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No. 1 Iowa Wrestling defeats No. 10 Nebraska, 26-6

Abe Assad is a bad bad man

Abe Assad pumps up the CHA faithful after a dramatic win over Nebraska’s Taylor Venz
Brian Ray //

“We were flat. We were flat. Nebraska went to Madison and they were flat and they got beat and you know what they were coming in here to do… They worked hard to keep it close.”

-Tom Brands

“Talk about strategy. Doing just enough not to get called for stalling then Bam-o, Wham-o, thank you ma’am-o, then boom, blast you.”

-Brands on Marinelli’s match

Our #1 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes outlasted a gritty and determined Nebraska squad that had an upset on their mind to a decisive score of 26-6. But please, don’t let that end result fool you, this was anything but decisive. This was a hard-nosed, gut-er-out victory that included several matches that weren’t decided until the final seconds.

All year we’ve had duals that have been about improvement and ultimately, domination, but Friday night was all about perseverance. Pure sweet tasting perseverance. Finding a way to win when your body is screaming to give up and call it a night. Finding a way to get the job done after an emotionally charged evening with the celebration of former Hawkeye great, Brandon Sorensen. Simply put, just finding a way.


125: #1 1 Spencer Lee tech. fall over Alex Thomsen, 18-0. Iowa 5-0

133: #2 Austin DeSanto dec. over #12 Ridge Lovett, 7-4. Iowa 8-0

141: #9 Chad Red Jr. dec. over #3 Max Murin, 6-2. Iowa 8-3

149: #1 Pat Lugo dec. over #18 Collin Purinton, 4-1. Iowa 11-3

157: #4 Kaleb Young dec. over #19 Peyton Robb, 6-4. Iowa 14-3

165: #2 Alex Marinelli dec. over #5 Isaiah White, 4-3. Iowa 17-3

174: #2 Michael Kemerer dec. over #6 Mikey Labriola, 3-1. Iowa 20-3

184: #9 Abe Assad dec. over #5 Taylor Venz, 6-4. Iowa 23-3

197: #15 Eric Schultz dec. over #4 Jacob Warner, 3-1. Iowa 23-6

285: #3 Tony Cassioppi dec. over #16 Christian Lance, 6-1. Iowa 26-6

The Hawks have pushed their record to a perfect 7-0 and are in complete control of their destiny, but when you’re running in the front of the pack, you must be ready to take everybody’s best shot.

And that’s exactly what happened Friday night.

Nebbie came in with a sound strategy and bloodlust. They were coming off a rough outing against Wisconsin the week prior and they were looking for a fight and wanted to knock off the #1 ranked team in the country on the road. We took it on the chin, but survived, and I’m going to argue, that we even impressed.

The Huskers of the Corn have four returning All-Americans, despite our hatred for our boarder rival, they are a pretty damn good dual team. We won eight of ten matches, including 3 wins over those former AA’s.

Tom Brands wasn’t satisfied with the result though.

”I think we got out strategized. We got out coached. They worked very hard and smart to keep it close, to beat us in the end. We’ve got to get better, too many close matches. [You] don’t have to wait. Why didn’t that happen in the first period? Make this fun and get a little momentum going.”

He’s right. Spencer Lee is the only Hawk to emerge with bonus points, from tech fall, per usual. Other than those two additional team points, this was a battle and anything but comfortable. Nebraska head coach, Mark Manning, had his guys prepped well. They wouldn’t commit to ties and kept our guys at arm’s reach. Anytime we reached for a tie they’d either break it to slow down the action or they’d use that moment for their own offensive attacks. Their hand fighting was some of the best we’ve this year and we’re bound to run into these same wrestlers in March. Regardless of what they did or how, we should be prepared for it in the future. Other teams will definitely attempt to replicate the game plan.


125: Thomsen made Lee work for that initial TD, but after that, Lee decided to bury him in the mat. This is the best version of Spencer that we’ve ever seen, and I firmly believe he isn’t even peaking yet. He’s 9-0 with a 100% bonus rate, he’s a dangerous man and I love his swagger, which is something we haven’t seen yet. A confident wrestler is building more confidence. So, enjoy the ride folks. We’re in the presence of an all-time great.

133: Austin wasn’t his normal self and had difficulty getting to his offensive. Lovett Ridge rode him for the entire 3rd period, which is a bit concerning, but then again there isn’t much you can do when a guy has an arm bar and refuses to do anything with it. Imagine Lee lacing in that arm bar, but doesn’t to tilt. That’s what happened here. Regardless, Austin needs to make the proper adjustments moving forward, otherwise he’s going to see this again from better wrestlers. But, let’s give credit to Ridge, he knew what he wanted to do and rode for that 3rd period to make a point. Yes, he rode DeSanto to secure his own loss, but he rode, nevertheless.

141: This was the Max Murin we desperately wanted to avoid. The stagnant, indecisive, passively offensive wrestler from last year. Chad Red ended his 2019 season in the NCAA’s and just handed Murin his first loss of this year. Make no mistake, Murin has been great up until this point, so perhaps he was simply off like the entirety of the team, or it’s a sign that he still isn’t where he needs to be. Red is a super athletic, but inconsistent wrestler. He can beat anyone, anywhere, anytime, but the opposite is also true. After Red’s initial TD, he was able to sit back and react to Max mull over his setups and half shots, countering with his own and ultimately making this feel like much more of a blowout than the 6-2 score would indicate. Mad Max got manhandled, now he needs to respond, because he’s facing the two best wrestlers in his class over the next two weeks: #1 Luke Pletcher (Ohio St) and #2 Nick Lee (Penn St).

