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Overreaction Monday: Let’s talk Iowa Wrestling and Austin DeSanto’s Injury

Is DeSanto faking it and should we be scared of our future?

Stephen Mally //

Alrighty everybody, this is the first time I’ve been tasked with the famously coveted “Overreaction Monday” and I am ready. I’ve been with you all for nearly two full seasons now, but for the most part, I’ve always tried to stay even keeled and balanced, but today? That ain’t happening!

Every Hawkeye fan across the land is beyond excited about our wrestling squad and the complete dominance we have shown on the mat. Sure, we’ve taken a few knocks here and there, but we’re still ranked No. 1. We’ve survived the toughest stretch of the schedule and went 4-0 against Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, and most recently, Michigan.

We aren’t out of the woods yet, however. We still have two more duals, which luckily both are home, against Minnesota and close out the season with Oklahoma State. We’re 11-0 and have already claimed at least a tie for the conference championships. A win this coming week over Minnesota will lock it up and send us into the post season as happy campers.

During this run we’re 91-19 in individual matches. 91 and 19! We’ve racked up an astounding 343 team points, while our sorry opponents have snagged a mere 63. And you know what? I didn’t even mention the Midlands Championship title crammed right in the middle of the dual season that saw us set a new tournament points record of 196.5.

There are a lot of reasons to be jacked-the-eff-up. Far more than there are negative, and it feels so damn good. It’s been exactly one decade since our last team title and going into this year, everyone thought we were still playing second fiddle to Penn State. Yeah, sure, PSU has had some injuries, but who hasn’t? The 2020-2021 season was supposed to be the year we make a run, now we find ourselves primed and ready a year early.

Spencer Lee is Spencer Lee. Austin DeSanto has already bested the favorite at 133 and spent a handful of weeks ranked #1. Pat Lugo has supplemented himself as a legit title contender. Alex Marinelli is right there with the best of 165 and Michael Kemerer currently is the best at 174! Young Tony Cassioppi has arrived on the scene, perhaps sooner than we thought. All 10 guys are ranked in the top 10. And did I mention the Jaydin Eierman transfer? Well, if you don’t know who the hell he is, then read up here. Life is good. Oh so good.

Our fanbase is in a frenzy of optimism. Honestly, it’s a bit unnerving as an Iowa fan… it’s as if we’re waiting for reality to slap us in the face. Like we’re about to wake up from the perfect dream--

--And then it happened.

#2 Austin DeSanto went down against a bitter rival, in the biggest dual of the biggest season in recent memory, in front of the largest crowd, in front of a record setting BTN TV broadcast.

All the collective shits simultaneously dropped. All the hearts sank. Our hopes and those pesky dreams, smashed mat-side with the screams of our emotional leader.

With that injury and his subsequent absence from the lineup some rather idiotic questions have risen from a rather small idiotic base. A few are now asking the validity of the injury and whether or not he faked it to avoid the possible cradle and a pin. Yes, you read that right. Austin DeSanto possibly faked his own injury so he could medically forfeit out of a match to keep his postseason seeding intact. It does sound stupid when you read it out loud. There are a few points I want to make so we can burn this topic to the ground and finally silence the doubters.

  1. Austin DeSanto doesn’t know the meaning of quit. Literally, he doesn’t. I pretended to ask him if he knew it and he didn’t. It’s simply not in his vocabulary.
  2. This is still the same DeSanto that got his butt thrown against ISU’s Austin Gomez last year and fought so hard to get off his back that he appeared to vomit on the mat.
  3. Wrestlers are the toughest SOB’s in the world. Wrestlers don’t fake injuries to get out of ultra-super sticky situations, especially Iowa guys. That’s not the Tom Brands MO. It never will be. I can’t imagine any coach out there from Cael Sanderson, Tom Ryan, John Smith and Doug Schwab to Rob Koll and Chris Bono allowing one of their guys to fake an injury, let alone injury default and spotting a rival six points. It just doesn’t make sense because it’s down right stupid.

