Iowa Hawkeyes

Wrestling Weekend That Was: Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto exemplify domination

UNI saddled Cowboys with a loss; IWCOA girls' state proves participation growth

Iowa's Austin DeSanto wrestles Ohio State's Jordan Decatur on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (Rebecca F. M
Iowa’s Austin DeSanto wrestles Ohio State’s Jordan Decatur on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Just chill, man. We’re chillin’ out this week. UNI saddled Oklahoma State with a loss. Iowa won seven bouts against another top-10 team on a night BTN highlighted wrestling in prime time. Prep wrestling finally wrestled on Saturday again. Participation growth was apparent at IWCOA’s girls’ state tournament. This is the Wrestling Weekend That Was:

Iowa drops Ohio State

Top-ranked Iowa continued its impressive season, dropping No. 4 Ohio State, 24-10, in front of 13,405 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night.

The Hawkeyes won seven of 10 bouts. Michael Kemerer beat his third straight opponent ranked in the top eight. Abe Assad posted another quality win with a takedown in the final minute to beat freshman Rocky Jordan. Tony Cassioppi made another heavyweight seem childlike.

Iowa’s 1-2 lightweight punch was impressive, yet again. Spencer Lee and Austin DeSanto dominated their way to technical falls. The duo combined for 45 of the Hawkeyes’ 91 match points. They had half of the team’s 26 takedowns and 16 of 18 total nearfall points. DeSanto had 12 takedowns in his 27-12 victory and Lee had 16 back points in an 18-0 match termination in the first period.

Brands was asked what he said to DeSanto when he came off the mat.

“He’s awesome,” Brands said. “I said, ‘That’s how it’s done.’ You want a definition of how to wrestle a dominating wrestling match that is how it’s done. … Twenty-seven points. Spencer Lee, that’s how you do it.”

Lee has scored bonus points in all 10 matches this season, including seven technical falls and a pin. Six of his matches have ended before the second period. He has outscored foes, 84-1, in his last five matches.

“That’s staggering,” Brands said. “He’s wrestling better. It’s not a flash-in-the-pan type thing.”

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Iowa was also without two ranked starters. Max Murin (141) and Jacob Warner at 197 did not wrestle Friday. Murin was replaced by Carter Happel, who has beaten ranked opponents in the past, and three-time NCAA qualifier Cash Wilcke stepped in for Warner.

“Murin, nicked up a little bit,” said Brands, noting Murin is questionable for Friday’s Penn State dual. “Warner, best thing for him. He didn’t like it. He didn’t know it until, I guess, Wilcke walked out there, but the conversation afterward was all good. He’s a pro. He’s awesome. Moving forward with him. He’s fine.”

Big Ten goes prime time

BTN has devoted more time to wrestling broadcasts this season.

Friday’s prime-time slate consisted of back-to-back duals between top-10 teams. Iowa and Ohio State capped the night after viewers watched second-ranked Penn State escape Nebraska with a 20-18 victory.

Heavyweight Seth Nevills posted a decision in the final match to secure the come-from-behind win for the Nittany Lions.

UNI saddles Cowboys with loss

Northern Iowa handed Oklahoma State a 19-15 loss Saturday night in a rare dual at the McLeod Center instead of the West Gym. It was just UNI's third win over the Cowboys and first since 1991.

The Panthers won six matches, receiving a major decision from 174-pounder Bryce Steiert, who beat Joe Smith, 12-4. Carter Isley closed out the win with a 5-2 decision at heavyweight, scoring two late takedowns.

UNI has won four straight duals since a disappointing loss to South Dakota State. The Panthers have warmed up, improving to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12 Conference.

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In a quirky road trip, Oklahoma State faced Iowa State a little more than 18 hours later. The Cowboys, who apparently had an early Sunday morning workout in Cedar Falls, rebounded with a 23-9 victory over the Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State’s Ian Parker (141), David Carr (157) and heavyweight Gannon Gremmel were the only ones to win.

IWCOA girls' state tournament

The Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association held their second girls’ state tournament Saturday. Participation across the state has grown to 559 girls' wrestlers in grades 9 through 12.

The whirlwind effort — about four weeks from conception to execution — last season to establish this event resulted in 87 competitors in 10 weight classes. More were registered but didn’t attend due to a winter weather.

This year, 350 wrestlers competed in 11 weight classes in a two-day tournament.

A year ago, the largest bracket consisted of 16 wrestlers. All but one bracket had 16 or more this time. Four weights had more than 40 wrestlers, including 49 at 120.

The storylines were interesting. Crestwood’s Lakin Lienhard won the 145-pound title. She just happens to be the second-leading scorer on the girls’ basketball team that is 13-2 this season. Iowa City West’s Salima Omari won the 285-pound title and was on the West football team in the fall.

Lisbon’s Janell Avila won the 138 title, which is the first for the Lions. Avila was cornered by her brother, Robert, who is ranked first at 132 in Class 1A. The defending state champ missed the Lions’ tournament in Clinton to be with his sister.

Emma Grimm, the daughter of Upper Iowa Coach Heath Grimm, was a runner-up at 126. Iowa Valley’s Millie Peach won her second title, claiming the 195 crown.

Women's wrestling received a boost as these wrestlers competed. NCAA Division II and Division III voted to approve women’s wrestling as an Emerging Sport during an NCAA Convention in Anaheim, Calif. NCAA Division I will voted later this season, according to USA Wrestling.

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The sport could have an official NCAA Championships, if 40 NCAA-affiliated teams can be established.

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

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