Wrestling: Austin DeSanto notches huge win as Iowa rolls over Rutgers

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The match was over for seven, maybe eight seconds, and Austin DeSanto had his hands in the air, basking in the applause from the 8,500 screaming fans. The sophomore transferred to Iowa for moments like this, to wrestle matches like this, to win matches like this.

“That was pretty cool,” he said afterward.

Alongside him was Iowa coach Tom Brands, who pulled him toward the crowd and away from Rutgers’ Nick Suriano. DeSanto screamed in Suriano’s face after scoring the match-winning takedown with less than two seconds left. Brands ran out to grab him. “Relax,” he told him. “Relax.”

Iowa's Austin DeSanto celebrates after scoring a decision over Rutgers' Nick Suriano at 133 during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

No. 3 Iowa defeated No. 13 Rutgers, 30-6, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night. The Hawkeyes took eight of 10 matches and scored bonus in three to improve to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten competition. The Scarlet Knights fell to 7-4 and 1-2.

It was a workmanlike outing from Iowa on this night. Spencer Lee (125) and Alex Marinelli (165) both scored pins. At 197 pounds, Jacob Warner defeated Matthew Correnti, 6-0, thanks to a four-point tilt during a third-period rideout. Sam Stoll closed the dual with a major decision win at heavyweight. Rutgers received wins from Anthony Ashnault (149) and Joseph Grello (174).

“Suriano and Ashnault have been tough wrestlers for a long, long time,” Brands said. “We know what we got when we’re wrestling those guys. Those were two matches that, for this guy, you’re really gearing up for.”

The night belonged to DeSanto, Iowa’s mercurial 133-pounder who’s ranked eighth in the country by Trackwrestling. He defeated the third-ranked Suriano, 6-4, in the dual’s marquee matchup. Suriano, a returning NCAA finalist, took the lead on a second-period takedown and accrued 70 seconds of riding time with a minute left in the third.

But in order to do so, Suriano gave up a pair of stalling calls in the final period. DeSanto added an escape to lead 4-3. Suriano’s riding time would have forced overtime, but DeSanto scored a takedown on the edge with 1.5 seconds remaining to secure the biggest win of his career so far.

“I got to my tie,” said DeSanto, who improved to 12-1 overall with the win. “He was blocking off with his fingers a little bit. We were going at it. Once I kept getting to that tie, I hit it. Kind of surprised myself a little bit. I need to fire more shots off and do a lot more things."

“But I cut that corner. I’ve been really working on that finish.”

Iowa's Austin DeSanto, top, scores a takedown on Rutgers' Nick Suriano at 133 during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Once the ref called time, DeSanto stood up and screamed in Suriano’s face, an act that cost Iowa a team point. It is the second straight dual that DeSanto has been called for an unsportsmanlike call. He was hit for one last Sunday when he defeated Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” DeSanto said. “It’s something we’ve been working on with Tom and (associate head coach Terry Brands). I just have to stay calmer. I’m calm in the match. I have to stay calmer until I get off the mat.

“Even in the locker room, I have to stay calm and keep those emotions in check … I have fight in me, but I don’t need to scream in his face. I don’t need to do that. That’s not cool.”

Brands jumped out of his chair to grab DeSanto and pulled him toward the Iowa bench, where assistant coach Bobby Telford pointed to his own temples. The crowd was in full throat. Brands talked to him before DeSanto walked back to shake hands with Suriano. He said afterward that he and the rest of the coaching staff have worked with DeSanto on containing his emotions.

“What happened out there in that match cannot happen,” Brands said. “We’re in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and it’s dual season, but when tournament time comes around, there are referees that will throw him out. We have to stress the importance of that and his sportsmanship.

“I told him that can’t happen. We’re working on that. He’s an emotional guy. Sometimes emotional people can’t help what goes on out there. I’m not making excuses for him, but sometimes, you can’t help it, for whatever reason. We’re going to keep working through it.”

Iowa's Austin DeSanto, left, gets held back by Iowa head coach Tom Brands after DeSanto scored a takedown to win a decision over Rutgers' Nick Suriano at 133 during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

This was the part of DeSanto that Brands knew he’d have to iron out when Iowa recruited him in the offseason. DeSanto created a stir in his quarterfinal match against Michigan’s Stevan Micic at the NCAA Championships. At the end of a 13-1 Micic victory, DeSanto cartwheeled into an illegal armbar that gained negative attention in wrestling communities.

But the coaching staff asked DeSanto about it during the recruiting process and felt confident enough in their abilities that it wouldn’t be an issue when it matters most. The rest of the team embraced DeSanto almost immediately.

“He’ll be like, ‘Can I beat this guy?’” said Lee, who was crucial in recruiting DeSanto to Iowa, “And we’ll say, ‘Austin, you can beat anybody on any given day. We believe in you with all our heart.’ He gets all fired up, but then he goes out and he’s got to wrestle his match. He’s wrestling his match and he wins and it’s like his mind goes, ‘I did it!’ The emotions just take over.

“I know a lot of people are giving him some negative attention because of his last two matches, but we’re working on it because we love him and he believes in us.”

Friday’s victory elevated DeSanto firmly into the All-American conversation. He proved that his high pace continues to be perhaps his most-effective asset in his still-growing wrestling repertoire. During the second half of the dual, a young fan came to media row and asked for a pen, then took it to DeSanto and asked for his autograph.

DeSanto smiled. This is why he transferred to Iowa, for moments like this in front of a crowd like this, glow sticks and all. And it’s why Brands and Co. brought him here — to win matches like this.

“We have to keep getting better and go on,” Brands said, “but we served a little notice tonight. The cat’s out of the bag.”

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

No. 3 Iowa 30, No. 13 Rutgers 6

125: No. 2 Spencer Lee (IA) over Nick Denora (RU) by fall, 0:38
133: No. 8 Austin DeSanto (IA) dec. No. 3 Nick Suriano (RU), 6-4*
141: No. 13 Max Murin (IA) dec. Peter Lipari (RU), 8-4
149: No. 2 Anthony Ashnault (RU) dec. No. 10 Pat Lugo (IA), 3-1 (SV1)
157: No. 4 Kaleb Young (IA) dec. No. 15 John Van Brill (RU), 5-2
165: No. 3 Alex Marinelli (IA) over Anthony Oliveri (RU) by fall, 2:17
174: Joseph Grello (RU) dec. Mitch Bowman (IA), 6-3
184: No. 15 Cash Wilcke (IA) dec. Willie Scott (RU), 6-1
197: No. 5 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. Matthew Correnti (RU), 6-0
285: No. 2 Sam Stoll (IA) maj. dec. Christian Colucci (RU), 10-0
Rankings from Trackwrestling.
*Iowa was deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct following 133-pound match.