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Iowa Wrestling: No. 1 Iowa vs No. 7 Minnesota Preview

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Everyone is encouraged to wear their gopher pelts on Saturday night

Pat Lugo controls Penn State’s Jarod Verkleeren during a 6-1 win.
Brian Ray // Hawkeyesports

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


Last week’s win over Michigan ended our road schedule and pushed our record to a perfect 11-0. One more conference win and we can claim our first outright Big Ten regular season crown since 2015.

A loss here will lock us up as co-Big Ten champs, so it’s about time we selfishly take what we want and what we want is a championship. Unfortunately for the B1G, there’s only one more team left standing in our destructive path: Minnesota.

So with open arms, we welcome the Golden Gophers to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for another great dual on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 8:30PM CT.

We’ve compiled an impressive 75-28-1 record in our previous 104 meetings with the Golden Gophers. Though more importantly, we’ve won the last five. Minnesota’s last win against us came in 2014 in Iowa City. For more fun info please click here.

PROBABLE LINEUP:

Hawkeyesports.com

MINNESOTA (9-6)

The Golden Goophers struggled out of the gate splitting their first six duals, 3-3, before turning it on in early January. They rattled off four consecutive wins against Cornell, Duke, Wisconsin, and Michigan State, before hitting another rough patch in the road. They since dropped three of their last five and seem to be sputtering to the finish line after getting throttled by Penn State, 31-10.

Despite their sluggish demeanor they are still a legit threat to any team. They currently have five guys ranked inside Flowrestling’s top ten with two inside the top two. They’re led by #5 Mitch McKee (141lbs) and returning heavyweight finalist, #1 Gable Steveson.

They’re a relatively young team with underclassmen in half of their starting lineup, but they do have three returning All-Americans: Mitch McKee 6th, Devin Skatzka 7th, and Gable Steveson 2nd. Their three-headed monster will not only look to keep them in this dual, but could push their team into podium contention come March.

IOWA (11-0)

We’re so very close to running the gauntlet and navigating our way through an undefeated season, which would be our first since 2009-10, where we went 23-0. But it’s imperative that we don’t get caught looking ahead to Oklahoma St next week or the post season three short weeks away. Minnesota is a formidable group and we need to be ready.

All ten of our starters are still ranked inside Flo’s top ten with nine inside the top five. Spencer Lee and Michael Kemerer are both ranked #1 across the board, while we have Austin DeSanto, Pat Lugo and Alex Marinelli checking in at #2.

Max Murin and DeSanto have been out thanks to injuries, but both are listed in the probable lineup this week. 141 is going to be a tough battle regardless of who goes between Murin and Carter Happel, but if DeSanto is able to take the mat and looks marginally healthy, this could be a very important match where we snag bonus points.

We’re technically favored in nine of the ten bouts, though Murin is 0-2 against Mitch McKee, with both of those losses coming last year. Tony Cassioppi is definitely an underdog against Steveson, so if Glynn and Happel are in the lineup once more, things could get interesting down the stretch if we can’t snag much needed bonus point wins from Lee, Kaleb Young, and Alex Marinelli.

Wrestlestat has us winning 29-6 with DeSanto and Murin in the lineup and 21-13 without.

KEY MATCHUPS:

125: Last weekend Michigan’s Jack Medley held Spencer Lee to his first regular decision of the year. I expect Lee to come out guns-a-blazin’ this time around. He needs to be hell bent on the tech or pin to give us a few extra team points for the later rounds of this dual. Plus, a beat down will give him another win over a very quality opponent.

133: The biggest question is if DeSanto is going and if not, how much more time does he need? If he does go, will he be rocking a massive knee brace? We’re about to find out. We talked exclusively about his injury here and how Tom Brands mentioned that he needs to learn to wrestle with an ailment. If he gets the nod, this will be a big test for him and if he can handle the rest of the season.

