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Mad Max takes over for the graduated and former All-American and #1 seeded Pat Lugo, as our 149lb starter. Whether or not Jaydin Eierman spurred the move up or simply Murin was out-growing his welcome at the lower weight, he’s assuredly our starter here. But either way, Murin is coming into his own at the perfect time.
He’s fresh off a stellar sophomore campaign at 141lbs that saw him stretch his record to 16-3 and climb as high as #3 in several rankings. While he didn’t blow the socks off anyone in particular, he simply kept winning while those above him kept losing.
He battled the injury bug after coming up lame in the Luther Tournament in mid-November, but rebounded a couple weeks later by extending a career best 10-match win streak at the varsity level. Further health issues ensued as he went 1-1 against two All-Americans: losing to Chad Red (Neb), but upending Mitch McKee (Minn) in their respective duals. Unfortunately, he lost to Red again in the B1G’s, but won out over McKee due to McKee’s own MFF.
Murin had another opportunity to face McKee in the HWC Showdown and this time had a workmanlike win to even their career series, 3-3.
While Murin may not posses the raw talent of Lee or Eierman, he’s always been a grinder. He has solid technique, holds position, has enough offense to generate points, and has stellar defense to close it out in the end.
Truth be told, he’s very similar to Lugo in that regard and Lugo had a major level jump during his 2nd year in the lineup. Could one be in store for Mad Max as well?
While he has an outside shot at being a finalist, his road to the podium is cut and dry. Beat the guys he can beat and he’ll finally make it past the blood round.
If he can close out matches like he did last year, he’ll be primed for another All-American honor.
The Competition: Returning AA #1 Austin O’Connor and #2 Sammy Sasso are justifiably the kings of this class. Until someone else can knock them down a peg (like Lugo did to both) they will remain on top. But the Hawkeye singlet does crazy things to our foes, Murin could continue the beautiful tradition of destroying top-flight competition: think of Cory Clark, Thomas Gilman, and Spencer Lee wrecking Nathan Tomasello for three straight years.
However, there’s still landlines to navigate in his new-found 149lbs class. There are three more returning AA’s that are all eyeing a shot at the title:#3 Brock Mauller (Mizz), #4 Boo Lewallen (OKST), and #6 Jarrett Degen (ISU).
Plus there’s ISU transfer, #9 Kanen Storr (Mich) a few slots lower. That makes three Big Ten wrestlers appearing inside the top 10 and that’s excluding true freshman phenom, Beau Bartlett (PSU) who will unquestionably be knocking on the door of a top 10 ranking sooner than later.
With very little cross-pollination in the higher rankings, it’ll be important that Murin finds a way to make it to the B1G finals to lock in a 4-6 seed, assuming those above him continue to win. Anything lower and he’ll run the risk of hitting a hammer before the quarterfinals roll around in the NCAA’s.
From a team perspective, we don’t need Max to be a champion, but we do need him to make the mid-level podium, which he is capable of doing.
Scheduled Matches // Record Against:
#18 Kevon Davenport (Neb) Jan. 15
#16 Michael Blockhus (Minn) Jan. 22
#14 Mike Carr (Ill) Jan. 31 // 3-1
#9 Kanen Storr (Mich) Jan. 31
#2 Sammy Sasso (OSU) Feb. 7
#25 Griffin Parriott (PUR) Feb. 7 //1-0
Beau Bartlett (PSU) Feb. 12
#24 Yahya Thomas (NW) Feb. 19 // 1-0
Daniel Stilling (Wisc) Feb. 21
KY had one of the most improbable runs two years ago when he had a solid finish in the Big Ten tourney by capturing 4th place, then shifted into overdrive and went off’t in the NCAA’s by coming home with All-American honors and a 5th finish. The hype train carried over into the 2020 preseason where he entered the pre-season rankings at #3, but then the wheels fell off… early.
He split his first four matches before racking up a 13-match winning streak, including a Midlands title, heading into the B1G’s. Then it happened again. The wheels fell off, he crashed and exploded, failing to place and more importantly, auto-qualify for big dance. Even during his run, he was less than impressive and seemed to drag. Of those 13 wins, nine were by four points or less, with only one bonus point victory.
