The matchup is a contrast in styles.
One wrestler is known for a frenetic pace with the ability to score takedowns and points at will. The other has been given “The Backpack” as a nickname for his ability to ride and turn opponents.
Iowa’s 10th-ranked Austin DeSanto and Minnesota’s No. 7 Ethan Lizak have different skills that make for an intriguing 133-pound pairing.
“You have a guy who is going to want to get a quick opportunity on top and make it as lopsided as quick as possible,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said about Lizak during the team’s media availability Wednesday. “We have a guy with a big motor, but the thing about DeSanto is he doesn’t wrestle slow because he knows he can come on or he doesn’t wrestle slowly at the beginning to save himself to come on.
“He wrestles a hard match for seven minutes. He’s getting better and a little bit more savvy in those seven-minute matches as well.”
The bout is one of five expected matches between ranked wrestlers when fourth-ranked Iowa faces No. 8 Minnesota Sunday in a Big Ten Conference dual at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis. The teams have 15 nationally ranked wrestlers by trackwrestling.com combined, including eight for Iowa (6-0, 1-0 Big Ten).
“It’s awesome,” DeSanto said about the dual. “I can’t wait to be there, watch the matches, participate and cheer on my teammates.”
DeSanto enters the dual with a 10-1 mark, coming off his first Midlands title. DeSanto has posted seven bonus-point victories, including three major decisions and two technical falls. In his eight matches not decided by pin or disqualification, DeSanto averages 15 points per contest, scoring 19 points or more in three of them.
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“His opponents know they have to be ready,” Brands added. “They are going to come out and they are going to try to do what their guy does best and that’s get on top and turn.
“We like our guy. We like how he’s developing … he’s definitely up for the challenge.”
DeSanto has seen Lizak’s previous matches against Iowa, including one where he built a big lead with turns against three-time All-American Thomas Gilman, who came back to break him and win the match at Minnesota (8-1, 1-0).
DeSanto said Lizak’s conditioning is much better now and he can’t play into Lizak’s strengths.
“I have to wrestle all positions,” DeSanto said. “Just pushing my pace and keep wrestling as hard as I can.
“I just need to keep working and not let him get to where he wants. Just keep wrestling hard.”
DeSanto has plenty of tough riders in the room. NCAA champion Spencer Lee is a turning machine, while 141-pounder Max Murin is a strong rider as well. He has been prepared for this sort of test.
“It helps me a lot,” DeSanto said about his teammates. “Everyone in the room is tough on top.
“The whole room makes me better.”
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Top-ranked Lee will face Sean Russell at 125. Russell is a transfer and former All-American at Edinboro. Lee blanked him 15-0 last season.
“He’s a great opponent,” Lee said. “He’s in his home gym. He’s going to wrestle as hard as he can. It’s going to be a good match. We’re going to fight hard, like two warriors are going to do. I’m looking forward to it.”
Lee is coming off a finals loss to Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera at the Midlands. He said he learned he has to relax more and wrestle loose. His focus is on the next match. Brands said Lee has the right perspective moving forward.
“He’s very talented,” Brands said. “He analyzes things at a deep level. He has a great understanding of the sport. Sometimes he’s hard on himself to the point it’s not fair and the greatest athletes in the history of this planet and maybe the greatest human beings on this planet are hard on themselves. That’s probably a key ingredient, but you still have to be able to pat yourself on the back when you deserve it and you can’t go to the deep, deep level to where it becomes self-betrayal.”
Three other ranked bouts are in the lightest weights. In addition to 125 and 133, 13th-ranked Murin (141) has No. 5 Mitch McKee. Iowa’s 11th-ranked Pat Lugo faces No. 22 Tommy Thorn at 149. Iowa’s Kaleb Young and Steve Bleise are ranked fourth and 16th, respectively, at 157.
Iowa has won four straight in the series, dating back to Jan. 25, 2014. The Hawkeyes own a 74-28-1 record against the Golden Gophers, including 12-4 under Brands.
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