ROCHESTER, Minn. — Entering Friday’s first session of the 2018 men’s freestyle world team trials, the Iowa wrestling program, theoretically, could have had as many as five representatives on the Junior world team.
After Friday’s action, only two are left standing.
Iowa struck out in the challenge tournament portion of the UWW Junior World Team Trials here at the Rochester Regional Sports Center. A day with high expectations ended with a bit of a thud, as none of the Hawkeye wrestlers who competed advanced to Saturday’s best-of-three finals.
With each round, Iowa lost another representative. Myles Wilson, competing at 86 kilograms (roughly 189 pounds), fell first in an 11-6 loss to Arizona State’s Kordell Norfleet in the opening round.
Max Murin followed in the next round at 65kg. Less than a month after an appearance in the national finals, Iowa’s true freshman bowed out in the semifinals here in a 9-4 loss to Penn State All-American Nick Lee.
Alex Marinelli made it the furthest, reaching the finals of the challenge tournament. A win would’ve put him in the best-of-three finals at 74kg — where he would’ve met teammate Jeremiah Moody on Saturday.
But Mehki Lewis, a Virginia Tech standout, had other plans.
Lewis jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the second period, and Marinelli charged back to tie. At 5-5, Lewis still held the lead thanks to criteria, and maintained that advantage even after Marinelli nearly took him down on the edge in the waning moments of the second period.
Assistant coach Ryan Morningstar thought Marinelli had scored, either a takedown or on a step-out point. He tossed the challenge brick in, but the call was upheld. Lewis advanced to Saturday’s final against Moody.
Moody and true freshman Jacob Warner are the only two Iowa wrestlers remaining in the tournament. Both are just two wins away from making the world team. Doing so would undoubtedly make Friday easier to forget.
“Data shows that people who sit in the finals tend to win,” Warner told the Register last week. “Just need to make sure my body feels good.”
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- A year after falling short, Iowa State's Austin Gomez eyes world team spot
Future Cyclone David Carr comes up short
The David Carr that took the mat here on Friday was much different from the one that competed in Las Vegas last month.
Out in Vegas, at the UWW Junior national freestyle championships, Carr, the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2018 class, fell in the semifinals and slipped all the way to fourth. It was a bit of a surprise, considering Carr was the top seed at 70 kilograms.
But on Friday, Carr looked like the blue-chip recruit that Iowa State is hoping will help turn the program around. He was explosive and aggressive and displayed wicked speed. He went 2-0 at 70 kg and reached the challenge tournament finals, outscoring his opponents 23-10.
“I feel like I shot better shots this tournament,” Carr said. “I didn’t go out of bounds too easily. A lot of good things, but there are some things I could work on, too. Like hand-fighting a little bit better, staying in the middle of the mat, stuff like that.”
In the finals, Carr went up against Penn State redshirt Brady Berge, and despite holding a 4-1 lead midway through the second period, Berge mounted a comeback to win 7-5 and advance to Saturday’s best-of-three finals.
Even though he came up short — Carr is a past Cadet world bronze medalist — the future Cyclone was upbeat about his performance, and said he can’t wait to get to Ames.
“Today was a good day,” he said. “Some positives, some negatives. I’m just about getting better. I came here to get better. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but that’s all right. I just have to go back and train and get better.
“Dresser always talks about the culture, and we’re building a good culture. I love seeing my teammates out there scrapping. It’s amazing. I’m truly blessed to have guys like (Austin) Gomez and (Gannon) Gremmel and all the guys out there.”
Future Hawkeye Cassioppi impresses, but runs into Gable
Hawkeye fans who made the trek north got a glimpse of the future on Friday — and it looks pretty bright.
Anthony Cassioppi, an Iowa signee and the No. 18 overall 2018 recruit, reached the challenge tournament finals at 125 kilograms (heavyweight). He picked off two current college wrestlers — Army’s Bobby Heald and North Dakota State’s Brandon Metz — by a combined 21-0.
It was, in a word, impressive.
Then he ran into Gable Steveson.
Steveson — the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2018 class who’s won three age-level world titles — took out Cassioppi, 12-2, in a sometimes-heated matchup that might very well be a preview of future Big Ten Conference battles, as Steveson signed to wrestle at Minnesota.
“I felt real good in that match,” Steveson said afterward. “He came out pushing the pace … but I just did my thing like I normally do.”
If not for an otherworldly talent, Cassioppi may have made Saturday’s best-of-three finals at 125-kilograms a Cy-Hawk battle for the world team spot, as Steveson advanced to wrestle Iowa State true freshman Gannon Gremmel on Saturday.
Others bow out in the prelims
- A slew of current and former Iowa preps were also in action: McGwire Midkiff (61kg), Michael Blockhus (65kg), Tyrell Gordon (86kg), Max Lyon (86kg) and Hunter DeJong (97kg) all competed, but lost before the finals.
- Northern Iowa’s Jack Skudlarczyk was also in the field at 61kg, but lost to Midkiff, 10-0, in the opening round.
- In the Senior women’s freestyle competition, the two wrestlers with local interest failed to advance to Saturday’s bet-of-three finals. Lauren Louive, a member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, lost by technical fall in the challenge finals to Jenna Burkert at 59kg. Jasmine Bailey, an Iowa City West alum, lost in the quarterfinals at 68kg.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
2018 World Team Trials
Junior Men’s Freestyle
Best-of-Three Finals, Saturday
- 61kg: Austin Gomez (Iowa State) vs. Vitali Arujau (future Cornell)
- 74kg: Jeremiah Moody (Iowa) vs. Mehki Lewis (Virginia Tech)
- 92kg: Jacob Warner (Iowa) vs. John Borst (Virginia Tech)
- 125kg: Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State) vs. Gable Steveson (future Minnesota)
Senior Women’s Freestyle
Best-of-Three Finals, Saturday
- 72kg: Rachel Watters (former Ballard) vs. Hannah Gladden (Lions WC)