His bonus point percentage dropped from 38% in 2019 to a measly 10% in 2020. Simply put, he struggled, and we collectively struggled to watch him eek out a win week after week.
Now, perhaps the weight cut finally got to him. After all, he was competing at 174lbs in 2018. Perhaps there was an undisclosed illness of injury? We may never know, but what we do know, is that we need him to bring his A-game this season if Iowa wants to win a title. We need the 2019 Kaleb Young to unleash the beast yet again.
Perhaps this severely shortened season will be a blessing in disguise as he attempts to return to form and become the same guy that beat the then #3 seeded Ryan Deakin (NW) twice in the same national tournament.
The Competition: #1 Trent Hidlay (NC State) and #2 Ryan Deakin (NW) are the returning AA’s from this class, but nipping at their heels is the upstart #3 David Carr (ISU) who’s lone loss last season was to Deakin. In fact, Deakin is the only one to have beaten Carr and Hidlay last year (but is 1-1 against Hidlay all-time). FWIW- Carr also throttled Young, 6-1, early in the season.
Deakin, #6 Brayton Lee (Minn), #7 Kendall Coleman (Pur), and Young are the four conference wrestlers in the top 10. Others to keep tabs on include: #3 Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider), #5 Wyatt Sheet (OKST), and #8 Jacori Teemer (ASU). As well as, true freshman #16 Keegan O’Toole (Mizz), who appears to have captured the starting spot. He was a top five p4p recruit coming out of high school.
While Hidlay, Deakin, and Carr are group A, KY slides into group B with Dellavecchia, Lee, and Coleman, however should he find his swagger, he’ll be knocking on the door with the big boys.
Scheduled Matches // Record Against:
Caleb Licking (Neb) Jan. 15
#6 Brayton Lee (Minn) Jan. 22
Johnny Mologousis (Ill) Jan. 31
#12 Will Lewan (Mich) Jan. 31 // 1-0
#23 Elijah Cleary (OSU) Feb. 7 // 1-0
#7 Kendall Coleman (PUR) Feb. 7 // 2-0
#13 Brady Berge (PSU) Feb. 12
#2 Ryan Deakin (NW) Feb. 18 // 2-1
Garrett Model (Wisc) Feb. 21 //2-0
Would it shock you if I said that Marinelli has the best record on the team over the previous two seasons at 47-3? Yes, even better than Spencer Lee’s lousy 41-3.
Our 2x AA hasn’t punched through yet in the post-season by winning a title, although he did set himself up to make a deep run after earning the #1 seed for the second straight year.
The Bull has been on a warpath and appears to be picking up momentum, if that’s even possible. He’s ready to take names and kick ass – in that order.
There’s no one in this conference that he can’t crush and if he does just that, he’s going to plant himself firmly in the Hodge Trophy discussion alongside Spencer Lee heading into mid-March.
Marinelli has always been a bruiser, but rather than focusing on just brawling last year, he implemented some semblance of strategy and it paid dividends by going 20-1 and winning another Big Ten title.
He tallied eight pins last year, with most of them coming from his brutal power-half or figure-four. I love seeing it, but it’s also been noted that he may attempt it too early in matches. This year, I’d love to see him grind guys down a bit more before going to his signature pinning combo.
I won’t say title or bust, but it’ll be disappointing if he at least doesn’t punch a ticket to the finals.
The Competition: Marinelli is ranked #1 (in most polls), so naturally he’s going to have a bullseye on his back and that’s exactly how the former Outstanding Wrestler award winner and 2019 champ, #2 Mekhi Lewis (VT), is going to operate. Lewis is returning from an Olympic redshirt, after going 28-2 his freshman season. He ran the surreal gauntlet by upsetting Marinelli, 2x AA Evan Wick (Wisc) and 2x champ, Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) to pull off the incredible run. Though, he hasn’t looked quite as good in freestyle going 2-3 during his time away.
