Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa's Alex Marinelli avenges loss for second straight Midlands title

Hawkeyes crown 2 for 28th Midlands team championship; UNI places second with 2 champions

Iowa's Alex Marinelli. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa's Alex Marinelli. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Iowa’s Alex Marinelli had this date in his sights.

The 165-pound All-American wanted an opportunity to face Wisconsin’s Evan Wick. He earned his chance to avenge a disappointing loss at last season’s NCAA tournament and took advantage of it.

“This whole season, I’ve waited a long time for that match,” Marinelli said. “It killed me to lose so many points at the national tournament to him. That match was marked on my calendar for a long time. I’m happy he wrestled at the Midlands.”

Marinelli won his second straight title and helped second-ranked Iowa capture its 28th team title at Northwestern's Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Sunday night at Sears Centre Arena. The Hawkeyes finished with 184 points, topping runner-up Northern Iowa by 64 1/2.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “We’ve got two champions and six in the finals. Two-for-6, we have to do better than that and we maybe have to wake up from the break a little bit in some of those cases.”

Marinelli joined 133-pounder Austin DeSanto atop the podium. He posted a 5-3 decision over second-ranked and top-seeded Wick.

The approach was to attack from his feet. Marinelli executed it well with two takedowns in the opening period, building a 4-1 lead.

“He came at me hard, which I like,” Marinelli said. “It was a driving finish. It wasn’t slap at the knee. It wasn’t slap at the leg. It was penetrate, finish (and) drive through him.

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Wick had a rideout in the second and received two stall calls, but Marinelli showed progress from March when he gave up nearfall in a major-decision loss. Wick had to work harder to keep Marinelli down compared to the last match.

“Marinelli is a smart wrestler,” Brands said. “He makes adjustments. I can tell you he’s been thinking about that for a long, long time.

“We have to finish the deal on the bottom, but two first-period takedowns means he can score more. … That will really open things up. I like that performance, for sure.”

DeSanto claimed Iowa’s first title, watching as Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera upset NCAA champion teammate Spencer Lee, 7-3, for the 125 championship. Rivera was named the tournament Champion of Champions and Outstanding Wrestler.

“It fuels me a little bit,” DeSanto said. “It fuels me because I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want that to happen to me. I don’t want that to happen to him. I don’t want that to happen to anybody on my team. I want that to happen to the other guy.”

DeSanto continued his dominant roll through the bracket. He trounced Campbell’s fourth-seeded Noah Gonser, 15-5, in the finals. DeSanto finished with a tournament-high 28 1/2 team points. He finished his first Midlands title run with two major decisions, a pin, technical fall and win by disqualification in a semifinal over Illinois’ Dylan Duncan.

“I wrestled hard,” DeSanto said. “It’s a fun tournament. My first time here. It’s awesome.”

Lee suffered a tough loss, giving up three takedowns to Rivera.

“We let that guy wrestle his pace,” Brands said. “We let him hang. He was like a satellite on the outside. It was too slow. Our stalk was slow.

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“I don’t think he was too concerned when he got out but he never made the adjustment.”

He was one of four Iowa runners-up, including 157-pounder Kaleb Young.

UNI’s two champions came at Iowa’s expense. Top-seeded Josh Alber beat No. 2 seed Max Murin, 5-2, at 141. Drew Foster, also a top seed, edged No. 2 Cash Wilcke, 3-2.

Alber said his title was a source of payback to UNI Coach Doug Schwab and his staff. They helped him mature to the person he is today on and off the mat.

“He’s a great guy,” Alber said. “When I win, it’s like going to him, too. I wouldn’t be here without him.

“I just owe everything to those guys. It just feels good to be able to give back to them a little bit for all they have given to me.”

Alber was up, 1-0, when Murin escaped to tie it. Alber dropped in and scored a takedown right away for a lead he didn’t surrender, adding another takedown in the final seconds.

“I could feel him get a little overly aggressive on me,” Alber said. “I knew he was reaching hard. I knew I had to fire one of my attacks and it worked out perfect for me.”

Former Alburnett two-time state champion Tanner Sloan turned plenty of heads this weekend, becoming the first true freshman finalist at the Midlands since Princeton’s Matt Kolodzik and Lehigh’s Jordan Wood in 2016.

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Sloan avenged a prep loss to Northwestern’s sixth-seeded Lucas Davison with a 4-3 semifinal victory. The run came to an end with a 13-4 loss to Princeton’s third-ranked Pat Brucki in the 197 final.

“Definitely things to work on,” said Sloan, who is 18-2 in his redshirt season. “Being here and the atmosphere, beating some tough kids really proved to people I can hang with them.”

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

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