IOWA CITY, Ia. — Last season, the Iowa wrestling team blew through Iowa State, 35-6, before a large crowd at Hilton Coliseum. The matchup was as lopsided as the score suggested, but before Cyclone coach Kevin Dresser left the post-match presser, he sent a message.
“The day will come,” he said then, “when we even the score here and this will be a dual meet.”
The two met again on Saturday here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Cyclones did not beat the mighty Hawkeyes, but they came as close as they have in years.
Iowa beat Iowa State, 19-18, before an announced crowd of 9,751. The Hawkeyes, ranked third nationally entering the dual, improve to 5-0 this season and have now won 15 straight over the Cyclones, who are ranked 25th and fall to 1-1.
“We have to get better,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “This is not something where this guy here is sitting up here and doing this,” making the motion of wiping his brow. “It is not that. I think a lot of coaches get out of the frying pan a little bit and just move on.
“I’ve been talking about the steps we have to take to get this program into championship contention ... We need to shape up. We have to move forward in a lot more ways than one.”
This dual was an absolute thriller from start to finish, the closest Cy-Hawk wrestling result since Iowa won, 18-16, in 2009. The team score saw three lead changes thanks to a pin, an injury default and plenty of intense matches that captivated all who attended and countless more who watched online.
Both teams won five bouts. The Cyclones won two swing matches at 133 and 149 pounds, scored upsets at 141 and 184, and benefited from an injury default just before the intermission. But the Hawkeyes emerged victorious thanks to some late heroics from their two heaviest weights, a pin from the team captain and a major decision from their defending national champ.
“I thought we were ready to go,” Dresser, now in his second season as the Iowa State coach, said afterward. “I expected a good performance today. I really did. I thought we could win today.
“I don’t like losing. I’ll look back at a couple of things. There’s a part of me that’s probably not going to sleep very well tonight.”
Iowa State raced out to an early lead with wins in four of the first six matches. Ian Parker upset Max Murin, 5-4, at 141, and Sam Colbray did the same against Cash Wilcke, 7-6, at 184. Both used late takedowns to win. Jarrett Degen did the same to force overtime against Pat Lugo at 149 pounds, then tacked on an escape and another takedown in the first tiebreaker to win, 7-4.
Iowa countered with back-to-back wins at 157 and 165. Kaleb Young put Iowa on the board with an 8-3 decision over Chase Straw. Alex Marinelli followed with a second-period pin over Brady Jennings. A third victory looked in the works at 174, as Myles Wilson built a 4-3 lead against Marcus Coleman in the first period, but had to injury default after he came up limping.
“Every single dual meet, I try to get bonus for my team, whether it’s a major, tech or pin,” Marinelli said. “I knew this dual meet would be electric, and I knew I had to have bonus points.”
“Every week, I try to pin my guy. Last week, I didn’t get it done. This week, I did. Pretty pumped about it. Paid off, I guess.”
The dual meet only got more interesting from there.
Following Colbray’s victory, Jacob Warner made his long-awaited Iowa debut. The redshirt freshman scored a quick takedown against Iowa State’s Willie Miklus at 197 pounds. Miklus scored one of his own in the third period, but Warner scored a reversal late to win, 5-4. Dresser challenged a call late, believing that Miklus had scored. The official ruled otherwise.
“If I remember, he had a leg in and locked up a cradle,” Warner said. “I just thought to myself, ‘Screw it, I have to do something.’ I found myself on top, then he rolled again, and I found myself on my back.”
“I remember thinking in my head to keep my left arm straight, because I had his legs turned, and if I would’ve dropped my left arm, he would’ve gotten a reversal, for sure. It was intense.”
Added Dresser: “When you get on the road like this, you’re not going to get all the calls. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the referee today. At 197, I felt like, to be quite honest, they kind of got one there, based on that last scramble. But I wouldn’t want to be that referee.
“That would’ve been big. I would’ve been smiling, standing on my head right now.”
The crowd stayed on its feet when, with the lights low and the pyrotechnics blaring, Stoll sauntered out of the tunnel in Carver’s northwest corner. The senior heavyweight met Brands before taking the mat.
Brands did not want Stoll, still recovering from a gunshot flesh wound from over the summer, to wrestle.
But Stoll wanted to go.
“I had no intentions on going,” Stoll said. “I guess it’s hard when we’re losing a big dual like that, and maybe I was getting ready to make the other guy think he’s wrestling me, but when we’re losing, it’s hard to sit back there and do nothing, especially when it’s my last State week.
“I ran out there, and Tom met me in the middle and he said, ‘I don’t want this. You’re not going.’ I said, ’It’s my last one. I’m going.’ He gave me a good slap in the face, and I went.”
Added Brands: “That’s a tribute to Sam Stoll and what this meant to him. This was not about his individual glory. This was about a team effort. So how we won that dual meet? You have to give a lot of credit to Sam Stoll.”
Stoll beat Gannon Gremmel, 5-1, scoring a quick takedown in the first and adding points via unsportsmanlike conduct, escape and riding time. The crowd was in full throat. Spencer Lee, Iowa's returning NCAA Champion, followed with a 13-4 major decision over Alex Mackall at 125, giving Iowa a 19-15 lead with one match remaining.
The dual’s best match was the finale: Iowa’s Austin DeSanto against Iowa State’s Austin Gomez, at 133 pounds. It was as compelling as the dual itself — it was tied 3-3 after one, 5-5 after two, and 8-8 midway through the third. Gomez then launched DeSanto to his back and nearly pinned him to win the dual for the Cyclones, but DeSanto rolled through, ensuring a 14-9 win for Gomez but securing the dual victory for Iowa.
“Gomez — he just throws it all out there,” Dresser said. “That shows you how much of a team guy Austin Gomez is. He throws a six-point move and goes for it when he could’ve been real conservative and just taken him down. He just about got the fall. That would’ve been chaos.”
The crowd stood in applause. The Dan Gable Traveling Trophy will remain in Iowa City, the only place its ever known since its inception in 2010. It has been a long time since these two wrestling programs put on a show like this. Perhaps it’s just the first of many for years to come.
“I’ve always said that we need to get Iowa and Iowa State back,” Dresser said. “I remember what they used to be like in the 1980s. They were pretty fun and pretty entertaining.
“I think we’ll probably sell a few tickets next year in Ames.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
No. 3 Iowa 19, No. 25 Iowa State 18
141 pounds: Ian Parker (ISU) dec. Max Murin (IA), 5-4
149: Jarrett Degen (ISU) dec. Pat Lugo (IA), 7-4 (TB1)
157: Kaleb Young (IA) dec. Chase Straw (ISU), 8-3
165: Alex Marinelli (IA) winner by fall over Brady Jennings (ISU), 4:45
174: Marcus Coleman (ISU) over Myles Wilson (IA) by injury default
184: Sam Colbray (ISU) dec. Cash WIlcke (IA), 7-6
197: Jacob Warner (IA) dec. Willie Miklus (ISU), 5-4
285: Sam Stoll (IA) dec. Gannon Gremmel (ISU), 5-1
125: Spencer Lee (IA) maj. dec. Alex Mackall (ISU), 13-4
133: Austin Gomez (ISU) dec. Austin DeSanto (IA), 14-9