Wrestle-offs will determine two postseason roster spots for Tom Brands' Hawkeyes

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Two closed-door wrestling matches will settle two toss-up spots on Iowa’s postseason roster.

Speaking on the Hawk Central radio show, which aired Wednesday night, Hawkeye coach Tom Brands said that a pair of Friday bouts inside the Iowa wrestling room would determine his Big Ten Conference Championship entries at 141 and 174 pounds. The radio show airs weekly on 1460-KXnO in Des Moines.

“I’m not sure wrestle-offs are the best thing,” said Brands, who couldn't recall a wrestle-off to determine a postseason berth since at least 2014. “But this year, based on the results and how both guys are performing … we’re just going to settle it with a wrestle-off.”

Actually, two of them. An NCAA-certified official will be brought in for the matches, closed to the media and public.

Iowa's Carter Happel wrestles Michigan State's Javier Gasca at 141 pounds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

At 141, it’ll be redshirt freshman Carter Happel (11-7) vs. sophomore Vince Turk (9-6). Happel placed higher than Turk at the Midlands Championships and in his most recent match pinned then-No. 10 Tommy Thorn of Minnesota. Turk, meanwhile, closed his season on a strong note Sunday by beating No. 15 Ian Parker of Iowa State by major decision, 13-5.

Turk bested Happel in their November wrestle-off, 6-2.

“The good thing about 141 is … both guys seem to have definitely made improvements,” Brands said, “as the season has gotten deeper.”

At 174, it’ll be redshirt freshman Kaleb Young (9-7) vs. sophomore Joey Gunther (13-4). Young has gradually grown into the weight class after beginning the year as Alex Marinelli’s stand-in at 165 pounds, and is 0-3 — all by decision against ranked foes — since moving up to 174. Gunther has lacked bonus-point production but has shown to be a tough out, save getting pinned by Penn State’s No. 2 Mark Hall.

Gunther beat Young in their November wrestle-off, 4-2 in sudden victory.

“Kaleb Young has wrestled some real good guys, you know, close at 74,” Brands said. “And maybe in certain positions he gets slowed down, and basically you run out of time because you’re struggling on the bottom or whatever.

“Gunther, we need to see more firepower out of him. We need to see points scored. So, we’re looking for an answer. And we’re looking for them to answer the question … with performance.”

Iowa’s other eight lineup spots for the March 3-4 Big Tens in East Lansing, Michigan: No. 3 Spencer Lee (125), Paul Glynn (133), No. 2 Brandon Sorensen (149), No. 2 Michael Kemerer (157), No. 2 Marinelli (165), No. 22 Mitch Bowman (184), No. 8 Cash Wilcke (197) and No. 5 Sam Stoll (heavyweight).