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Iowa Wrestling: 2021 NCAA Preview Part 2

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We’re Ready To Kick Ass And Take Names

Brian Ray // Hawkeyesports.com

If you missed out on Part One that covers 125lbs - 157lbs click HERE

And here’s a quick still of the upcoming broadcast coverage as well.

NCAA.com

Assuming you’re now up to speed let’s continue our examination and pick things up where we left off.

165lbs: #1 Alex Marinelli (5-0)

NCAA.com
  • First Round: #32 Ricky Stamm (HOF) 7-2 // #33 Austin Yant (UNI) 4-2
  • Second Round: #16 William Formato (APP) 17-2 // #17 Thomas Bullard (NCST) 5-5
  • Quarterfinals: #8 Shane Griffith (STAN) 6-1
  • Semifinals: #4 Mekhi Lewis (VT) 8-2

This now marks the 3rd straight year that Marinelli enters into the fray with the #1 seed. Two years ago, he infamously got knocked off by none other than the future champ, #4 Mekhi Lewis (VT) who just so happens to be on his side of the bracket yet again.

Alright, alright, alright, I need to rewind a bit.

Marinelli has had a solid, but underwhelming season up to this point. He’s 5-0, which looks groovy, with wins over #14 Peyton Robb (NEB) and #7 Ethan Smith (tOSU) but he has zero bonus point wins, which is a cause for concern. Coincidentally, this is the longest stretch of matches he’s gone without a bonus point win since he entered into the starting lineup in 2018.

Covid and the wonky off-season could be playing havoc on his routine, but regardless of his slower pace, he has still found ways to win, which is what matters most. But his relentless attack rate has nose-dived and that’s something we need to pay attention to, especially in the early rounds here.

The Bull should cruise through the first two rounds, but there the competition ramps up where he’ll collide with #8 Shane Griffith (STAN), which will be by far and away his toughest match of the year. Assuming he gets by that, he’ll then face a bigger task in Lewis… and we know how that went the last time these guys faced. However, Lewis is also dealing with his own set of obstacles with a shoulder injury which forced him to medically forfeit to #3 Jake Wentzel (PITT) in their dual and then he bowed out in the ACC championships a week later. If Lewis is still struggling here there’s no guarantee he even makes it to the semis for their rematch.

Either way, there’s no way around it, Marinelli has the toughest path of all weights and if he is able to claim his first title, it’ll be well earned.

174lbs: #1 Michael Kemerer (7-0)

NCAA.com
  • First Round: #32 Drew Hughes (MSU) 3-7 // #33 Jacob Nolan (BING) 6-2
  • Second Round: #16 Clay Lautt (UNC) 5-3 // #17 Benjamin Pasiuk (ARMY) 5-0
  • Quarterfinals: #8 Daniel Bullard (NCST) 8-1
  • Semifinals: #4 Mikey Labriola (NEB) 11-1 // #5 Logan Massa (MICH) 8-3

Kemerer is rolling into the NCAA’s with a 7-0 record and wins over #3 Carter Starocci (PSU), #5 Logan Massa (MICH), and #7 Kaleb Romero (tOSU). He’s racked up 4 bonus wins and very well could bonus his way into the quarterfinals as well where he’ll likely face an interesting match up with #8 Daniel Bullard (NCST).

Bullard is a bit of funky guy. He doesn’t put up a lot of points, but he does throw out a steady barrage of attacks and when he’s in the top position he likes to throw in double boots, which is something Kemerer doesn’t encounter much in the Big Tens. It’ll be interesting to see what Kemdawg does if he finds an early TD. Does he ride him out and try to wear him down or will he immediately go into catch and release mode. Bullard is a dangerous guy, but this is a match Kem should win.

From there he’ll either get a re-match with #5 Logan Massa (MICH) or finally get the showdown we’ve all been waiting for with #4 Mikey Labriola (NEB). Labs lost in the B10 semis to #3 Carter Starocci (PSU) so you can bet he’ll be extra motivated. Our Hawkeye needs to be ready to roll to punch his ticket to his first appearance in the finals.

This 174lbs weight is stacked with Starocci, #7 Kaleb Romero (tOSU), and #2 Demetrius Romero (UVU) all jockeying for position on the bottom side.

184lbs: #12 Nelson Brands (7-4)

NCAA.com
  • First Round: #21 Dominic Ducharme (CSUB) 5-0
  • Second Round: #5 Hunter Bolen (VT) 9-1
  • Quarterfinals: #4 Parker Keckeisen (UNI) 15-0
  • Semifinals: #1 Aaron Brooks (PSU) 9-0

Now we can add Nelson Brands to the list of Brutal Hawkeye Draws. Unfortunately, Nelson did this to himself by dropping two winnable matches just before the hiatus. However, he did rebound nicely by doing damage in the Big Tens - claiming 4th and punching his ticket to the NCAA’s. I don’t like playing the IF games, but IF he had beaten #16 Max Lyon (PUR) and #19 Zach Braunagel (ILL) in their respective duals it’s entirely possible that Nelson would’ve gotten a top 7 or 8 seed and avoided a rough 2nd round.

Alas, here we are. Brands gets that winnable match against #21 Dominic Ducharme to start things off, but that’s where easy street ends. Immediately following that he’ll collide with #5 Hunter Bolen, who has been rooollllling the past two season.

Bolen was in the top 4 in the Trackwrestling rankings all season and Flowrestling even had him topping at #1 for a couple weeks. He took a loss to #2 Trent Hidlay (NCST) in the ACC championship finals which dropped him lower than he probably should be.

