Iowa Hawkeyes

No. 1 Iowa edges No. 2 Penn State in dual that matched the hype

Hawkeyes stay undefeated with 19-17 win that Tony Cassioppi clinched in final match

IOWA CITY — Friday's Penn State-Iowa dual delivered everything it promised.

Exciting matches, a couple surprises, dominating performances and an uncertain outcome until the final bout.

In the end, Iowa heavyweight Tony Cassioppi provided the resounding exclamation point to the top-ranked Hawkeyes’ 19-17 victory over No. 2 Penn State in a Big Ten Conference wrestling dual in front of a sellout crowd of 14,905, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“Love it,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said after thumping the table at the start of the post-dual news conference. “That’s a dual meet. That’s a heavyweight boxing match. It’s a fistfight, not a (real) fistfight because you get in trouble saying that, but a fistfight back-and-forth.

“16,000 people or whatever the crowd was, I don’t think anybody left.”

With the Hawkeyes (9-0, 6-0) down by a point, Cassioppi posted a 7-0 victory over Seth Nevills to clinch Iowa’s first victory over the Nittany Lions (7-2, 4-1) since February 2015. He was unfazed by the stakes of just his fifth home match.

“Just another wrestling match,” Cassioppi said. “I wrestle on a black-and-yellow mat every day. It didn’t change anything.”

Cassioppi scored takedowns in the first and third, amassing 3:08 of riding time for another point.

“I was just satisfied, doing my part,” Cassioppi said. “Just wrestled my whole match. Wrestled hard.”

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The freshman heavyweight capped a solid finish that saw Iowa take three of the final four matches, including Jacob Warner’s 4-2 decision over Shakur Rasheed to set up Cassioppi’s heroics.

The last half of the dual was highlighted by two No. 1 vs. No. 2 individual matchups. Iowa and Penn State split those, but it was a wild win from Iowa’s Michael Kemerer at 174 that started the Iowa’s comeback.

Second-ranked Kemerer defeated No. 1 Mark Hall, 11-6.

“It’s a good feeling,” Kemerer said. “The goal is in March. It was good to go out there and get this win and prove to myself, but at the same time nationals is what we’re looking to. We’re going to keep getting better every day until then.”

The match started with fireworks from a big headlock from Hall. Somehow Kemerer was able to slowly roll through and was able to grab a single leg that he finished for a takedown. The duo continually exchanged scores until Kemerer’s reversal at the end of the first gave him a 5-4 lead.

“Honestly, it’s a blur to me,” Kemerer said. “I’ll have to go back and watch the match. It’s just believing in what God’s given me and just letting it happen. It’s been that way my whole life. Good things happen the less I think (and) the more I just do it.”

Kemerer tallied a takedown in each of the final two periods and 1:22 of riding time for the decision, pulling Iowa within 14-13 with three matches left.

“He just needs to keep wrestling and that was a back-and-forth match,” Brands said. “He stayed in there. He was calm.”

Top-ranked Vincenzo Joseph had lost two previous meetings against No. 2 Alex Marinelli. The third time was a charm, posting a 7-5 decision at 165.

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After a scoreless first and Marinelli escape to open the scoring, Joseph hit a huge throw for six points for the difference.

Aaron Brooks added a 7-3 decision over fellow freshman Abe Assad, making it 17-13 before the final two. Interestingly, Penn State only won two of the first five matches, but still owned an 11-10 lead at the midway point.

“Overall, our team had a chance to win against a really good team,” Penn State Coach Cael Sanderson told trackwrestling.com. “We had some guys step up and compete well. I think moving forward we can build on this.”

Spencer Lee (125) gave Iowa the start it hoped for, energizing the crowd by putting Brandon Meredith on his back in the opening moment and rolling to a 16-1 technical fall.

Lee added a takedown and hit his patented tilt for two sets of four nearfall in the first. He ended it with a takedown just 17 seconds into the second period. The two-time NCAA champion improved to 11-0 overall, recording bonus points in each bout. The technical fall was his eighth this season.

The tide shifted to the Nittany Lions during the 133-pound match between Penn State’s No. 4 Roman Bravo-Young and No. 2 Austin DeSanto. During the first neutral scramble, DeSanto was injured. He attempted to continue, but injury defaulted before the first period expired.

Bravo-Young scored two takedowns and had a 5-1 advantage at the time of the stoppage. Iowa was also deducted a team point during the first injury time, making it 6-4 in favor of Penn State after two.

Brands did not have an update on the severity of DeSanto’s injury after the dual.

Second-ranked Nick Lee continued the momentum for Penn State. He followed with a dominant 20-5 technical fall over Carter Happel at 141.

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Iowa responded with consecutive 6-1 decisions from No. 3 Pat Lugo at 149 and fourth-ranked Kaleb Young at 157.

Lugo scored a takedown, two penalty points for stalling and riding time to down Jarod Verkleeren. Young posted a first-period takedown, reversal in the second and more than two minutes of riding time to beat Bo Pipher.

Iowa 19, Penn State 17

(Individual takedowns in parentheses)

125 — Spencer Lee (I) tech. fall Brandon Meredith, 16-1 (3,0)

133 — Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) won by injury default over Austin DeSanto (2,0)

141 — Nick Lee (PSU) tech. fall Carter Happel, 20-5 (7,0)

149 — Pat Lugo (I) dec. Jarod Verkleeren, 6-1 (1,0)

157 — Kaleb Young (I) dec. Bo Pipher, 6-1 (1,0)

165 — Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) dec. Alex Marinelli, 7-5 (1,1)

174 — Michael Kemerer (I) dec. Mark Hall, 11-6 (3,1)

184 — Aaron Brooks (PSU) dec. Abe Assad, 7-3 (2,0)

197 — Jacob Warner (I) dec. Shakur Rasheed, 4-2 (1,0)

Hwt. — Tony Cassioppi (I) dec. Seth Nevills, 7-0 (2,0).

MEET STATISTICS

Takedowns — Iowa 12, Penn State 13. Reversals — Iowa 3, Penn State 1. Escapes — Iowa 15, Penn State 10. Nearfall points — Iowa 10, Penn State 8. Penalty points (awarded) — Iowa 4, Penn State 1. Riding-time points — Iowa 5, Penn State 1. Total match points — Iowa 64, Penn State 50. Officials — Matt Sorochinsky, Curt Frost. Attendance — 14,905.

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

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