For the first time since 2005, the Hawkeyes venture into a dual without Head Coach Tom Brands leading the charge. Brands’ tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday and will be quarantined until Feb. 13th. He is joined by our 165lb starter, Alex Marinelli, who tested positive a few days prior. Both will miss the next three dual meets: Purdue and #9 Ohio State this weekend and #5 Penn State, on Feb. 12th.
His twin brother, Terry Brands, is likely to step in and take over head coaching duties. As many know, there’s no drop-off between brothers. All things considered, I’m excited to see Terry dawn the head coaching garb and bring his raw energy to the focal point over these next three duals. Quite often we see his intensity shielded by Tom, pacing behind the line, wrestling every chairback in his way. Vicariously living through the match in front of him. Now, all that comes front and center in full view for everyone to see. And I’m here for it.
I’m sure he’ll be more restrained, because he must be, but it’ll be fun watching him coach this weekend.
Alrighty- let’s get into this thing. Our Hawkeyes take our #1 ranking and 3-0 record on the road to West Lafayette, IN to face off in a tri-meet with Purdue and Ohio State.
The Hawks lead the all-time series against Purdue, 43-4-3 and have won the last 31 encounters. The Boilermakers haven’t sniffed a win since before the moon landing. In fact, they haven’t even hit a double-digit score against us since 2014.
On the contrary, Ohio State has closed the gap over the past decade. Despite leading the all-times series 40-4, we’ve lost two of our last six meetings dating back to the ’11-12 season. While we’ve had a slight edge against them in duals, tOSU has ramped things up in the post-season, out-placing us in both the Big Ten’s and NCAA tournaments between 2014 and 2019.
They finished runner-up to us in last year’s Big Ten tournament.
- Purdue will be our first victim at 10:30 AM CT, followed by Ohio State at 1:00 PM CT. Both dual will be broadcast on BTN.
The Boilermakers split a tri-dual last weekend and snapped a three meet losing streak after topping Rutgers, 18-15. Prior to the Rutgers win they were smoked by Minnesota 32-4. Despite having five in Wrestlestat’s top 20 and two inside the top ten, they only mustered one win against the Gophers, which was the ninth match of the night. They aren’t a particularly strong dual or tournament team. For every solid wrestler they send into battle there’s an equally impressive blackhole up next and that’s not what they want going up against the #1 team in the country.
Bonus points will be a major factor and if they can’t find a way to keep things close at the start, the route will be on early.
OHIO STATE (4-1)
The Buckeyes had a rough start to the year, losing their first dual to Illinois, 18-15. But they’ve seen rattled off four straight wins over Wisconsin, Rutgers, Michigan State, and basement dwellers, Maryland.
They don’t have the high-end horsepower they possessed a few years ago, but they still have a formidable lineup from top to bottom. They have four ranked inside Wrestlestat’s top 10 and seven in the top 20, led by #2 Sammy Sasso (149lbs). #9 Ethan Smith (157lbs), #5 Kaleb Romero (174lbs), and #8 Tate Orndorff round out the rest of their top hitters, along with #15 Malik Heinselmen (125lbs) who is knocking on a top 10 ranking on Trackwrestling.
Even with #1 Alex Marinelli out last weekend against Illinois we took 8 of 10 matches and worked them over to the score of 36-6. Obviously, he’s gone again for these two, but that doesn’t dampen the explosiveness and talent of this team.
Little has shifted in the ways of the rankings. On the heels of a tough loss, Nelson Brands has dropped three spots to #11. He’s now the only starter outside the top 10. We have four wrestlers in the top two led by #1’s Spencer Lee and Michael Kemerer. Jaydin Eierman now joins Austin DeSanto as the other #2 ranked wrestler in the group.
We’ve been on a bonus point tear through the three duals and that’ll be the major point of emphasis this time around, as well. With two duals back-to-back, this will be as close to simulating a tournament style setup as we’re going to get before the Big Ten’s hit us with a full broadside in four short weeks.
Normally in years past we have the Midlands in late December mixed with a steady barrage of weekly competition that keeps the blood flowing, but with the awkwardness of this year, and with this being our only tri-dual, it’s important to get that multi-match simulation in before the shit hits the fan.
So, let’s pay close attention to our energy level by the time the Ohio State matchup rolls around.
KEY MATCHUPS (Purdue):
125lbs: #1 Spencer Lee vs #6 Devin Schroder.
Lee is 2-0 against Schroder, winning the first via tech fall and the second coming in last year’s Big Ten finals by major, 16-2. Schroder was one of five wrestlers to go all seven minutes with him and you can bet Lee will want to end it in the first period this time around and send a message.
I’m usually not one to predict, but I can see Lee ditching the tilts and going for his fourth consecutive pin.
157lbs: #8 Kaleb Young vs #7 Kendall Coleman.
KY is 2-0 against Coleman with both wins coming last year. Both have been low scoring slugfests between. The first was in the Midlands semifinals in which KY secured the pin in SV1 (once KY got the TD, Coleman laid back and gave up the fall) and the second coming in the dual by a 4-3 decision.
Coleman is athletic, lightning quick, and a fun scrambler. Young had a hell of a time in the top position last year against him, so when that opportunity arises, I want to see if he can control that position and build some riding time. The playing field is pretty level when they’re neutral, so if KY can wear him down going into the third, maybe we can avoid another nail biter.
