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Iowa Wrestling: No. 1 Iowa vs No. 12 Oklahoma State Preview

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19 ranked wrestlers headline the final dual on Senior Night

@okstate.com

“We’re gonna have to do some work on Sunday. We’re gonna have to get ready for 10 matches just like when Chattanooga came to town for the first dual meet, just like last week when Minnesota came to town. It’s not different. It’s the next event on the calendar.”

-Tom Brands

Our Hawkeyes ran a perfect Big Ten schedule that resulted in an outright regular season conference championship for the first time since 2015. However, there is still one test left to take before we claim our first undefeated regular season since 2009-10.

This coming Sunday is Senior Night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Live on BTN at 7:03PM CT the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Oklahoma State Cowboys are going to engage in all out war. Prepare yourselves for the oldest and greatest rivalry in wrestling history!

Iowa has worked all season to climb to the top of the rankings, while OKST has flown under the radar, but they aim to misbehave and steal a win in Iowa City. Only one team is closing out the regular season on a high note. Anything can happen when The Hawkeyes and The Cowboys wage war.

These two teams have 57 NCAA team titles between them since the inaugural championship in 1929.

Oklahoma State has 34 to their name, while 8 of them have been since the 1970’s. On the other hand, The Hawkeyes have 23, all of which come in that same time frame. The Cowboys lead the all-time series 29-22-2, but Iowa has won four of the previous six matchups, including the last dua in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. For more fun in-depth history please head over HERE.

Ahead of this anticipated matchup, I sat down with our SB Nation cousins, Cowboys Ride For Free for a brief Q&A session. Please check it out HERE and head on over THERE to take a gander at my answers.

PROBABLE LINEUP:

@hawkeyesports.com

OKLAHOMA STATE: 13-2 (8-1)

Considering this is an Olympic year, OKST is similar boat as many other teams out there in which their best wrestler is taking a year away from collegiate activity. Daton Fix is that guy and at this point, everyone knows exactly who he is. Their young phenom is an NCAA finalist and current world team member at 57kg (ahead of Thomas Gilman).

In addition to Fix, they’ve also been nipped by the injury bug. Their 133/141lbs All-American, Kaid Brock, has missed the entire season following an ACL injury back in August. Without these two workhorses in the lineup, it’s easy to see how this could have drastic consequences and hamper their point output. Assuming Brock applies for and is granted a medical waiver, we could see him back in their lineup next year.

Despite Fix and Brock out for the long run, they have managed themselves to a 13-2 record. They started off the season with a dominating win over Drexel, then immediately dropped a close dual to Lehigh (which featured an OKST forfeit at 133lbs). They got back on track until they traveled north and lost a 19-15 dual to UNI. If that was their low point, then they’ve managed to crawl back out of the mud and have rattled off six consecutive dual wins over the past four weeks.

With their strong late season push they now have nine wrestlers inside Flowrestling’s top 25, including three in the top 10. Mashed into that group they have three returning All-American’s as well: Nick Piccininni (125), Joe Smith (174), and Dakota Geer (197).

While they may not be top heavy with elite talent this season, they’re still a deep and dangerous team. They have two underclassmen that are going to be eyeing major upsets this weekend that could shoot them further up the rankings and raise their NCAA seeding: #6 Boo Lewallen (149) and #7 Travis Wittlake (165).

IOWA: 12-0 (9-0)

Our Hawkeyes continue to roll as we head into the final dual of this campaign. It’s been exactly 10 years since we last had an undefeated regular season. Coincidentally, it’s been exactly 10 years since we last won an NCAA team title. Nothing would make this storyline mesh together better than winning this upcoming dual and nothing would make it sweeter than doing it against our rivals.

With our 12 dual wins we’ve held our opponents to single digit team points in 10 of them. We still have all ten of our starters inside Flo’s top 10, with nine of them in the top 4 and six inside the top 3. Spencer Lee and Michael Kemerer remain unanimous #1’s with Alex Marinelli still clocking in at #2.

On paper we are favored in all ten bouts, but three of them consist of top 10 matchups: 125, 149, and 165.

I’ll argue that we’re favored at 125, 133, 165, 174, and heavily so at 285. Bonus points are going to be a struggle on Sunday, but I think we can come out of 133 and 285 with those extra points.

While I’m confident in our guys to get the job done, the five matches toss ups and I wouldn’t be surprised or shocked to see one of two of them slip away from us.