Unfortunately, we know very little details because very little has come out of the Iowa room. Immediately following the dramatic series of events, Brands dropped this in the presser.

“I don’t know how much he’s been injured like this. I think he maybe could have handled that a little bit differently, being calmer on the mat. I think if we could have gotten him calmed down a little bit, we could have gotten back in that match.”

Not only has DeSanto come under scrutiny, but Brands briefly found himself in hot water in regard to his comments. If one were to read too heavily into Brands’ words, it would seem that he’s calling his guy out. Perhaps even hinting that it wasn’t as serious as Austin thought. Let’s be very clear: he was and still is injured.

For the sake of clarity, let’s rewind to that match and take a look at what was happening. Directly following the mishap, Brands knew the injury clock was clicking and time was limited. I firmly believe that they couldn’t get DeSanto to focus up, calm down, and take a breath to gather himself. By the time they restarted he had already used up most, if not all, of his injury time and was forced to withdraw on the next and final stoppage. In Brands mind, he was probably hoping that if, IF, he was seriously injured, then he needed to try to battle through. Use those medical stoppages to his advantage and find a way to fight and help the team. In Brand’s complex mind he was thinking that IF he’s going to go down, then go down swinging. That IF Roman Bravo-Young was going to pin him, then make him earn it and don’t openly hand PSU those six team points.

Alas, that didn’t happen and he was forced to bail out. Could he have managed to get through? I don’t know. Everyone has their own individualistic pain tolerance, but I’m entirely positive DeSanto had reached his. I think it’s safe to assume that anyone reading this drivel would have crawled off the mat as well.

Last week Brands took to the mic again to give us an update that only he can give.

“Preliminary stuff is, we don’t have to amputate.”

--Well, that’s good news--

Short of torture, we were never going to get any information out of the head Hawk. Even then, he wouldn’t spill the beans. But what this tells me is: yes, he’s hurt. Yes, he needs to make adjustments and learn how to compete with the ailment, and yes, we’ll see him again this year. He’s now missed three consecutive duals, but was spotted in Michigan on the sidelines. It speaks volumes to my amateur mind that if he’s able to travel, then his recovery is at least progressing in the right direction.

Alternatively, IF he’s out for the long haul, it will have devastating consequences for the post season. Conservatively, we’re looking at 10 points off our total, which would be around 5th place... A fully healthy DeSanto is a legit title contender which would net us 20, at minimum. Unless Paul Glynn can catch fire and make a deep push, this is a massive hiccup that nearly turns into a heart attack.

With that said, there are no threats remaining at 133lbs for the rest of the regular season, so I don’t expect to see him back before the Big Ten conference tournament on March 7th and 8th. Although, they could use one of the two remaining duals as a test run to see how he holds up. Either way, only time will tell.

But there is still room for optimism as we move forward. IF DeSanto was lucky and it was only a grade one or two MCL tear/ sprain, he’s looking at roughly four weeks of recovery time. Considering he doesn’t happen upon a setback and re-aggravate it, a return could line up perfectly for the B1G’s.

Agh, there it is again. Optimism. It’s a fickle thing when it comes to us Hawkeyes, but there’s a strong reason for it. This has been an incredibly wonderful, amazing, and surprising season thus far. Tom Brands and Austin DeSanto aren’t about to give up and cash it in, so neither should we. It’s been years since we’ve been in this position and it’s okay to feel the way we’re feeling. It’s okay to have doubt, but we shouldn’t be questioning this squad’s motivation and drive.

Whether we suffer more injuries, let downs, upsets or we win the whole damn thing and crown ten champions, just soak it in. This is turning out to be a special season for us, perhaps one of the most significant in the history of our program. We have an amazing group of student athletes that fill up our roster. Every one of them is proud to wear the black and gold and every one of them is willing to fight to the bitter end to bring a championship back to Iowa City. And ya know what? They're going to get it done.

The only advice I can give is sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride. Wrestling is back and we’re back on top. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, but it’s about the journey. And right now, we’re on a helluva one!