Iowa's Michael Kemerer knocked off top-ranked Mark Hall (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Things did not get off to a particularly good start for No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa). He was facing off against three-time NCAA finalist No. 1 Mark Hall (Penn State), and he was thrown to his back within the first thirty seconds. The throw hushed the crowd for a moment, but he was able to roll through. At the end of the exchange, Kemerer was the one who scored the two-point takedown. Obviously it was going to take more than one takedown to upset Hall, but the exchange was really a microcosm for the whole match and perhaps the entire dual between Iowa and Penn State.
Whenever Hall scored or pressed forward with his unique brand of flexibility and explosiveness, Kemerer would counter or get the points back with his own offense. Heading into the third period, the former Pennsylvania prep wrestler held a 7-6 lead. He escaped early, then Hall shot for a single and held on for a stalemate. The Penn State wrestler then went for a low shot or ankle pick, and Kemerer plowed him over for the takedown. He then finished out the period on top to ensure the 11-6 win and a new No. 1-ranked wrestler when the next InterMat rankings are released.
Kemerer's win helped propel top-ranked Iowa to a 19-17 victory over Penn State on Friday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"I'm not really about proving stuff to anybody but myself," Kemerer said following the match. "I believe if I just keep wrestling and doing what I know how to do, what I have been doing my whole life then I just prove it to myself. It is just work in the room coming out in the match. It is always pushing myself to score and not settling. I've got great partners and great coaches. No matter what you are doing, you have to keep building your lead and keep wrestling."
Kemerer and his head coach Tom Brands were certainly in sync when it came to analyzing his style and performance.
"We know what he needs to do. He needs to keep wrestling," Brands said. "That was a back-and-forth match, and he stayed in there. He was calm. The last words we say to him are, 'Wrestle your match."
Iowa's Spencer Lee cruised to a technical fall at 125 pounds (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Iowa really needed Kemerer's upset, because up to that point a lot of things were breaking in Penn State's favor. In the opening match of the night, at 125 pounds, No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) got off to his usual hot start. He scored three takedowns, two four-point near falls and a two-point near fall to down Brandon Meredith (Penn State) via a 16-1 technical fall early in the second period. However, the momentum would not last.
Per the rankings, the Hawkeyes were favored to win at 133 pounds, but No. 2 Austin DeSanto (Iowa) suffered a leg injury early in the match. He tried to continue, but No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) continued to push the pace. DeSanto eventually was forced to retire, and Penn State put six points on the board early in the dual. Following DeSanto's initial injury timeout, Iowa was docked a team point for control of mat issues. After two matches, Penn State led the match 6-4. In fact, the Nittany Lions would hold the team score lead through the next seven matches.
At 141 pounds, No. 2 Nick Lee thoroughly dominated Carter Happel (Iowa). The Hawkeyes went with Happel over the normal starter No. 9 Max Murin. There were rumors throughout the week that former Missouri wrestler Jaydin Eierman mighht come out of his Olympic redshirt for the match. However, that did not materialize. Lee scored seven takedowns in the match against Happel and took home a 20-5 technical fall victory. The victory extended the dual lead to 11-4.
No. 3 Pat Lugo (Iowa) got the Hawkeyes back on track with a 6-1 victory over Jarod Verkleeren at 149 pounds. He actually scored more points via stalling points, two, than Verkleeren scored in total. After giving up six points at 133 pounds, Iowa would have liked bonus points in this match. However, Lugo was willing to indulge the Greco-Roman enthusiast in a lot of upper body wrestling that slowed the match. Bonus points or not, Lugo picked up his 100th career win and inched the Hawkeyes to 11-7.
At 157 pounds, No. 5 Kaleb Young (Iowa) scored the first four points on the match against Bo Pipher (Penn State). Young spent a lot of time in the second and third periods looking for the claw lift mat return. He has used the maneuver on multiple occasions for back points or falls. Pipher seemed wise and kept himself out of danger. In the end, Young took a 6-1 win. For the second straight match, the Penn State wrestler put up only one match point but did not give up any bonus points. Penn State maintained an 11-10 lead at the intermission.