141: This is comparable to 133 and whether or not Max Murin finally returns to the starting role. If he does, he’s never beaten McKee before and now would be a perfect opportunity to right the past wrongs. But if we see Happel back in the lineup, he faces another uphill battle similar to when he faced off with #2 Nick Lee (PSU) and #1 Luke Pletcher (OSU) in back-to-back duals, except this time, he needs to do everything he can to hold it to a decision. This is going to be a battle and we need Happel to give it everything he’s got. He has the tools to pull of an upset, now he needs to put it all together for a full 7 minutes and get it done.

149: Pat Lugo looks to continue his rock-solid senior campaign. Brayton Lee looks to continue his rock-solid freshman campaign. Something’s gotta give. Lugo hasn’t been blowing the socks off the competition, but he’s been consistent and steady, especially against the top end of this weight class, now he gets another chance to upend another highly ranked wrestler. Coincidentally, Lugo’s only loss on the season is to #1 Sammy Sasso (OSU). Sasso’s only loss is to, you guessed it, Brayton Lee. A lot of fans are wondering if Lugo is the real deal, a decisive win here will answer that question.

157/ 165: Kaleb Young and Alex Marinelli are both heavily favored in their respective matches. KY has been gaining momentum over the past few weeks, but he’s still searching for his first bonus point win since the Midlands. Marinelli on the other hand, will be going for his 8th pin of the year. We need these guys to capitalize.

174: When Kemerer squares off against Devin Skatzka, this will be his fifth opponent inside the top 8. So far, Kemdawg has beaten them all. Skatzka is having a good year at 24-7, but he has lost to Marcus Coleman (ISU), #6 Mike Labriola (Neb), #4 Dylan Lydy (Pur), and #2 Mark Hall (PSU), all of which Kemerer has bested. By all accounts, Kem should come away with this, but it would be something else if he can find a way to push this into major territory. It’s a tough ask, but one he can do if he pushes the pace all 3 periods.

184: The unknown at 184 is still very much unknown. Cash Wilcke has gotten the nod the past two duals, but I’m thinking Tom Brands inserts Abe Assad back into the lineup. #21 Owen Webster isn’t a world beater, but he’s a solid wrestler that should give Abe a tough task. If Abe is our guy for the post season, then he needs to get more matches in against NCAA qualifying competition, which Webster definitely is.

197: Warner looked great last weekend against Jackson Striggow (Mich) before shutting it down and coasting to a win in the 3rd. I can’t imagine the coaching staff was too pleased about how he finished that match, so I’m looking to see if he keeps the pressure and intensity up for all 7 minutes. Warner needs to dig deep and start getting into the habit of pushing it the entire match and there’s no better place to start than against Hunter Ritter or Garrett Joles.

285: Cassioppi got lit up last week against Michigan’s #2 Mason Parris. Now, he sees an even bigger threat in #1 Gable Steveson. Gable is every bit Cass’ size, but quicker and faster. If Big Cass comes out and wrestles like he did against Parris this could be a long match… or a short one. These guys have met on the freestyle circuit and so far Cass has failed to go the distance against him. However, Cass has progressed and matured this season. His snatch singles are elite and if he’s able to get to his offense and more importantly, finish his shots, he could pull off a big upset that would set Carver-Hawkeye Arena on fire.

LINEUPS:

125: #1 Spencer Lee (13-0) vs #10 Patrick McKee (17-6)

133: #2 Austin DeSanto (12-2) // Paul Glynn vs (4-3) vs Jake Gilva (6-8) // Boo Dryden (8-4)

141: #3 Max Murin (10-1) // Carter Happel (8-5) vs #5 Mitch McKee (22-4)

149: #2 Pat Lugo (16-1) vs #7 Brayton Lee (21-3)

157: #4 Kaleb Young (14-2) vs #24 Ryan Thomas (11-6)

165: #2 Alex Marinelli (15-1) vs Bailee O’Reilly (20-8)

174: #1 Michael Kemerer (11-0) vs #8 Devin Skatzka (24-7) // Jake Allar (1-2)

184: #10 Abe Assad (19-5) // Cash Wilcke (12-3) vs #21 Owen Webster (19-8)

197: #5 Jacob Warner (13-3) vs Hunter Ritter (19-6) // Garrett Joles (9-11)

285: #3 Tony Cassioppi (15-1) vs #1 Gable Steveson (10-0)