I want to mention once more that this is senior night. Sam Cook, Jeren Glosser, Paul Glynn, Steven Holloway, Pat Lugo, Aaron Meyer, Jeremiah Moody, Danny Murphy, Keegan Shaw, Vince Turk, and Cash Wilcke will be inside CHA as a representative of the Iowa Hawkeyes for the final time. I’m usually not the sentimental type, but these Hawks have given us some great memories throughout the years and will be missed. On the behalf of BHGP, thank you very much!

In the official notes release, all 11 of the aforementioned seniors are listed, HOWEVER, redshirt senior Michael Kemerer is not. This is a fantastic sign that he’ll be granted a medical waiver and will be eligible to return next season.

KEY MATCHUPS:

125: Spencer Lee is 3-1 all-time against his bitter rival, Nick Piccininni. The sight of Lee get pinned last year by Picc is a sour image I will unfortunately never forget… and neither will Lee. These two met up again in the NCAA semifinal and Lee got his revenge that eventually resulted in his 2nd NCAA title.

You can bet Picc remembers that loss as well. The Cowboy is one of the few guys in the field that can neutralize Lee’s top game and keep this score close.

Picc had an early season loss to #3 Patrick Glory (Princeton), but has since detonated anyone in has path while racking up bonus points along the way. We can expect to see Picc attacking early and often to try and steal an early TD that forces Lee onto the offensive. I think Lee finds his own offense, but he’s only wrestled two full matches this season.

Picc has considerably more mat time and that could come into play by the 3rd period if he’s able to keep things close. However, Lee has been as dominate as anyone we’ve seen over the past decade and if he’s going full throttle, he may just try to end this match early and light CHA on fire.

133: Austin returned to the lineup last week and teched his Gopher out of the building. Reece Witcraft is a young stud who likes his throws, but we’ll see if he can hang with DeSanto’s ferocious pace. If Austin can get to his fireman’s carry early, isn’t hampered by the knee, and can avoid a potential toss, this won could result in bonus points for the good guys. That’s a lot of “ifs” but I like our chances.

141: Max Murin had a career defining win last week again Minnesota’s returning All-American, Mitch McKee. How he finds himself against the upstart, Dusty Hone. It’ll take a Herculian effort for the young Cowboy to find the podium this year, but he knows how to keep things close and he’s in every match. Max needs to come out and control the flow and energy from the first whistle. Get to this hard collar ties and try to wear him down and come away with at least one TD in the first. I don’t think Max can bonus him, but if he’s able to secure a couple TD’s and wear him down by the 3rd, Hone simply won’t have enough left in the tank to make a reasonable run.

149: Pat Lugo is our returning 2019 All-American with one loss on the season. Boo Lewallen is their 2018 All-American with one loss on the season. Outside of Sammy Sasso (OSU) and Brock Mueller (Mizzou), these guys have beaten everyone that they’ve crossed paths with.

Lugo hasn’t been flashy, but he’s been calm and steady and has stayed the course. He never seems to get rattled when facing top competition and simply knows how to get it done late. He’s going to have to do it again if he wants to take down the athletic Lewallen.

Boo may not match Lugo’s extreme strength, but he’s fast and incredibly dangerous on top. He’s always looking for points and will lace in a leg or two. Lugo has to control the situation and wrestle his style of match. He’s a counter wrestler and he’ll have plenty of chances to show that on Sunday night, but he has to bring his A game.

157: Kaleb Young looked rough last weekend and he’s fortunate to have come out of it with a win. He was lazy on his feet and had to dig himself out of an early hole. He simply cannot afford to do that against Wyatt Sheets.

We’ve been waiting all year for KY’s offense to wake up and for him to find some aggression. Sunday against Sheets would be the perfect time for it all to start clicking, especially with the Big Ten’s just around the corner.

165: Marinelli has been on a warpath since he lost a few weeks back to Vincenzo Joseph. He’s been putting on a takedown clinic and it would be sweet as hell to see that continue against another ranked opponent, #7 Travis Wittlake. However, the Cowboy is 25-1 with his lone loss coming to #3 Shane Griffith (Stanford). But outside of Griffith he has yet to wrestle the elite of this class.

If Marinelli continues to implement the Tom Brands method of “catch and release” he could blow this thing open by the 3rd period. But he has to stay in the mindset and not allow Wittlake to hang in there. The kid is dangerous and needs to be treated as much.