Joseph and former AA Isaiah White (Neb) have both graduated and for reasons unknown, Evan Wick is not currently listed on the Wisconsin roster. It’s possible he’s taking an Olympic redshirt because he’s been heavily involved in the senior circuit this off-season or it’s possible he’s just moved on. Though my gut is telling me that’s a big NO.
So now that leaves Lewis as the biggest threat to Marinelli’s title hopes, but #3 Shane Griffith (Stanford), #4 Travis Wittlake (OKST), and #5 Anthony Valencia (ASU), will try to run them down as well.
We need to keep an eye on #6 Jake Wentzel (Pitt) who has some quality wins, as well as #13 Joe Lee (PSU) who is the talented brother to 141lbs #1 ranked, Nick Lee (PSU).
Scheduled Matches // Record Against:
#11 Peyton Robb (Neb) Jan. 15
#23 Baylor Fernandes (Minn) Jan. 22
#16 Danny Braunagel (Ill) Jan. 31 // 2-0
#17 Cameron Amine (Mich) Jan. 31
#10 Carson Kharchla (tOSU) Feb. 7
Gerrit Nijenhuis (PUR) Feb. 7
#13 Joe Lee (PSU) Feb. 12
David Ferrante (NW) Feb. 19
Joshua Otto (Wisc) Feb. 21 // 1-0
Fan favorite Michael Kemerer finally made his long-awaited return to the lineup after missing the entire 2019 season due to injury. We were anxious to see how he’d preform after moving up two weights and he didn’t disappoint. Kemerer rolled through the season, that included the dramatic upset over the 2017 champ and 3x finalist, #1 Mark Hall (PSU) 11-6, which helped propel us to a dual victory over our archenemies.
Kemerer took an undefeated record into the B1G’s, where naturally he’d have to face Hall again, but fell this time, 8-5. It was a supremely successful year where he went 15-1 and earned the #2 seed for nationals.
As the season wore on, Kem-Dog seemed to gain more confidence at his new weight and it showed. Of the 15 wins, eight were from bonus points: 3 falls, 3 techs, 2 majors.
Another full over season of acclimation can only be more beneficial.
Kemerer holds the pre-season #1 ranking all to himself.
The Competition: Like Marinelli, Kemerer’s biggest threat has also graduated (Mark Hall). While they probably would’ve been on opposite sides of the bracket, this undoubtedly makes it a smoother run.
However, #2 Logan Massa (Mich) is set to return after taking an Olympic redshirt. He is the former 3rd place finisher at 165lbs from 2017. After failing to medal in 2018 & 19 he’ll be hyper-motivated to conclude his career on top of the podium. And he’s looked mighty good on the senior level too, capturing back-to-back US Senior National Titles at 74kg.
Furthermore, four of the top five weights are comprised of Big Ten wrestlers.
All-American #4 Michael Labriola (Neb), is wanting another shot at Kemerer after losing their only bout, 3-1. We also need to eye #6 Kaleb Romero (tOSU) and pay very, very, close attention to #5 Carter Starocci (PSU). He’s Penn State’s heir apparent 174lber and many consider him to be the next Mark Hall and Bo Nickal. Let’s see if we can delay his ascension a year or two.
Kemerer, Massa, Labriola and Starocci could conceivably have two cracks at each other before nationals. Per the norm, whoever makes it out of the Big Ten Championships will probably own the #1 seed.
Shoulr Kemerer come through this season unscathed, he’ll be near the top of the Hodge Trophy discussion as well.
Scheduled Matches // Record Against:
#4 Michael Labriola (Neb )Jan. 15 // 1-0
Bailee O’Reilly (Minn) Jan. 22
DJ Shannon (Ill) Jan. 31
#2 Logan Massa (Mich) Jan. 31
#6 Kaleb Romero (tOSU) Feb. 7 // 1-0
#19 Emil Soehnlen (PUR) Feb. 7
#5 Carter Starocci (PSU) Feb. 12
Troy Fisher (NW) Feb. 19
Jared Krattiger (Wisc) Feb. 21 // 1-0