Wrestling Takeaways: Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi continues his pinning ways at the UNI Open

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

The Iowa wrestling team’s future at heavyweight continues to look bright.

Tony Cassioppi, the Hawkeyes’ true freshman phenom, rolled to first place at the UNI Open on Saturday in Cedar Falls. The Illinois native went 3-0 with three pins that took a combined three minutes, 10 seconds. 

Cassioppi is now 11-0 this season with 10 pins and nine have come in the first period. He’s now won titles at the UNI, Grand View and Lindenwood Opens. His one match that’s actually gone the distance was a 9-1 major decision over Missouri’s Jacob Bohlken at Lindenwood.

Tony Cassioppi stands for a portrait during Iowa wrestling media day Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.

Here’s the wet blanket: Cassioppi hasn’t exactly wrestled the stiffest competition. He owns pins over both Iowa State heavyweights Gannon Gremmel and Ethan Andersen. He’s also pinned South Dakota State’s Blake Wolters, who has limited varsity experience for the Jackrabbits.

At the same time, he’s dominated lower-tier opponents, which is what you want from your presumed future starter at heavyweight. We’ll likely get a better sense of how he stacks up against stronger competition later this month at the Midlands Championships.

Cassioppi joined the program with sky-high expectations. He twice won the Junior Triple Crown — meaning he won a national title in all three wrestling disciplines (folkstyle, freestyle, Greco-Roman) — and won his last 100 matches at Hononegah High School en route to two state titles.

After the first 11 matches of his college career, not much has changed

Iowa's Nelson Brands (left) shakes hands with Alex Marinelli before their match at 165 pounds during the wrestle-offs on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Nelson Brands continues racking up wins

Nelson Brands joined Cassioppi on top of the podium in Cedar Falls.

The fellow true freshman went 5-0 to win at 165 pounds. After a first-round win, he scored back-to-back major decisions over Iowa State wrestlers Tate Battani and Skyler St. John, then advanced to the finals over another Cyclone, Brady Jennings, by medical forfeit. In the finals, Brands scored a reversal in the first tiebreaker to beat Minnesota’s Jake Allar, 3-2. 

Brands is now 13-0 during his redshirt campaign and seven wins have come with bonus points — two pins, two technical falls, three majors. He’s faced some tough competition along the way, including Illinois’s Joey Gunther, a former Hawkeye, and his teammate, Dan Braunagel, who beat Brands, 13-7, at the Junior freestyle national championships last July.

The strides Brands has made since being in the Iowa room have been impressive. His performance at the Midlands will also be telling as he’ll also likely face stiffer competition.

Iowa State Wrestling's David Carr poses for a photo on the team's media day, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, on the Iowa State campus.

David Carr rolls again

Iowa State’s David Carr continued his stellar redshirt campaign with a 5-0 showing en route to first place at 157 pounds.

Carr recorded a first-period pin over Missouri’s Derek McDaniel in round one, then outscored his next four opponents 43-7. During his run, he picked off Northern Iowa’s Cayd Lara by an 18-3 technical fall as well as Brayton Lee, Minnesota’s ballyhooed true freshman, by a 6-0 decision.

The Ohio native could step in and be an immediate upgrade for the Cyclones at 157 pounds this season. Head coach Kevin Dresser has been adamant that Carr will stay in redshirt this season.

The only thing that might change his mind is a stellar showing at the Southern Scuffle in early January.

Hello, Tanner Sloan

Former Alburnett star Tanner Sloan was in action at the UNI Open. Sloan, a two-time Iowa State champion, is in his redshirt year for South Dakota State and he’s looked excellent so far this season.

Sloan went 4-0 and took first at 197 pounds on Saturday in Cedar Falls. He recorded a 63-second pin in the finals, and outscored his other three opponents 35-1. He’s now won titles at the Bison, Buena Vista and UNI Opens with at least eight bonus-point victories to begin his college career.

Tanner Sloan of Alburnett wins the state championship at 195 pounds against Hunter DeJong ofSibley-Ocheyedan Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

Other takeaways/observations

  • Iowa State’s Alex Mackall went 4-0 and won at 125 pounds. He beat Minnesota’s Patrick McKee, 5-1, in the finals.
  • Todd Small, a two-time junior-college national champ who announced his plans to transfer to Iowa State in April, competed as part of the Cyclone Regional Training Center at 133 pounds. He went 3-0 and took first.
  • Northern Iowa’s Josh Alber beat Iowa’s Vince Turk, 4-0, in the finals at 141. In the semifinals, Alber beat Iowa State’s Ryan Leisure, 8-2, and Turk beat Northern Iowa’s Michael Blockhus by a 14-0 major.
  • Iowa State’s Marcus Coleman took first at 174. He went 3-0 and outscored his opponents a combined 51-25, including a 22-10 major decision in the finals over Northern Iowa’s Austin Yant.
  • Iowa State’s Joel Shapiro reached the semifinals at 184. He won his first two matches by a combined 26-13 before falling to Missouri’s Canten Marriott, a returning NCAA qualifier, in the semifinals.

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