Alex Marinelli edged Evan Wick in the finals of the Midlands Championships last season (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Last weekend, Penn State dropped a match against Arizona State. The loss not only ended PSU's extensive winning streak, but it also allowed Iowa to move into the No. 1 spot in the rankings. The Hawkeyes took care of business against rival Iowa State, and this week they look to hold that top ranking against No. 6 Wisconsin. The following is a weight-by-weight preview of the dual, which could feature as many as 15 ranked wrestlers across the 10 matches.
125: No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. Michael Cullen (Wisconsin)
After wrestling for the full seven minutes in his season debut against Fabian Gutierrez (UTC), Lee finished his match against No. 6 Alex Mackall (Iowa State) with a first-period technical fall. There have been concerns about Lee fading after the first period, but if the match ends before the start of the second, does that really matter?
Cullen is back down at 125 pounds after spending his last two seasons up at 133 pounds. He has held down the starting spot for the Badgers this year, and he has put up a 4-2 record in the process. In his last match, Cullen picked up a 9-3 victory over William Edelblute (Utah Valley).
This match has bonus points written all over it. Cullen has been able to notch some impressive wins already considering he came into the year with a 30-30 career record, but he is going up against another level here. Look for Lee to score early and often.
Prediction: Lee (Iowa) technical fall over Cullen (Wisconsin)
133: No. 2 Austin DeSanto (Iowa) vs. No. 1 Seth Gross (Wisconsin)
DeSanto started the season with a technical fall over Aiden Murphy (UTC) at 141 pounds. Last weekend he dropped back down to 133 pounds and knocked off Todd Small (Iowa State) via major decision. Due to graduations and Olympic redshirts, there has been a bit of an exodus near the top of this weight. DeSanto could stake his claim to the top spot at the weight with a victory here.
Gross has already excelled this season on the folkstyle and freestyle mats. On the collegiate scene he has won all six of his matches included a major decision last weekend over No. 9 Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley). He qualified for the Olympic Team Trials with a first-place finish at the Bill Farrell Memorial International, which saw him defeat the likes of Darian Cruz, Nathan Tomasello and last year's NCAA champion Nick Suriano (Rutgers).
If the current rankings hold this match will be a preview of the NCAA final. At the moment Gross needs to be considered the favorite due to his ability to work from the top position. DeSanto struggled at times last year against strong riders. In order to pull the upset he will need to escape quickly on the ground and win the scrambles against Gross. Both of those tasks might prove difficult on Sunday. A wild factor in this match could be Gross' weight. He wrestled freestyle at 57 kg (roughly 126 pounds). He will return to that weight for the trials, so he may not fully return to the 133-pound body.
Prediction: Gross (Wisconsin) decision over DeSanto (Iowa)
141: No. 9 Max Murin//Carter Happel (Iowa) vs. No. 10 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin)
Murin was the starter at 141 pounds for the better part of last season. He qualified for the NCAA tournament and made the round of 12 before dropping out. This season he competed only at the Luther Open. He won his first match via first-period fall before defaulting out of the field. In last week's dual against Iowa State, Happel got the nod and went to overtime before eventually falling against No. 13 Ian Parker. It remains to be seen who will get the chance against Wisconsin.
Moran made the round of 12 last year after transferring in from Oklahoma State. So far this season he has gone a perfect 6-0 including two major decisions and a fall. He has already avenaged a loss against Corey Shie (Army), who had pinned him a season before.
In the NCAA tournament last year Murin picked up a 3-2 victory over Moran. He seemed to be in the driver's seat throughout the contest, but it was close nonetheless. If Murin is dealing with injuries or not 100%, this could easily swing the other way. Happel proved he is a tough out last weekend, but Moran would likely be the favorite against him.
Prediction: Moran (Wisconsin) decision over Happel (Iowa)
149: No. 3 Pat Lugo (Iowa) vs. No. 17 Cole Martin (Wisconsin)
It took three different video reviews, but when the dust settled, Lugo finally had his first win over rival No. 6 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State). Last year the Cyclone picked up a pair of close victories over the Hawkeye. Lugo became an All-American for the first time last year with an eighth-place finish, and he is looking to move up the podium this year.
Martin was an NCAA qualifier for the third straight year last season. Despite the seeming plateau, he has been making strides and defeating wrestlers he previously dropped matches against. Martin has started this season with a strong 5-1 record. His only defeat came against PJ Ogunsanya (Army) in overtime. Last weekend he scored a 50-second fall over Landon Knutzen (Utah Valley).
Lugo owns a pair of victories in this series. Both matches were close. Their first match was decided in overtime, while Lugo stretched it a bit to 11-6 in the rematch. Lugo seems to be rounding into form for a standout senior season after getting over his Degen hurdle last weekend. Look for him to pull out this victory yet again.
Prediction: Lugo (Iowa) decision over Martin (Wisconsin)
157: No. 4 Kaleb Young (Iowa) vs. Garrett Model (Wisconsin)
After falling to Junior world champion No. 3 David Carr (Iowa State) last weekend, Young took a bit of a tumble down the rankings to the fourth spot. He showed a lot of what makes him a contender this year against Carr. He was extremely hard to score on, but Carr was eventually able to break through in the third period. Young likely won't face many tougher challenges this season.
Model was forced into a starting spot towards the end of last season due to some injuries. He certainly took his lumps, but it was clear from the sidelines that the Wisconsin coaches appreciated his effort and saw him as a bit of a project. Model has struggled to a 2-4 record so far this year, but the competition has been tough. He only surrendered bonus points in one of those losses.
