Hawkeye wrestlers fall to top-ranked Ohio State

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

Enemy territory looks like 15,117 diehard Buckeye wrestling fans crammed into the Schottenstein Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. It’s a spectacle pitting one of the sport’s most-storied programs against a team that, this year, might one of the greatest ever assembled.

The Iowa wrestling team lost to Ohio State, 22-12, on Sunday in Columbus. It is the Hawkeyes’ first loss of the season, dropping them to 9-1 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten Conference competition. The Buckeyes, Trackwrestling’s top-ranked Division I team this year, improved to 10-0, 5-0.

Iowa's Spencer Lee loosens up before wrestling Michigan State's Rayvon Foley at 125 pounds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

"We won four matches, and we needed to win 10," Iowa coach Tom Brands said. "We need to get first period takedowns. We need to get off bottom. We need to get the first takedown, the second takedown and the last takedown.

"The guys that didn't get their hand raised, the reason is because it was too easy for the opponent … we have a long way to go."

Sunday’s dual was always going to be a challenge for the sixth-ranked Hawkeyes. Ohio State coach Tom Ryan has built a team capable of bringing down mighty Penn State, the NCAA team title winners in six of the last seven seasons, employing All-American contenders at all 10 weights.

To bring down the Buckeyes, the Hawkeyes needed both bonus points and upsets, and even that may not have been enough. In the end, after three lead changes, Iowa got none of the former and only one of the latter.

Ohio State ultimately took six of the 10 contested matches, including the last four in a row to flip a 12-7 Iowa lead into the final score. The Buckeyes were simply too strong on this day, scoring more takedowns (32-8), more match points (87-39) and tallying up bonus points in three of their six victories.

The dual began in Iowa’s favor. Spencer Lee produced more evidence of  why he’s considered a national-title contender. The true freshman knocked off top-ranked Nathan Tomasello, 3-2, at 125 pounds. Tomasello is a three-time All-American and won the NCAA title at 125 in 2015. Lee used slick defense and a mean second-period ride to win with the help of a riding-time point.

"I learned that I can wrestle 7 minutes, and that I have to continue scoring points," Lee said. "You let a match be that close at the end, he can score a takedown and win. You have to build your lead.

"That's the first time I think I've ever won a match without (scoring) a takedown. Just need to move forward and get better and scoring points."

The energy from Lee’s upset quickly vanished when Luke Pletcher and Joey McKenna gave Ohio State a 7-3 team lead after scoring a decision and a major, respectively. After Pletcher dispatched Paul Glynn 8-2 at 133, McKenna racked up five takedowns en route to a 13-2 major decision over Carter Happel at 141 pounds.

The Hawkeyes took the next three weights to regain the lead. Brandon Sorensen scored a takedown in the third period to beat Ke-Shawn Hayes, 4-2, at 149, and Michael Kemerer followed by hanging on for an 8-4 win over Micah Jordan at 157, giving Iowa a 9-7 lead at the intermission. Alex Marinelli extended that advantage with a 4-1 win over Te’Shan Campbell at 165 pounds.

"I just had to stay attacking," Marinelli said. "In the first period, I was in on a single leg, and I should've moved him more and finished that single leg. I just needed to shoot more and be more tenacious. I want to see the guy break, mentally and physically."

But then Iowa reached the meat of Ohio State’s lineup, where hopes of an upset usually dies for most teams. The Buckeyes mounted a methodical comeback anchored by four wrestlers all ranked among the top three at their respective weights.

Bo Jordan, a returning NCAA finalist, kicked off the comeback with a 10-5 win over Kaleb Young at 174 pounds. Myles Martin, a 2015 NCAA champ, followed with a 17-8 major over Mitch Bowman (who scored takedowns in the second and third period) at 184, giving Ohio State a 14-12 lead it would not relinquish.

Kollin Moore, the nation’s No. 1 197-pounder, then scored three takedowns and beat Cash Wilcke, 6-3, to extend the lead. Kyle Snyder, a three-time world and Olympic champion and two-time NCAA champion, closed the dual with a 24-9 technical fall over Steven Holloway at heavyweight, an effort buoyed by 10 takedowns.

"Steve Holloway, wrestling the world and Olympic champion, and it's one of those things where you go out there and do what you're supposed to do and give the best you got," Brands said, "and he did that."

Regarding the decision to wrestle Holloway and not Sam Stoll, the regular starter at heavyweight, Brands said, "Sam Stoll has a lot of wrestling left in front of him this year, and we want to make sure we're doing the right thing every week."

The crowd went into a frenzy as the Buckeyes marched back toward the lead, and stood to give Snyder an ovation after his victory closed out another dominating performance by the home team. It was hard to blame them. Ohio State may very well win a national team title this year. On Sunday, the Hawkeyes found out why.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

No. 1 Ohio State 22, No. 6 Iowa 12

125: Spencer Lee (IA) over Nathan Tomasello (OSU), 3-2
133: Luke Pletcher (OSU) over Paul Glynn (IA), 8-2
141: Joey McKenna (OSU) over Carter Happel (IA), 13-2
149: Brandon Sorensen (IA) over Ke-Shawn Hayes (OSU), 4-2
157: Michael Kemerer (IA) over Micah Jordan (OSU), 8-4
165: Alex Marinelli (IA) over Te’Shan Campbell (OSU), 4-1
174: Bo Jordan (OSU) over Kaleb Young (IA), 10-5
184: Myles Martin (OSU) over Mitch Bowman (IA), 17-8
197: Kollin Moore (OSU) over Cash Wilcke (IA), 6-3
285: Kyle Snyder (OSU) over Steven Holloway (IA), 24-9