From there he could face redshirt freshman phenom #4 Parker Keckeisen (UNI) who is also tearing up the field.

If he does fall to Bolen, he still has a favorable consolation run up to the blood round where he could see the loser of the bottom side semis, which if the seeds hold, could be MAC champ #7 Brit Wilson (NIU). Again, it’s winnable.

These are matches Brands can win, but he needs to wrestle his style. Get away from the low scoring affairs that occasionally plague him and instead jack up the attack rate and keep the pressure on. We all saw him bring his A game against #1 Aaron Brooks (PSU) in the Big Tens, but he has to sustain that aggressive motor for a full seven minutes. IF he can manage to stay focused and let it rip, he’s going to find his way to the podium. I’m eyeing that backside cons run, there’s some serious bonus point potential in there for our young 184 pounder.

197lbs: #5 Jacob Warner (8-2)

NCAA.com
  • First Round: #28 Nick Reenan (NCST) 7-3
  • Second Round: #12 Lucas Davison (NW) 7-3
  • Quarterfinals: #4 AJ Ferrari (OKST) 15-1 // #13 Tanner Sloan (SDSU) 14-2
  • Semifinals: #1 Myles Amine (MICH) 6-0

Call me crazy, but I like Warner’s draw through the quarterfinals. He’ll see #28 Nick Reenan (NCST) in the opening round and this will be an immediate bonus point threat that can get the ball rolling for our big guy. From there he’ll have a rematch with #12 Lucas Davison (NW) who he shut down in the Big Ten’s, 5-0.

From there, fans win when we get the Warner vs #4 AJ Ferrari (OKST) in the QF’s. Ferrari was a highly sought-after recruit who started off hot in his true freshman campaign and has only gotten hotter after winning his first Big 12 championship two weeks ago.

However, I don’t think he’s ready for the heat Warner is bringing with him. Ferrari is talented and his ceiling is sky high, but I don’t think he’s ready for this, at least not yet.

From there Warner will get another look at the #1 Myles Amine (MICH) and a shot to avenge his overtime loss in the Big Ten semis.

Warner has been an enigma throughout his career, no way around it. When he’s on he’s one of the best at this weight, but when he’s off, he wrestles tight closes matches and loses a few that he otherwise shouldn’t.

That opening round is going to tell us how he’s feeling. Look for the active hands and shuffling feet, if he’s in a constant smooth flow of motion don’t be surprised if Warner punches his way to the finals. Crazier things have happened!

285lbs: #5 Tony Cassioppi (8-2)

NCAA.com
  • First Round: #28 Jon Spaulding (EDIN) 11-4
  • Second Round: #12 Christian Lance (NEB) 9-5 // #21 Tate Orndorff (tOSU) 7-8
  • Quarterfinals: #4 Cohlton Schultz (ASU) 12-0
  • Semifinals: #1 Gable Steveson (MINN) 12-0

***Due to the #23 seed dropping out, everyone from that spot has moved up. Cass’ new victim is listed above***

I look at Cassioppi’s run like I do Warner’s. There are some potential landmines, but it isn’t too much of a stretch to see Cass bonus his way into the quarterfinals. But there the competition ramps up where he’ll see #4 Cohlton Schultz (ASU) who is the defending Greco US National Champ, world team member, and Junior World silver medalist. This big bruiser is no joke.

It’s been a few years since these two last danced in freestyle, which Schultz won, but considering the level at which Cass is wrestling I’m going with him.

Since Schultz is a big Greco guy, Big Cass needs to avoid the big move because you know the Sun Devil will be looking for it early and often. If Cass can resist the urge to play the upper body game, I like his chances to pick Schultz apart and come out with a hard-fought decision.

By now we know the result of a match with Steveson so I’m working under the thought that he doesn’t pull off the biggest upset of the tournament and drops into the cons-semis where he’ll likely #7 Ethan Laird (RID) or #3 Matt Stencel (CMU).

Call me opportunistic, but I love Cass’ chances of making it to third and winning. This kid has been a machine and he’s beating anyone not named Mason Parris or Gable Steveson.

TEAM OUTLOOK:

It was evident that the Hawks weren’t firing on all cylinders in the Big Ten’s and we still broke open the scoreboard by the time the finals rolled around. We have to remember that this team was coming off an ill-timed hiatus shortly before the conference tournament and they were still able to pull it together and win, despite looking lethargic. Give me another two weeks of recovery time and preparation and this could be a scary team to face with the season on the line.

It’s been 11 years now since our last title and this team is hungry. They want it and they’ll do whatever it takes to bring #24 back to Iowa City.

Iowa is undoubtedly the most complete team in the country, which gives us a huge advantage heading into this. Penn State is a legit threat and they should be treated as such, but they have an uphill battle at a few weights (125, 157, and 165) that could derail their run early and we’re hoping it plays out that way.

Nebraska, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, and Oklahoma State are the other four teams eyeing a run at the medal stand. And I’d be lazy to count out Michigan just yet. They have a few sleeping dogs in their lineup that could make some noise and push them up there.

Nevertheless, I’m going to circle back and hammer this talking point home. None of them are as deep and experience as our Iowa Hawkeyes. Also, we have the highest ceiling when it comes to bonus point potential. This alone could separate us from the pack by Friday evening.

The weekend is simple and I’m going to boil it down to the key bullet points:

  • Win the matches we should win.
  • Bonus. Bonus. Bonus. Especially in the first two rounds
  • If you lose, shake it off and go after the next best thing.

This will be a total team effort and we need all 10 guys wrestling at their absolute best. As Tom Brands says, “We’re ready, ready, ready.”

Now let’s go get this thing done.

GO HAWKS!