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No. 3 Iowa Wrestling takes on No. 8 Minnesota

To know a gopher, you must think like a gopher. Get inside the gopher’s head

Joseph Cress/ Iowa City Press-Citizen

License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations. Man, free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit - ever. They’re like the Viet Cong - Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower. And that’s all she wrote.

-Carl Spackler

Professional Gopher Hunter

On Sunday, January 13 we take on one of our most hated rivals in the history of our wrestling program: #8 Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Hawkeyesports recently released their match-notes, and per usual, it’s filled with Hawkeye dominance. This will mark the 104th meeting with the northern varmints. The series officially kicked off a few years back in 1921 in Iowa City. Many of you will probably remember that we won the inaugural ass kicking contest 39-3. Over the years the golden rodents would get lucky and snag a few dual wins here and there, but we continue to lead the overall series 74-28-1.

Tom Brands has been equally as impressive as he’s led his squad to a 12-4 mark against these bitter rivals. Make no mistake about it though, if we’re going to snag our 13th win of the Brands era, it’s going to be a tough one. Personally, I don’t find 13 to be unlucky. In fact, it’s my favorite number. No BS.


I won’t dive too heavily into the scandal that rocked this program back in 2016, but it heavily damaged their brand and reputation and only now are they starting to recover. Though I won’t mask my distaste for them, they are incredibly important to the NCAA landscape and I’m glad they are on the rise once again. As a team they continually finish on the podium in March and have captured three NCAA Team Championships (2001, 2002, 2007).

They are also known for their heavyweights.

In fact, they’ve won four heavyweight titles since our last champion, Steve Mocco (I will never say his name again), won it all back in 2005.

…and to be honest, they may be on track to do it again this year with #2 Gable Stevenson.

Flowrestling currently has Minnesota ranked #8 and they are 8-1 on the season. They have a some good looking wins over South Dakota State, North Carolina, and a 25-9 whooping of Lehigh. Yes, the same Lehigh that we beat 28-14 a couple weeks earlier. Though easily their most impressive win so far is over #13 Rutgers, 22-15.

Minnesota is stacked up and down the lineup as they throw seven guys into the rankings. Leading the way is redshirt senior #8 Ethan Lizak (133lbs). “The Backpack” is a 2017 finalist, 2x AA, and 3x NCAA qualifier. He has a very good top game and is bound to give Austin DeSanto some serious problems.

They have four other wrestlers ranked within the top 10: #7 Sean Russell (125lbs), #7 Mitch McKee (141lbs), #9 Steve Bleise (157lbs) and perhaps the best wrestler on the team and more than likely, the best heavyweight in the country for the next four years, #2 Gable Stevenson.

IOWA (6-0)

We’re fresh off a Midlands Championships, but it was a tournament that left a very sour taste in our mouth. Was it dominating? Yeah, sure. But it felt like it could’ve and should’ve been a much more decisive win. A win that really could have separated us from the pack and cemented us as a serious podium contender. Alas, it did not.

So it’s been two weeks since that tournament and the BHGP midterm grades have been handed out. Now it’s time to get some extra credit and boost these grades up to the expected levels. So who are the probable participants in this Sunday’s fiasco?


For the most part this looks like our normal roster. Of course, with the addition of Jeremiah Moody (165lbs) and the usual glaring omission of Sam Stoll (285lbs). HawkCentral recently caught up with Head Coach Tom Brands and here’s what he had to say about Stoll.

“He was at Midlands, right? I say that sarcastically. What goes into getting him on the mat, it’s a day-to-day process. Our fans are excited to see him. Our coaches are excited to see him on the mat. I know that he’s excited to see the mat. All that being said, we have to make sure that he’s healthy and that’s where we’re at. It’s a daily process. So the process is a daily one.”

So there we have it. Is he going? Probably not, but then against he wasn’t listed in the probable lineups against Iowa State and that’s exactly where he made his season debut. Is that a possibility this time around? Again, sure. But I highly doubt it, especially against the freshman phenom, Gable Stevenson.

On paper we’re favored in six of the ten matches: Spencer Lee, Pat Lugo, Kaleb Young, Alex Marinelli, Cash Wilcke, and Jacob Warner. Austin Desanto, Max Murin, and Mitch Bowman all have the perfect opportunity to donkey kick over the apple cart, throttle a higher ranked opponent, and shake up the status quo.

That leaves Aaron Costello to handle the big boy at heavyweight and it’s going to be a challenge for him to keep it from getting into bonus point range.

