Fresh off their trip to sunny Florida with a shiny new Collegiate Duals Title in hand, Iowa returns to Carver for weekend duels vs Minnesota (tonight) and Purdue (Sunday). The inimitable Trez is taking some time off from wrestling coverage so you’re stuck with yours truly standing in for a bit.
If that wasn’t enough bad news and you’re a bit behind the news cycle, I’m afraid I must tell you that our sparkplug at 125, Spencer Lee, has elected to have his ACLs in both knees surgically repaired and is shutting it down for the season. Reports are that the intense rehab and conditioning needed to compete with NO FUNCTIONAL ACLs outweighed the short and long term benefits of being in the lineup this year. The good news is 1. Lee should have a full year to recover and come back for a shot at a fourth national title and 2. Young studs in the Iowa practice room will be given a chance to see what they can do. With that, to the lineups!
125lbs: Jesse Ybarra or Drake Ayala vs #5 Patrick McKee
133lbs: #3 Austin DeSanto vs Aaron Nagao or Jake Gilva
141lbs: #2 Jaydin Eierman vs #13 Jake Bergeland
149lbs: #10 Max Murin or Cobe Siebrecht vs #23 Michael Blockhus
157lbs: #10 Kaleb Young vs #5 Brayton Lee
165lbs: #4 Alex Marinelli vs Andrew Sparks
174lbs: Nelson Brands vs Jared Krattiger
184lbs: #19 Abe Assad vs Isaiah Salazar
197lbs: #3 Jacob Warner vs Michial Foy
285: #5 Tony Cassioppi vs #1 Gable Steveson
*All rankings via Flowrestling
A simple comparison of the numbers beside the names suggests Iowa will just walk away with the duel meet team victory. Indeed, it’s typically a safe bet to go with the #1 rated and returning national champions taking out all comers. However, with Lee newly missing from the lineup, Kemerer still not a confirmed returnee at 174, and a recent scare from a very talented and balanced NC State last week at the Collegiate Duels, anything is possible. Take all three matchups Minnesota is favored in and sprinkle in 1-2 upsets or bonus point wins and we’ll have ourselves a close race. History is against Minnesota pulling the upset however, especially since the more successful days of the now ignominious former head coach J Robinson are a few years in the past.
Just as likely, we’ll see DeSanto continue his blitz of all comers, Marinelli to score bonus, and don’t be surprised if Abe Assad and Jacob Warner turn it on if Iowa needs to cushion an Iowa lead before the heavy footfalls of Steveson and Big Cass are felt. Speaking of...
285: #5 Tony Cassioppi vs #1 Gable Steveson
Look, Cassioppi is good, very good. #3 in the country good despite FloWrestling’s #5 rank which is due to a surprising (and hopefully what we will look back on as a fluke) pin he suffered earlier this year. But Gable Steveson is the returning Big10, NCAA, Co-Hodge Trophy winning, and Olympic champion. Cass has kept most of his losses to Steveson in the respectable category and that’s likely tonight. It’s also of interest that Cass has slimmed down considerably for competition this year which is surely intended to counter some of Steveson’s agility. We’ll know if that pays off after tonight, assuming Steveson sees the mat as he’s only 2-0 thus far on the year. Let us hope because it’ll be worth the show.
157: #10 Kaleb Young vs #5 Brayton Lee
Another weight Minnesota is favored in but that could set a new trajectory for our guy in black and gold. Young hasn’t had an offensive mindset for, well, for a while now. If he gets back to that there is no one or nearly no one he can’t beat. If he comes out on top this duel should be decided by halftime and I expect there will be new energy in Young’s wrestling this year.
125: Jesse Ybarra or Drake Ayala vs #5 Patrick McKee
At last check, Brands indicated rs#Fr Ybarra, who is 5-1 on the year, would get the start tonight. While Ybarra’s record is impressive, it was built against lesser competition than returning all American’s like Pat McKee. This will be a big challenge and a win likely cements his spot as Iowa’s starter for the remainder of the year. If the coaches get up to playing games and send out true freshman Drake Ayala, this matchup is no less interesting. Ayala JUST wrestled McKee at the Southern Scuffle last weekend and was leading for most of the bout before McKee’s superior riding ability and upper classman savvy sealed the win for him. Ayala would no doubt love a second chance.
Opponent: #14 Minnesota
Dual time: 8:03PM God’s Time (Central) // Friday January 7th, 2022
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena // Iowa City, IA