149: Lugo did what he needed to do. It wasn’t an overwhelmingly impressive domination, but it was about as domineering as a 4-1 decision could be. Purinton represents Lugo’s kryptonite, he’s tall and lanky. But Lugo has handled the height difference flawlessly this year and pushed his record to 13-0.

157: Peyton Robb is a true gamer and probably a bit under ranked. He’s definitely going to contend for a podium spot in March. I’ll repeat myself, but when you can see our guys’ energy redlining, find a way to win is still a good thing. In the past, this is possibly a match Kaleb Young would lose. After his first period TD he struggled to find his offense and every time he got in deep, Robb would counter with a chest lock and work towards a stalemate. You could tell KY was hesitant to put himself in that position and got caught flat-footed to give up his only TD. With a 3rd period escape, Robb knotted the bout at 4-4 until KY got in deep and overcame another chest lock for a late TD with :27 seconds left. KY was able to ride him out for the remaining time. That’s how it’s done right there, ending a period with a late TD and ride out. That’s how you win those close matches.

165: Isaiah White is about as tough as they come at 165. We’re so used to seeing Marinelli bull his opponents over and manhandle them. Heavy collar times, to snaps, getting his guy off balance before blasting his way to double-legs. But the script was flipped when Marinelli got a taste of his own medicine and White took the early lead. White caught him flat-footed, thankfully it woke the beast inside. From that point on, The Bull beat the living crap out of him. White chose down for the 2nd and Marinelli rode him for the entire period. With an early escape in the 3rd, The Bull popped the forehead and snagged a TD on the edge of the mat. Ultimately, Marinelli’s riding time would be the deciding factor in the 4-3 match.

His ability to come back and find a way to score was something else to watch. White had him exactly where he wanted him, but the Bull had other plans.

174: People seem to be worried that Kemerer isn’t blowing his competition out of the water at the moment, but we must realize he’s been facing returning All-Americans. The elite of this weight class and despite being a bit lethargic, he’s still finding ways to win. Mikey Labriola is the real deal, anytime you can upend an All-American when the energy is stacked against you is a huge mental hurdle to climb. I’ll take a 3-1 win over Labs any day.

We also need to remember that Kemdog is up two weight classes. Yeah, he’s struggling to finish his shots and isn’t easily muscling his way to TD’s like he was when he was at 157. But give it time, it’ll come. With bigger sizes comes added strength and he’s still making his adjustments. Thankfully, with the additional bulk Kemerer is still a helluva scrambler and that was on full display against Labriola.

This isn’t Kemerer at his best. Given some more time he’s going to be a real threat in March.

184: Brands was right, Assad is ready to go.

Ol’ Abe went for a headlock and throw, but failed to clear his hips and literally pulled Venz down on top of him, digging himself an early 0-2 hole. Unfazed by the early setback, he battled back.

“[He] threw a headlock and the guy rolled through on it. We give up the first take down and he digs himself out of a hole first time in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. We walked him down here before the meet. No big deal. Just go wrestle and that’s what he did.”

-Tom Brands

Venz would secure an E1 in the second period to push the deficit to 1-3. Abe would in turn find his offense and return the favor with a TD of his own to tie things up, 3-3, in the 2nd.

Assad would escape early in the 3rd to take the lead and secured it with another TD later in the 3rd.

Just watch the video. It’s hard to believe this is a true freshman out manhandling a returning All-American of Venz’s caliber.

197: Once more, mental lapses come back into the fold with Jacob Warner. He has the toolset to win this weight class, but as of right now, he lacks the confidence. Eric Schultz is a solid wrestler, but he’s isn’t on Warner’s level and never should be. But he was ready and wrestler and our Hawkeye wasn’t. Things were tied 1-1 in the waning second of the 3rd.. Warner was lackadaisical and looked content to settle things in sudden victory, obviously Warner and Schultz weren’t on the same page and that’s when Schultzy made his move and scored a late TD to win it. It’s the mental brain farts to hold our guys back and until he learns to battle through his own demons, he’s never going to get over the hump.

“Warner really never got close but maybe right before he got taken down. We had him he thought then we relax and fell down. Fell down too easy. Murin feel down too easy.”


285: Christian Lance did everything he could to keep this match close and used the Nebraska strategy nearly perfect in his loss. Even with the agonizing slow pace, Big Cass pulled away late and secured a 6-1 win for Iowa. Cassioppi continues to impress in his first year in the lineup. Lance is a very athletic heavyweight and Cass handled him pretty well, matching his lateral quickness and even flashing off some good scrambling by both big men. This wasn’t the prettiest of bouts, but then again, this entire dual wasn’t. Either way, this was the type of mental victory he needs to push him further in March.

12,883 people crammed into Carver-Hawkeye on a bitterly cold and miserable night, where the emotions were high and the pre-dual flow was all sorts of out of whack, but we still got it done. Our guys were on the mat doing interviews and signing autographs and watching themselves sign autographs and do interviews on the big screen hours before the first whistle. Then mix in that activity with the one hour weigh in and it becomes an exhausting night before you even get to work. With the festivities planned, this was an abnormal evening that disrupted their usual routine… and we all remember another famous guy that screwed up his pre-match routine and it cost him his goal. Dan Gable. This was a learning experience and something they’ll lock away in their memory banks for later. Nebbi gave us their best Larry Owings and we survived. Yes, I’m maxing out my hyperbole, but the comparison still stands.

We’ve now wrestled three duals in seven days. Winning 28 of the 30 matches and going 3-0 as a team for a total score of 108-6. Let downs happen, but let downs and a win are even better.

Up next we welcome former Iowa alum, Tom Ryan and his #3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 24 at 8:00PM