184lbs: #11 Nelson Brands vs #24 Max Lyon
A few weeks ago we wanted to see how Brands responded to his big win over Taylor Venz (Neb), this week we want to see how he responds his gut wrenching loss in SV1 against Illinois.
Brands was complacent last week and seemed content to tie up and slow things down against Zach Braunagel. It was the opposite of what we expected and wanted to see.
Lyon beat Braunagel to start the season, but has since lost three in a row with two of them against opponents he should have beaten. Lyon is no lion (I know it’s lame) but he’s far from a push over. Considering Lyon doesn’t want to drop to 1-4, I expect him to come out ready to go, which could make this an uneasy match if Brands isn’t dialed in, especially after he performed last weekend.
Nelson is at his best when he’s chain wrestling. Last week he was working the head with hard snaps, but didn’t follow it up with any attacks. With his father being the primary voice matside, I hope to see him firing off attacks early and often to set the pace.
KEY MATCHUPS (Ohio St)
125lbs: #1 Spencer Lee vs #15 Malik Heinselman
The only time these two wrestled was in the 2019 Midlands, which Spencer won by fall late in the first period. Heinselman struggled last year with an 18-15 record, but seems to have found his groove this season. He’s 5-0 with a win over the former #2 Rayvon Foley (MSU).
This parallels the Schroder match and gives Lee another All-American candidate he can pound into dirt and put in his place before we even reach the post-season. Like always, I want to see if Lee keeps the energy high, stays focused, and goes for the pin instead of the tech.
149lbs: #5 Max Murin vs #2 Sammy Sasso
This is unequivocally, the match of the weekend and could be a precursor to the Big Ten finals. In a lot of ways, these two very are similar. Sasso is smooth, if not conservative on his feet, he has elite defense mixed with an elite counter game, and is deceptively strong. He split 1-1 with Pat Lugo last year, winning in the dual, but dropping a 2-1 decision in the Big Ten finals.
Murin has been steady in all positions, but has picked up his attack/ finish rate this season and looks to have added some much needed strength as well. This will undoubtedly be decided by a late TD, but Murin needs to control positions throughout and create some angles and more importantly, take smart shots. If he can fire off some smart shots to create pressure, it may form an opportunistic opening late.
This is a big time moment for Murin and one that could send his confidence and game to the next level.
174lbs: #1 Michael Kemerer vs #5 Kaleb Romero
Kemerer won their lone matchup, 6-1, thanks to two TD’s and 2:50 of riding time, but it wasn’t necessarily a comfortable win. Romero wrestled a reserved style, attempting to keep Kem at a distance and the score low. He almost capitalized on his only shot before Kem was able to roll through and dive into the legs and work for a stalemate in the third period.
Romero has upped his game so far this year and is 5-0, with his last three coming by major decision. Kem has also won both of his via major, but hasn’t looked quite as sharp or explosive as we’re accustomed to.
I suspect Romero will try again to slow the pace down and keep Kem at arm’s length and aim for two or three well timed shots. Otherwise, Kem should have ample opportunities for his own, but he needs to repeat his recipe for success: hold mat position, fend off a few attacks, and ride him like he has a saddle.
285lbs: #4 Tony Cassioppi vs #8 Tate Orndorff
This is the first encounter between these two. Orndorff lost his first two matches of the season to Luke Luffman and Trent Hillger (who Cass has a 3-0 record against), but has won his last three.
Cass is coming off a big second period pin against Luffman and will look to keep the good times rolling here. He definitely has a size advantage, which should start to factor in by the 2nd period, but he needs to keep the pace high and the pressure on.
If his snap single is working and he can find a couple of TD’s in the first, I look for him to try and open it up in the 2nd and potentially end this match early and send the Hawks home on a happy note.
PROJECT LINEUP vs PURDUE:
125: #1 Spencer Lee vs #6 Devin Schroder
133: #2 Austin DeSanto vs Travis Ford-Melton
141: #2 Jaydin Eierman vs #25 Parker Filius
149: #5 Max Murin vs Griffin Parriott
157: #8 Kaleb Young vs #7 Kendall Coleman
165: Joe Kelly/ Bretli Reyna vs Gerrit Nijenhuis
174: #1 Michael Kemerer vs Emil Soehnlen
184: #8 Nelson Brands vs #24 Max Lyon
197: #7 Jacob Warner vs #20 Thomas Penola
285: #4 Tony Cassioppi vs Jamarcus Grant // Jared Florell // Dorian Keys
PROJECT LINEUP vs OHIO STATE:
125: #1 Spencer Lee vs #15 Malik Heinselman
133: #2 Austin DeSanto vs #25 Jordan Decatur
141: #2 Jaydin Eierman vs Anthony Echemendia // Dylan D’Emilio
149: #5 Max Murin vs #2 Sammy Sasso
157: #8 Kaleb Young vs Elijah Cleary
165: Joe Kelly/ Bretli Reyna vs #9 Ethan Smith
174: #1 Michael Kemerer vs #5 Kaleb Romero
184: #11 Nelson Brands vs #18 Rocky Jordan
197: #7 Jacob Warner vs Gavin Hoffman // Chase Singletary
285: #4 Tony Cassioppi vs #8 Tate Orndorff