For the first time in Tom Brands’ tenure at Iowa, the Hawkeye wrestling team did not finish in first, second, or third place at the Big Ten Championships. It’s the program’s worst finish since fifth place in 2006 under Jim Zalesky.
Due to underwhelming showings on high expectations from Spencer Lee, Michael Kemerer, and Alex Marinelli, Iowa took a distant fourth to Michigan, while Ohio State and Penn State took first and second, respectively.
Brandon Sorensen was the only Hawkeye to compete in a championship bout, which he lost by 2-0 decision to Nittany Lion Zain Retherford. Otherwise, the positives were hard to come by. Lee — also named Big Ten Freshman of the Year — wrestled back following a semifinal loss to eventual champ Nathan Tomasello to take third. He was the only Hawkeye to do so.
Marinelli bookended his weekend with losses to take a disappointing sixth after coming into the weekend seeded behind only Illinois’ Isiah Martinez. Michael Kemerer defaulted to sixth at 157, and Sam Stoll took fourth at heavyweight, rounding out less-than-stellar performances from the Hawkeye heavy hitters.
As Brands pointed out, the good news is the most important tournament was not this weekend, but takes place in Columbus in 11 days. It’ll be a welcome reset for Iowa, who — positives, people — have automatic qualifiers at eight weights. Mitch Bowman’s eighth-place finish didn’t warrant him an auto bid to NCAAs, so he’ll have to wait until Tuesday to see if an at-large bid warrants him a trip. Paul Glynn and Iowa’s season at 133 is mercifully over.
Keeping on that positive train, the Hawkeyes had an unexpected grappler finish above seed at 141, where Vince Turk took fifth. The sophomore’s high motor was enough to get him into the lineup over teammate Carter Happel, and he proved the doubters wrong in his first Big Ten Tournament. Fifth place isn’t going to qualify him as a world beater, but wrestling above mark helped Iowa avoid further embarrassment and widen the margin between them and fifth-place Nebraska.
There is a ton of work to be done for Iowa in order to guarantee a disappointing, lackluster weekend doesn’t happen later this March, but it’s not going to worsen the sting for Brands, his team, or the fan base.
We knew in our collective heart of hearts Iowa was going to need the stars to align to take down one of the big dogs up top, but had you told me Saturday morning a 27.5-point gap was going to exist between them and Michigan, I would’ve called you crazy. Unfortunately it did, however, and we’re still in the same boat looking for answers.
This time around, it’s from a new low.
125 / No. 2 Spencer Lee: Third Place
133 / Paul Glynn: DNP
141 / Vince Turk: Fifth Place
149 / No. 2 Brandon Sorensen: Second Place
157 / No. 2 Michael Kemerer: Sixth Place (MFF)
165 / No. 2 Alex Marinelli: Sixth Place
174 / No. 7 Joey Gunther: Sixth Place
184 / No. 7 Mitch Bowman: Eighth Place
197 / No. 3 Cash Wilcke: Sixth Place (MFF)
HWT / No. 4 Sam Stoll: Fourth Place
1. Ohio State, 164.5
2. Penn State, 148
3. Michigan, 118
4. Iowa, 90.5
5. Nebraska, 72.5