If the No. 1 versus No. 2 match at 174 was the proverbial main event of this dual, then the No. 1 versus No. 2 match at 165 pounds was the co-main event. No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) came into the bout as the top-ranked wrestler, but No. 2 Alex Marinelli had won both of their previous meetings. Those two matches came down to who could win the body lock situations, and in those matches Marinelli owned the hold. On this night, it was Joseph who scored a six-point throw from the position in the second period and nearly scored the fall. Marinelli fought back with a reversal and takedown, but it was not enough. Joseph won the match 7-5 and extended the Penn State lead to 14-10.
Following Kemerer's upset at 174 pounds, No. 6 Abe Assad (Iowa) tried to put a stamp on his match against No. 9 Aaron Brooks (Penn State) early. He went for his trusty sag headlock. It looked like it might score for a moment, but Brooks was able to recover position, free his head and score the takedown. From there Brooks went to work. He scored another takedown and reversal and rode tough throughout the contest. He finished with the riding time and a 7-5 victory. Even after Kemerer's win, the Hawkeyes were still behind 17-13.
Iowa's Jacob Warner celebrates after beating Shakur Rasheed at 197 pounds (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Iowa needed to win the final two matches to take the dual. No. 7 Jacob Warner (Iowa) got off to a quick start against No. 18 Shakur Rasheed (Penn State) at 197 pounds. Rasheed eventually got out for the escape, but Warner really made him work for it with several hard mat returns. Warner surrendered another escape in the second, but he scored an escape of his own and held onto the riding time to take a 4-2 victory. Penn State entered the final bout of the night clinging to a 17-16 lead.
The match came down to heavyweight. The winner of the bout between No. 3 Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa) and No. 15 Seth Nevills (Penn State) would walk away with the dual victory. Cassioppi came out aggressively and got to a leg. Both wrestlers showed above average athleticism for heavyweights in the ensuing scramble. They both were hopping on one foot at points in the exchange. Nevills appeared to be near a score, but Cassioppi kept his whizzer and scrambled behind. He rode out the rest of the first period on top. Nevills took neutral to avoid more riding, but he could not score in the second. Cassioppi remained in the driver's seat and took a 7-0 decision to ice the dual.
"I was just satisfied to do my part," Cassioppi said. "I just wrestled my whole match and wrestled hard. We have a great group of guys. We stayed in our matches. We didn't let the effects of the other matches boil over into our match. We were all focused on what we had to do."
At the end of the day, Iowa defeated Penn State in a dual for the first time since 2011. However, they will still have to surpass the Nittany Lions at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments to accomplish their final goals. After the match, Brands acknowledged the need to move on but also stressed the importance of relishing the victory.
"We are moving forward. We are getting on a bus, and we are going to Michigan State," Brands said. "We are going to enjoy this also, because their families are in town, and they get to eat a little bit, take care of their bodies and move forward. But they need to move forward the right way, and part of that is enjoying this."
125: No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) tech fall. Brandon Meredith (PSU), 16-1
133: No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) by injury default over No. 2 Austin DeSanto (Iowa)
141: No. 2 Nick Lee (PSU) tech. fall Carter Happel (Iowa), 20-5 5:53
149: No. 3 Pat Lugo (Iowa) dec. Jarod Verkleeren (PSU), 6-1
157: No. 5 Kaleb Young (Iowa) dec. Bo Pipher (PSU), 6-1
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) dec. No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa), 7-5
174: No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) dec. No. 1 Mark Hall (PSU), 11-6
184: No. 9 Aaron Brooks (PSU) dec. No. 6 Abe Assad (Iowa), 7-3
197: No. 7 Jacob Warner (Iowa) dec. No. 18 Shakur Rasheed (PSU), 4-2
285: No. 3 Tony Cassioppi (Iowa) dec. No. 15 Seth Nevills (PSU), 7-0