To be completely honest, which I never try to be, I think we’re only heavily favored in three weights: 125lbs, 165lbs, and, 197lbs. All the others, with the exception of the inevitable loss at heavy, could be toss-ups. I’m that concerned about Minnesota. The biggest factor though, is bonus points. In these heavily favored matches it’s imperative that we score BIG bonus points, ie. tech fall or pin. Those three weights could spot us 15-18 points that we need to rock this dual to bed.

Though, Wrestlestat seems to be a bit more confident than I am because they’re projecting a 25-12 win for us. I pray to Dan Gable that this is accurate.


I could list all ten weight classes, but I’m going to narrow it down for your sake.

125lbs: #2 Spencer Lee vs. #7 Sean Russell. These guys are the only ones that have wrestled before and Lee leads the heads-up series, 1-0. But he has to come out strong again and regain his swagger against Russell. Lee teched him at the Midlands last year, 15-0. So, it’s imperative he does it again, not only for the team points, but more importantly, for himself. If he can’t tech or pin Russell, then perhaps it’s time we increase the defense readiness condition and go to Defcon Level 1.

133lbs: #10 Austin DeSanto vs. #8 Ethan Lizak. This is a monster opportunity for DeSanto to knock off a very well-known and respected All-American in Ethan Lizak. He is known as “The Backpack” for a reason, because he rides so damn tough. We’re going to find out whether or not Austin has improved in the bottom position and can escape. The biggest key though, if he gets turned, is not to panic and keep up the pace. His bottomless tank will be the key to victory. Two years ago Thomas Gilman found himself down big against Lizak and stormed back to pin him because Lizak gassed late. From what I understand, this is still a real problem for him. I will leave this right here for inspiration.

141lbs: #19 Max Murin vs. #7 Mitch McKee. Like ADS, this is a huge match for Murin. As I mentioned in my grades, he hasn’t had many swings at top tier talent and Mitch McKee is definitely one of those guys he wants to take a swing at. McKee is firmly embedded in All-American talk, exactly where Murin wants to be. With a win on Sunday Murin can shoot up the rankings and start working on his seeding for the B1G’s and NCAA’s.

157lbs: #6 Kaleb Young vs. #9 Steve Bleise. This is our third and probably final top 10 matchup of the night. Young has been impressive so far this year with his lone loss coming to #3 Ryan Deakin in the Midlands finals. Bleise is also rolling on the season as he sits 10-1 with his one loss coming to #19 Josh Humphreys (Lehigh). If you recall, KY handled Humphreys earlier in the season, 4-1. This is a prime chance for Young to cement himself as the real deal and knock off yet another ranked opponent.

165lbs: I’m only listing this because of the possibility of Alex Marinelli NOT wrestling. If we start at 125lbs and handle business up to this point, I think we see Jeremiah Moody get the nod. But if we have a narrow lead coming out of intermission The Bull is going to step onto the mat and try to spot us another six points before things potentially get out of hand.

285lbs: #1 Sam Stoll vs. #2 Gable Stevenson

Doesn’t that line look awesome? Well erase it from your memory because it won’t happen. The only way we see this come to fruition is if it’s close coming into the last match of the night and even then I doubt Stoll emerges from the tunnels. Regardless, it’s incredibly important for Costello to come out, sloooooow it down, and keep it close. He hasn’t faced anyone like Stevenson before, but he needs to wrestle smart and do everything he can to keep it to a decision. It’s going to be an epic performance if he can. Sadly, I don’t think he will. Ye of little faith...


125lbs: #2 Spencer Lee (9-1) vs. #7 Sean Russell (17-2)

133lbs: #10 Austin DeSanto (10-1) vs. #8 Ethan Lizak (16-3)

141lbs: #19 Max Murin (9-2) vs. #7 Mitch McKee (9-1)

149lbs: #16 Pat Lugo (7-5) vs. #19 Tommy Thorn (9-6)

157lbs: #6 Kaleb Young (11-1) vs. #9 Steve Bleise (10-1)

165lbs: #2 Alex Marinelli (11-0) // Jeremiah Moody (8-6) vs. Carson Brolsma (13-4)

174lbs: Mitch Bowman (4-2) vs. #12 Devin Skatzka (16-5)

184lbs: #18 Cash Wilcke (10-2) vs. Brandon Krone (4-6)

197lbs: #5 Jacob Warner (5-2) vs. Rylee Streifel (6-5)

285lbs: Aaron Costello (6-4) vs. #2 Gable Stevenson (20-0)