174: Michael Kemerer is fresh off a dominating pin over #8 Devin Skatzka (Minn). Now he’s gearing up to face yet another top opponent and former All-American, Joe Smith.

Though this may not be the same Joe Smith we’re used to seeing. Smith was a 2x AA during his true freshman and sophomore seasons, but since bumping up from 157lbs to 165lbs to 174lbs, with a redshirt mixed in, he just hasn’t been the same.

These two have met on two previous occasions and Kem won both. Although, that was three years ago while both were still at 157lbs.

By many accounts, Smith looks undersized up here and that size difference could come into play on Sunday.

So far, Kemerer has been absolutely brutal and physical and has punished everyone he’s faced. I’m not expecting bonus points here, but if he manages to major Smith, it would definitely be another statement in a season full of statements.

184: Abe Assad is finally getting the green light and returning to the lineup. Brands mentioned last week that he was a little dinged up and they were practicing caution.

Now it seems the leash is off and he’s sending his young gun back into the fray.

Assad is looking to snap a two-match losing streak, but he’s facing a tough test in another young up-and-comer, #15 Anthony Montalvo.

This match is damn near impossible to gauge. Both have 4-0 losses to #4 Taylor Lujan (UNI). Assad dropped a bad 8-3 decision to Julien Broderson (ISU) at the Lindenwood Open. Montalvo beat Broderson, 8-4, a month later at the Southern Scuffle. However, he lost to Travis Stefanik (Princeton), 5-3SV1 earlier in the season. A few weeks after that loss, Assad beat Stefanik, 5-3SV1.

This could go either way, but if Assad brings the energy and isn’t afraid to let it fly, there’s no reason why he can’t win this bout.

197: Dakota Geer is an Edinboro transfer with his only memories of Iowa are when he got manhandled by the great Sammy Brooks back in 2017. Twice. But like Joe Smith, Geer is a former All-American that is climbing the scales and is as dangerous as they come, but he has struggled lately and has dropped back-to-back matches.

Warner on the other hand is wrestling perhaps the best we’ve ever seen him. He’s decisive, efficient, and flashing a quickness we didn’t know he had.

Geer is going to come in amped up and ready to go, no doubt about it. These are the type of duals where Warner seems to be cautious and slows it down, but it would be great to see him keep the same energy and fire he’s had lately.

Warner is a big 197lber while Geer is on the smaller side of things. Warner can use his strength and weight and control this from the start, but he’s head has to be in the right place.

A statement win here will go a long way to fueling his confidence ahead of the B1G’s and nationals.

285: This is probably the lone match of the night where we fully expect bonus points. Whether The Cowboys send out Austin Harris or Cornelius Putman, both men have losing records. There’s been talk for the past month or so that OKST’s head Coach, John Smith, may insert Brock Martin (DE for the football team), but that seems highly unlikely at this point in the year, especially against someone like Tony Cassioppi.

Though Big Cass isn’t without his own woes. He’s lost his last two matches, albeit against the top two guys at the weight: #2 Mason Parris (Mich) and #1 Gable Steveson). Parris smoked him for a pin while Steveson controlled much of the match and was never truly threatened.

Cass isn’t accustomed to losing and he certainly isn’t accustomed to being manhandled twice in two duals. I expect to see a rejuvenated and focused Cassioppi take the mat and try to close out the dual and the regular season on a high note.

Like Warner, a big win here will get the ball rolling again in the right direction heading into the post season.

LINEUP:

125 #1 Spencer Lee (14-0) vs #4 Nick Piccininni (23-1)

133 #2 Austin DeSanto (13-2) vs #18 Reece Witcraft (16-7)

141 #3 Max Murin (11-1) vs #20 Dusty Hone (18-7)

149 #2 Pat Lugo (17-1) vs #6 Boo Lewallen (18-1)

157 #4 Kaleb Young (15-2) vs #18 Wyatt Sheets (17-6) // Jalin Harper (6-3)

165 #2 Alex Marinelli (16-1) vs #7 Travis Wittlake (25-1)

174 #1 Michael Kemerer (12-0) vs #12 Joe Smith (7-3) // Andrew Shomers (11-7)

184 #10 Abe Assad (19-5) vs #15 Anthony Montalvo (19-5)

197 #4 Jacob Warner (14-3) vs #16 Dakota Geer (19-6)

285 #3 Tony Cassioppi (15-2) vs Austin Harris (5-9) // Cornelius Putnam (1-3)