Without Spencer Lee or Kaleb Young, Iowa wrestlers handily defeat Northwestern in Evanston
EVANSTON, Ill. — Moments after Sunday’s dual concluded here at the newly renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena, Spencer Lee was surrounded by wrestling fans young and old. They wanted pictures and autographs and to shake his hand. They wanted a chance to be up close to a wrestling superstar.
The crazy part about the whole thing was that Lee commanded that kind of attention without even wrestling Sunday.
Iowa defeated Northwestern, 32-7, before 1,717 fans. A good majority of them were decked out in black and gold, and they watched the third-ranked Hawkeyes win eight of 10 bouts to improve to 10-0 overall and 5-0 against Big Ten competition. The Wildcats, ranked ninth nationally, fell to 3-7 and 1-4.
But the most noteworthy part of Sunday’s contest was who didn’t wrestle. Lee, Iowa’s second-ranked 125-pounder, and Kaleb Young, ranked fourth at 157 pounds, did not compete. Iowa coach Tom Brands said afterward that it was a “coach’s decision.”
“The best decision for them,” continued Brands, who is now 12-0 all-time against Northwestern. “It was in the plans. It’s something that, as coaches, we’re talking all the time about with these dual meets.
“This is an important time of the year to build and create momentum and put yourself in the best possible position for rankings and those types of things. But it’s also — especially with our wrestling room depth, we have a luxury that maybe some teams don’t have as much.
“It’s very, very important that we do the right thing for our individuals.”
Lee did not weigh in. Young weighed in but sat alongside Lee on the Iowa bench as Perez Perez and Jeren Glosser took the mat instead. Their absence robbed Sunday’s dual of two high-profile bouts between wrestlers ranked in the top four at their respective weights.
Coincidence or not, both Perez and Glosser were Iowa’s only two losses on the day.
Perez squared off with Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera, the nation’s No. 1 125-pounder who beat Lee at the Midlands Championships in December. Perez held Rivera scoreless in the first period and trailed 3-1 entering the third, but Rivera scored two sets of nearfall during a third-period rideout to win 11-1.
Glosser dropped a 6-1 decision to Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin, who’s ranked third nationally and beat Young at the Midlands. Deakin scored takedowns in the first and third periods. Glosser nearly scored a couple of takedowns himself in the final two minutes, but Deakin squirmed out of both situations.
“You know what, we had some guys step in there,” Brands said. “We gave the number three guy in the country everything he could handle with our number two guy. Perez Perez was right there with the number one guy in the country for five minutes. We have to hold up.
“That’s a lesson to everybody in that wrestling room — that you have to hold up when you get that opportunity. You never know what’s going to happen when you stay in there and fight.”
Outside of that, Iowa rolled on Sunday, scoring bonus points in four matches. Both Austin DeSanto (133) and Alex Marinelli (165) defeated their Northwestern opponents by major decision. They combined to score 12 of Iowa’s 20 total takedowns.
At 184 pounds, Cash Wilcke pinned Brendan Devine in one minute, 20 seconds. After a quick takedown, he ran a bar over for his second fall of the season. At heavyweight, Sam Stoll looked like he might pick up Iowa’s second pin, but Conan Jennings yelped during the turn and ultimately injury defaulted.
“I felt like I wrestled pretty good,” said Stoll, who collected two victories over the weekend. “A lot of time on top. Scored a takedown to his back. It went pretty well.
“Good weekend. Two wins. Two bonus points. I would’ve liked to actually gotten the fall in that second one, but the bonus points are still the same. I put up a decent amount of points in that match, so I’m happy with it.”
Without Lee and Young, Keegan Shaw landed in the spotlight. The junior from Southeast Polk wrestled at 174 pounds in both duals this weekend — he wrestled off at 157 pounds back in November. After defeating Illinois’s Nick Gasbarro on Friday, Shaw scored four takedowns to beat 24th-ranked Johnny Sebastian, 11-6, on Sunday.
“I knew right off the whistle when I felt him that he didn’t want to be in that match with me,” said Shaw, who added that he weighed in at 170 on Sunday. “All weekend, I was focused. I knew I was going all week — or at least I had it in my head that I was going all week.
“When the time came, I was ready to step out there, and I think I wrestled pretty well.”
The Hawkeyes have now won 13 in a row against the Wildcats, but Sunday’s dual had the potential to be an exciting one. Instead, it may be remembered for Rivera’s reaction during the intermission.
He had just finished cooling down when a fan called over to him. Rivera smiled and gave a thumbs up. The fan looked over to Lee, then back to Rivera, offering a look that asked, What happened?
Rivera shook his head and shrugged. It was all he or anybody could do.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
No. 3 Iowa 32, No. 9 Northwestern 7
125: No. 1 Sebastian Rivera (NW) maj. dec. Perez Perez (IA), 11-1
133: No. 5 Austin DeSanto (IA) maj. dec. Colin Valdiviez (NW), 18-8
141: No. 13 Max Murin (IA) dec. Alec McKenna (NW), 4-0
149: No. 10 Pat Lugo (IA) dec. Yahya Thomas (NW), 2-1 (TB1)
157: No. 3 Ryan Deakin (NW) dec. Jeren Glosser (IA), 6-1
165: No. 3 Alex Marinelli (IA) maj. dec. Tyler Morland (NW), 12-4
174: Keegan Shaw (IA) dec. No. 24 Johnny Sebastian (NW), 11-6
184: No. 15 Cash Wilcke (IA) over Brendan Devine (NW) by fall, 1:20
197: No. 5 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. Zack Chakonis (NW), 4-2
285: No. 2 Sam Stoll (IA) over No. 9 Conan Jennings (NW), injury default
Rankings from Trackwrestling.