Iowa Hawkeyes

Pat Lugo powers Iowa Hawkeyes to Midlands wrestling title

Iowa crowns 5 champs, sets team points record

Iowa's Pat Lugo is declared the winner over University of North Carolina's Austin O'Connor in the 149-pound championship
Iowa's Pat Lugo is declared the winner over University of North Carolina's Austin O'Connor in the 149-pound championship match during the Midlands wrestling tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. Lugo won 8-4. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Iowa’s Pat Lugo has every right to be sky high.

Instead, he plans to stay grounded and head right back to work.

The senior All-American dropped two All-Americans, including North Carolina’s top-ranked Austin O’Connor, for the 149-pound title and helped the top-ranked Hawkeyes to their 29th team title at the 57th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Monday night at Sears Centre Arena.

Iowa scored a tournament-record 196 1/2 points, beating runner-up Northern Iowa by a whopping 95 1/2 points. The Hawkeyes matched a previous best with five individual champions.

Third-ranked Lugo contributed to the dominant team performance with an 8-4 decision in the championship bout.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Lugo said. “Last year at Midlands, I kind of took a dip because I got fourth.

“I want to stay humble with this win. I don’t want to get too big-headed with this. Keep doing what I’m doing and everything will fall into place.”

Lugo scored a takedown in each period, building a 2-1 lead after the first that grew to 5-2 after the second. Lugo varied his offense, scoring off his own shot early and re-attacks for his final two. He tacked on a riding-time point.

“He can find points because he can scramble,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “He’s good offensively. He can ride. He can do a lot of different things on his feet. In all positions, he’s pretty good and I don’t think people realize that about him enough.”

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Lugo’s victory came right in the middle of a four-win stretch by Hawkeyes to start the final round. Alex Marinelli capped the run with an impressive, 5-3, victory over Virginia Tech All-American David McFadden.

Marinelli avenged a loss to McFadden from the 2018 NCAA tournament to become Iowa’s 14th three-time Midlands champ. He also stockpiled awards, earning the most falls, team points and was named Champion of Champions.

“He’s a great competitor,” Marinelli said. “It makes the tournament even more special when you beat a guy at that caliber.”

Marinelli set the tone with a shot off the opening whistle. He didn’t score but managed a first-period takedown and added another in the second. He wasn’t satisfied and continued to push for more points, adding an escape in the third.

“I really wanted another takedown at the end,” Marinelli said. “I’ve got to get another takedown.”

In an unusual role, Max Murin took the mat first for Iowa Monday night, setting up the rematch between Iowa’s Austin DeSanto and Wisconsin’s Seth Gross at 133 for the finale.

Murin sparked the Hawkeyes with a 5-3 decision over Campbell’s Josh Heil for his first 141-pound Midlands title in his second straight finals appearance.

“I love it,” Murin said. “It was awesome. I got my match out of the way and then I can just watch the other guys kick some butt and support my teammates.”

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Kaleb Young (157) captured his first Midlands crown, downing the tournament’s Cinderella story Markus Hartman of Army. Young scored an escape to force sudden victory and notched the winning takedown with 16 seconds remaining in the extra frame.

He let his instincts take over in the decisive flurry.

“I just react,” Young said. “I’ve been wrestling for so long. Thinking goes on the back burner and you just let it up to what you’ve had hard-wired in your brain, what comes naturally. I just let it fly.”

He demonstrated his poise, winning two straight matches in sudden victory and another by two.

“I think there is confidence,” Young said. “I’m comfortable there. Probably more comfortable than I should be. That’s not where I want to be.”

Heavyweight Tony Cassioppi captured his crown with a decision over Central Michigan’s Matt Stencel, avenging a loss to him here a year ago.

In one of the marquee matches, Gross used a takedown and two nearfall for an early 4-0 lead and held on to beat DeSanto, 6-5.

Iowa finished with 11 medalists. In addition to the seven finalists, Cash Wilcke was third at 184, Vince Turk (149) and 197-pounder Jacob Warner were fourth. Jeren Glosser gave Iowa a third medalist at 149, placing sixth.

The Hawkeyes were without Spencer Lee on the second day. According to a news release, it was due to a coach’s decision.

UNI was second with 101 points, crowning a champion in Taylor Lujan at 184.

Lujan scored a takedown in the first period, a late escape and a riding-time point for a 4-0 win over Iowa redshirt Abe Assad.

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“The competition was tough,” Lujan said. “Lucky enough to come out with a first-place finish.

“It’s cool to be a part of a little bit of history be able to wrestle in this prestigious tournament.”

UNI’s Bryce Steiert was second at 174. Max Thomsen was third at 149, while heavyweight Carter Isley was fifth.

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

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