College wrestling’s postseason has reached full throttle. Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa competed in qualifiers. Loras produced its best national finish, while Wartburg had its worst showing since 2001. The metro was well represented at the NCAA Division III Championships during the Wrestling Weekend That Was.
Iowa's third-place showing
IOWA’S THIRD-PLACE SHOWING: Iowa finished third behind Penn State and Ohio State at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships last weekend at Minnesota’s Williams Arena. Technically, that’s probably where the Hawkeyes were expected to finish. Nobody was going to catch champion Penn State, unless the Nittany Lions allowed them. The 15-point difference between Iowa and Ohio State could have easily been made up with a healthy Michael Kemerer at 174, taking into consideration Michigan runner-up Myles Amine and Minnesota’s third-place finisher Devin Skatzka scored 15 and 16 1/2 points, respectively.
The Hawkeyes had eight of 10 wrestlers finish at or above their seeds and earned eight automatic NCAA berths. Austin DeSanto was seeded second and placed fourth in a very deep and talented weight class. His two losses were to former NCAA finalists. Eighth-seeded heavyweight Sam Stoll just missed the top eight. Despite being an All-American, Stoll is on the bubble for an at-large bid. With a 9-5 mark (.642 win percentage), his number of matches and finishing more than a spot outside of the conference automatic bids, it isn’t favorable.
Just a reminder. Alex Marinelli is good. Very good. Iowa’s 200th conference champion is physical and tough. He handled two-time NCAA champion Vincenzo Joseph, who has yet to win a Big Ten title. Marinelli has become the pillar of the Iowa lineup.
Kevin Dresser honored
Iowa State Coach Kevin Dresser was named Big 12 Coach of the Year, leading the Cyclones to a runner-up finish to third-ranked Oklahoma State in the conference tournament at Tulsa, Okla., last weekend.
Dresser has produced a turnaround that is well ahead of schedule, closing the regular season with a 10-4 dual record. Iowa State managed just one NCAA qualifier a year ago. This season, the Cyclones will take nine to the NCAA tournament March 21-23 in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Cyclones had four conference finalists and crowned a champion in Chase Straw. The former Independence prep state champion earned the program’s first conference title since Lelund Weatherspoon in 2016. Nine wrestlers finished fifth or better and all 10 were in the top six.
Dresser has already made major progress in the resurrection process.
One of Iowa State’s setbacks in the finals came at the hands of UNI, which finished third and earned six automatic qualifiers. Drew Foster became a two-time Big 12 champ for the Panthers, beating the Cyclones’ Sam Colbray 4-1 at 184. Foster avenged a loss from the dual Feb. 21.
UNI’s Taylor Lujan made his second finals appearance and was second at 174, while Josh Alber (141) and Bryce Steiert (165) were third. Top-seeded Alber was upset in the opening round and battled through consolations, avenging the earlier loss to Northern Colorado’s Chris Sandoval in the placing match.
Loras, rise, Wartburg's fall
If you claim to have predicted Loras’ runner-up finish with perennial power Wartburg’s drop to sixth, you lie big fat lies. It doesn’t change the fact that the Duhawks performed well, while the Knights uncharacteristically faltered. The Duhawks scored 66 points, coming in a distant second to the 130 from champion Augsburg, which won its 13th national crown. Loras produced its best team finish with five All-Americans led by former Cedar Rapids Xavier prep Clint Lembeck. He was third at 141, capturing All-American honors for the second time in three seasons.
The Duhawks return six of seven national qualifiers and all five placewinners next season. Add the dynamic that Loras is coached by T.J. Miller, a former Wartburg national champion and son of legendary Knights coach Jim Miller, and Wartburg’s stranglehold on the American Rivers Conference could be loosening.
Nobody could have predicted Wartburg’s struggle, resulting in its worst finish since getting sixth in 2001. The Knights didn’t have a finalist for the first time since 2002. It was inconceivable to think freshman NCAA champ Brock Rathbun, coming off a dominant regional performance, would go 0-2. Returning national champ Cross Cannone had a 63-match win streak snapped in a 6-5 semifinal loss to Mount Union’s Antwon Pugh. Wartburg actually lost three semifinal bouts by three total points and the conversation is much different.
One of the bright spots was a third-place finish at 174 by former Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep Kyle Briggs, who returns next season. Briggs reached the semifinals, closing with two straight consolation victories.
Metro places eighth
The Metro area was well represented at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships last weekend at Roanoke, Va. Four former Cedar Rapids preps were in the national field and each earned All-American honors.
Briggs and Lembeck placed third. Coe’s Taylor Mehmen, a former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep, finished fifth at 197. Former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep and University of Chicago freshman Ben Sarasin was seventh at 174.
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They combined for 49 team points, which would have been good for eighth in the team race. Congrats, Cedar Rapids, which happens to be the 2020 NCAA D-III Championships host.
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