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Big Ten Wrestling Championships: 165-HWT

The second half of your preview

Following Jordan’s preview of the first half of Iowa’s lineup at this weekend’s Big Ten Championships, you get the back end of the team from me. Let’s rock and roll.

165 — Alex Marinelli

Year: RS Freshman
Record: 14-0 (9-1 vs. field)
B1G Seed: 2 (of 14)
B1G NCAA auto-qualifiers: 10

I’m not big on telling people what to do, but if there’s someone to be excited about not named Spencer Lee, it’s Alex Marinelli. Following a win over Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State, the young Hawk enters this tournament with expectations through the roof.

Due to a third-period bear hug and trip to stun Joseph on his home mat, Marinelli’s only loss against the field is to top-seeded Isiah Martinez of Illinois at the 2016 Midlands, who he can’t see until the finals. Getting there will be no easy task as beating the defending NCAA Champion in back-to-back matches is something not a lot of freshmen can do, but the young buck wore Joseph down and capitalized when opportunity arose once, why not do it again?

The defense has been on full, spectacular display since the bull made his Iowa debut, with the offense lagging slightly. If seeds hold true, we’re going to have fireworks in the semis and finals, folks. This is one of two-must watch weights in the back half of the lineup for the Hawkeyes.

174 — Joey Gunther

Year: Sophomore
Record: 13-4 (6-1 vs. field)
B1G Seed: 7 (of 8)
B1G NCAA auto-qualifiers: 7

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the this and the next slots, which have been a black hole for Iowa all season. Luckily Wisconsin’s Ryan Christensen represents the caboose here, so all Gunther has to do is not lose to him and he’s in the NCAAs.

The flashes of promise shown last year and early this season have been largely non existent in the second half with stiffer competition, but here’s to hoping Gunther gives us any reason to believe he can be a valuable piece to Iowa’s lineup this March and into next year.

184 — Mitch Bowman

Year: Junior
Record: 11-8 (2-6 vs. field)
B1G Seed: 8 (of 8)
B1G NCAA auto-qualifiers: 8

Ignore everything above sans the last two lines. Eight competitors at 184, eight qualifiers.

Will Bo Nickal pin him? The smart money says yes. If Bowman can win a match or two on the backside and provide Iowa with a point or two, it’s gravy. Go do it, Mitch.

197 — Cash Wilcke

Year: Sophomore
Record: 15-4 (2-7 vs. field)
B1G Seed: 3 (of 8)
B1G NCAA auto-qualifiers: 6

Has it been a frustrating January and February for Wilcke? Absolutely. Was he over hyped early in the season? Perhaps. Is there still a potential and possibility for a good tournament from the sophomore? You betcha.

While the effort levels have been, uh, questionable and he’d probably benefit from grappling at 184, Wilcke’s an X-factor if Iowa’s going to make any run at an upset of the Nittany Lions or Buckeyes. He cannot have a repeat of the Shakur Rasheed match at Penn State, and needs to keep things more in line with the Kollin Moore match at Ohio State.

Hang tough, be opportunistic, and please show us whatever that was in PA was a one-time thing.

HWT — Sam Stoll

Year: Junior
Record: 16-2 (8-2 vs. field)
B1G Seed: 4 (of 8)
B1G NCAA auto-qualifiers: 7

Call me pleasantly surprised by the way this seeding worked out for the big fella. He won’t see Kyle Snyder or Nick Nevills until a potential championship appearance, but will have to get through top-seeded Adam Coon beforehand. This is a loaded weight class, but any time the best wrestler on the planet’s on the other side of the bracket, that’s a good thing.

Now, will Stoll get there? Coon had his number in the dual against the Wolverines earlier this season, but it’s not out of the question he bests him this time around. If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s get to the offense before the opponent, and that holds true here. Stoll — not the world’s most explosive heavyweight — is at his best following an early takedown where he can control the remainder of the bout.

Speaking anecdotally, he hasn’t had much issue getting in on shots, finishing them has been the difference between him and the top guys in this class. Should Stoll pull an upset or two, you’re going to see a lot of encouraged Hawkeye fans in Lansing.