perform anything less than my best today.”
Iowa held a 23-5 takedown edge and a 71-29 advantage in total match points against Illinois (4-1). This was all without two-time Big Ten champion Alex Marinelli, who is out of the lineup due to COVID-19 protocol. Former West Liberty prep Joe Kelly replaced him at 165, but fell to Luke Odom, 10-6.
The lighter half of the lineup has produced 65 team points in three duals. Lee has three first-period pins. DeSanto has two technical falls and a major, scoring 18 or more points in each match. Eierman has a pin and a major. Young has two major decisions.
“We had three falls today,” Brands said. “Those are important. They send a message.
”It wasn’t easy out there, but it looked easy.”
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