Alex Marinelli defeats the defending NCAA champ, but Iowa wrestling falls to Penn State

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

This season’s Hawkeye wrestling team was always going to be chasing Ohio State and Penn State.

Last month, the Buckeyes showed Iowa why many believed them to be one of the best dual teams ever assembled. On Saturday night, the Hawkeyes got smacked by the dynasty that is just a week removed from toppling mighty Ohio State.

Iowa lost to Penn State, 28-13, before a crowd of 15,598 inside the Bryce Jordan Center. The top-ranked Nittany Lions improve to 13-0 overall and 9-0 in Big Ten Conference competition, good enough to claim the outright Big Ten Dual Championship for the 2017-18 season.

Iowa 165-pounder Alex Marinelli is a special talent, but Hawkeye coach Tom Brands remains patient in getting him into the starting lineup. For now, Kaleb Young is the guy at that weight.

The Hawkeyes fall to 11-3, 6-3. Iowa won just three bouts on Friday night, and despite holding a lead after Alex Marinelli’s big upset victory at 165 pounds, the lineup’s final four weights all lost again, including twice by fall, leading to the team's third loss in five duals.

“It unraveled in a hurry,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “It was similar to Ohio State. We knew we were going to have weather that storm, but it unraveled in a hurry.”

Marinelli had the result of the night, winning 9-6 over Vincenzo Joseph, the defending NCAA champ at 165. After allowing two takedowns and trailing 5-3 in the third, Marinelli countered an inside-trip attempt by Joseph and took him feet to back — a six-point sequence that pushed the redshirt freshman’s record to 13-0 this season.

“I was dreaming of this last night,” Marinelli said afterward. “In the first period, he hit me with a blast double, and I kind of gave it up too easy. I just need to get my hips down and finish shots. In the second period, I worked on riding, then he got out and went to an inside trip.

“So the next time he went upper-body with me, I had a lock and got ready for it. I was luckily ready for it and took him to his back.”

At that point, Iowa led 13-9. Spencer Lee opened the dual with a first-period pin at 125 pounds. Paul Glynn and Vince Turk dropped back-to-back decisions to Corey Keener and Nick Lee, respectively, at 133 and 141, tying the dual at six.

At 149 pounds, Brandon Sorensen lost for the first time this season to top-ranked Zain Retherford. Sorensen, ranked second by Trackwrestling, allowed two takedowns and couldn’t piece together anything offensively in a 6-2 defeat. He was warned for stalling in the second period.

Michael Kemerer came back immediately with a 14-4 major decision over Bo Pipher at 157, an effort that included six takedowns. Earlier this week, Kemerer, ranked second by Track, said he was upset that he wouldn’t get a crack at Jason Nolf, who’s ranked No. 1 and also a defending national champion. Nolf was out after injuring his knee two weeks ago. 

Marinelli then went out and defeated Joseph, which caused the crowd to go quiet. But the silence did not last. As was the case against both Ohio State and Michigan, the Nittany Lions’ final four weights lit up their Iowa counterparts.

Mark Hall, the defending national champion at 174 pounds, immediately followed Marinelli by securing a first-period pin against Joey Gunther — after which, he pantomimed slamming a hammer down on the mat. Bo Nickal, who also won an NCAA title last year, matched Hall with a first-period pin of his own, a cradle against Mitch Bowman at 184.

“If you want some light humor, that crowd was relentless behind us,” Brands said. “Some guy looks at me after the first one at 174 and said to me, ‘It’s going to be a long night.’

“Then after the second one at 184, I turned around, looked at him and said, ‘It’s not going to be a long night anymore.’”

A 13-9 Iowa lead had flipped to a 21-13 Penn State advantage. The bleeding did not stop there.

At 197, Shakur Rasheed piled up four takedowns en route to an 11-2 major decision over Cash Wilcke, and then Nick Nevills scored a third-period takedown and beat Sam Stoll, 3-2, at heavyweight.

By the time Nevills got his hand raised and walked off the mat, Marinelli’s victory seemed a distant memory. And as the Hawkeyes left the Bryce Jordan Center, it became clear just how far ahead Penn State is.

“We have to do a better job in those situations that are mismatches on paper (and make sure) our guys don’t believe that,” Brands said. “We can tell them that all day long and they can tell themselves that all day long.

“But if they don’t have a presence when they walk out there … I’m talking about going out there and representing yourself the way you should represent yourself. It doesn’t matter what’s on paper. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.” 

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

No. 1 Penn State 28, No. 3 Iowa 13

125: Spencer Lee (IA) pinned Carson Kuhn (PSU) in 2:05
133: Corey Keener (PSU) dec. Paul Glynn (IA), 5-2
141: Nick Lee (PSU) dec. Vince Turk (IA), 11-8
149: Zain Retherford (PSU) dec. Brandon Sorensen (IA), 6-2
157: Michael Kemerer (IA) major dec. Bo Phipher (PSU), 14-4
165: Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. Vincenzo Joseph (PSU), 9-6
174: Mark Hall (PSU) pinned Joey Gunther (IA), 1:00
184: Bo Nickal (PSU) pinned Mitch Bowman (IA), 0:50
197: Shakur Rasheed (PSU) major dec. Cash Wilcke (IA), 11-2
285: Nick Nevills (PSU) dec. Sam Stoll (IA), 3-2