Young will likely be expected to score bonus points in this match. The two met last season, and the Iowa wrestler was able to register an 11-2 major decision victory. Look for something similar this year, but it should not be surprising if Model fights his way to a regular decision defeat.
Prediction: Young (Iowa) major decision over Model (Wisconsin)
165: No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. No. 3 Evan Wick (Wisconsin)
Marinelli has an extremely strong regular season last year and entered the NCAA tournament as the top seed. He ended up finishing seventh, and it could be fair to say that he is still looking to get his mojo back this year. In his season debut, he went to a decision against Drew Nicholson (UTC). Marinelli spent a lot of time trying to turn with little results. He then returned against Chase Straw (Iowa State). Marinelli surrendered the first takedown, before scoring the 13-7 decision victory.
Wick is looking to become an All-American for the third time after finishing third and fourth at the NCAA tournament. So far this year he has won all six of his matches with three major decisions, a technical fall and a fall. Wick's only decision victory came over No. 10 Cael McCormick (Army).
In their very first meeting Wick scored a 16-3 major decision victory. Since then Marinelli has won three straight decisions. All of those matches have been close, but Marinelli was the one walking away with the victory. Wick has not been able to get his top game going, and the Iowa wrestler has been able to control the neutral position. Wick has clearly gotten off to the better start this season, but it is hard to see how the recent pattern will change.
Prediction: Marinelli (Iowa) decision over Wick (Wisconsin)
174: No. 3 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) vs. Tyler Dow (Wisconsin)
If there were questions about how Kemerer would adjust to facing larger opposition after competing previously at 157 pounds, then those were answered last week against Marcus Coleman (Iowa State). It was a vintage performance from Kemerer who scored early and often on the feet.
Dow went 20-4 during his redshirt season last year. While the record is impressive only six of those 20 wins came against Division I opposition. This year Dow has gone 3-2 with both of his losses coming against known opponents. He dropped a decision against No. 12 Ben Harvey (Army) to open the year. Last weekend Dow came up short against Kimbal Bastian (Utah Valley).
If Kemerer is able to keep his motor high the way he did against Coleman, it should be a long night for Dow. The Wisconsin wrestler has hung tough up to this point, but Kemerer will be the best wrestler he has faced on the collegiate scene to date.
Prediction: Kemerer (Iowa) decision over Dow (Wisconsin)
184: No. 10 Nelson Brands/Cash Wilcke (Iowa) vs. Johnny Sebastian (Wisconsin)
There is an interesting situation going on at 184 pounds for the Hawkeyes. Brands got the nod for the opening match of the season against UTC, while Wilcke was sent to the Luther Open. Last weekend against Iowa State, Iowa once again sent out Brands against Sam Colbray. He knocked off the ranked wrestler in overtime and made his way into the rankings. It remains to be seen who will actually end up being the starter at 184 pounds.
Sebastian struggled with injuries to a 6-7 record last year for Northwestern. After five seasons with the Wildcats, he transferred to Wisconsin for what is expected to be his final season. So far this year he has gone 2-1 with his lone defeat coming against No. 13 Noah Stewart (Army). It will be interesting to see if he rounds himself back into form that saw his twice qualify for the NCAA tournament while at Northwestern.
Perhaps Iowa will continue to ride the hot hand with Brands, but nobody outside of the coaching staff likely knows that this point. Sebastian has better quality wins than both Brands and Wilcke during the course of his career. However, he still does not appear to be at his best. This match will likely be close, but either Iowa wrestler should be considered the favorite.
Prediction: Brands (Iowa) decision over Sebastian (Wisconsin)
197: No. 3 Jacob Warner (Iowa) vs. Taylor Watkins (Wisconsin)
After a closer than expected match to open the season, Warner turned it on against Joel Shapiro (Iowa State). He ended up with an 11-2 major decision, which is only his seventh bonus-point victory since his redshirt year. If Iowa wants to wrestle the top spot away from Penn State at tournament time, they will likely need Warner to jump levels.
Watkins joined Wisconsin this past offseason after four years at Missouri. During his time with the Tigers, he put together a 55-35 record. Things have not gotten off the best start with his new squad. He has dropped all five of his matches so far this season and been outscored by 23 points overall.
Warner will be expected to win this match. The Iowa coaches would probably like him to try to get into a groove and work for bonus points. That has not always been the easiest for Warner, but look for him to get that done here.
Prediction: Warner (Iowa) major decision over Watkins (Wisconsin)
285: No. 12 Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa) vs. No. 2 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin)
Cassioppi has taken over for Sam Stoll this season. After a strong redshirt year that saw him go 20-2 with 14 falls, he has won both of his matches this year. In his last outing, he scored a 6-0 decision over No. 16 Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State).
Hillger had a strong freshman season last year. He ended up surprising quite a few opponents and became an All-American with an eighth-place finish. Hillger has won all six of his matches so far this season. Last weekend he scored a third-period fall over No. 4 Tate Orndorff (Utah Valley).
This will be the biggest test to date for Cassioppi. He has looked solid on the collegiate level so far, but he has not really faced anyone this high in the rankings other than No. 6 Matt Stencel (Central Michigan), who pinned him at the Midlands last year. Hillger is the favorite here, but a win for Cassioppi could say a lot about his prospects going forward.
Prediction: Hillger (Wisconsin) decision over Cassioppi (Iowa)
Dual Meet Predicted Score: Iowa 25, Wisconsin 9