Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa's Spencer Lee, Michael Kemerer earn No. 1 pre-seeds for Big Ten Championships

All 10 Hawkeyes pre-seeded third or better

Iowa's Spencer Lee checks with a referee before leaving the mat after wrestling Wisconsin's Michael Cullen 125-pound mat
Iowa's Spencer Lee checks with a referee before leaving the mat after wrestling Wisconsin's Michael Cullen 125-pound match at an Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling meet with the Wisconsin Badgers at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. Lee won the match, 16-0, technical fall. Iowa won the meet, 32-3. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa is looking for its first Big Ten Championships team title since 2015 and the first outright crown since 2010.

The Hawkeyes received a glimpse of what that will entail when the conference released pre-seeds for the Big Ten wrestling tournament Saturday and Sunday at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J. All 10 Hawkeyes earned pre-seeds in the top three of their respective weights, including top-seeded Spencer Lee and Michael Kemerer.

“I know Spencer Lee and Kemerer are in a good place seeding-wise and they still have to earn it,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said during the regular news conference and wrestler media availability Monday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “The brackets aren’t final. If it’s within a certain close margin, it can be opened back up for discussion and voted on. First-round matchups you kind of put together in your head could change as well.

“I think it’s about being ready, staying ready and do what you’ve done all year, except now it’s another level because it’s the next event. We’ve got better since the last one.”

Lee, a two-time NCAA champion, has dominated the competition this season, compiling a 15-0 record and outscoring opponents, 183-13. The top-ranked 125-pounder has posted bonus-point decisions in all but one match, recording four technical falls and three pins in the first period.

Kemerer, a two-time All-American, ascended to the top of the 174 rankings with a win over Penn State NCAA champion Mark Hall. He is 13-0 overall this season. Kemerer was a Big Ten finalist at 157 as a freshman in 2017.

Defending conference champion Alex Marinelli is one of three Hawkeyes with No. 2 seeds. The 165-pound junior is one spot behind Penn State’s Vicenzo Joseph, who Marinelli beat in the finals last year.

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Pat Lugo (149) and Kaleb Young (157) are seeded second. Both are returning All-Americans. Lugo, a three-time NCAA qualifier, is 18-1 and spent part of the season ranked No. 1 nationally. Young is 15-3 and unbeaten against Big Ten foes this year.

“I don’t really care about the seeds,” Marinelli said. “The seeds don’t matter as long as we’re on top of the podium at the end. We could be last seed. It doesn’t matter.”

Austin DeSanto (133), 141-pounder Max Murin, Abe Assad (184) Jacob Warner at 197 and heavyweight Tony Cassioppi are all pre-seeded third. Assad and Cassioppi are making their college postseason debuts.

Former Underwood four-time state champion and Nebraska freshman Alex Thomsen was 10th at 125. Former Western Dubuque two-time state titlist Max Lyon is 11th at 184 for Purdue.

The NCAA released automatic bid allocations last week. The Big Ten garnered 79 automatic berths to the national tournament, consisting of 10 for 149 and 184, nine at 174, eight at 125, 141 and 165, seven at 133 and heavyweight and six for 157 and 197.

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

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