LINCOLN, Neb. — The Iowa wrestling team’s schedule doesn’t feature the Big Ten’s heavy hitters this season. But it does include a number of teams that can test these Hawkeyes.
Iowa, ranked third nationally by Trackwrestling, has already faced off against a handful of them. The Hawkeyes squeaked by Iowa State in December, won yet another team title at the Midlands Championships, then muscled out a road win over Minnesota last month.
On Sunday, another test arrived in the form of a road dual against No. 7 Nebraska here at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. And again, the Hawkeyes prevailed, defeating the Huskers 20-13 before 4,306 rowdy wrestling fans. Iowa improves to 11-0 overall and 5-0 against the Big Ten. Nebraska falls to 10-4 and 4-3.
“When you’re in a hole, the crowd can get loud,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “But you just go about your business, no matter what happens.”
The Hawkeyes won six of 10 matches, including four of the final five to win. After starting at 141 pounds, Spencer Lee and Austin DeSanto closed the dual with a major decision and a technical fall, respectively, at 125 and 133 to turn a 13-12 Nebraska lead into the final score.
Lee, after sitting out of last Sunday’s road dual against Northwestern, defeated Zeke Moisey by an 18-4 major decision. The Iowa sophomore allowed a couple of takedowns, but also took Moisey, a past NCAA finalist, to his back in each period and nearly pinned him in the first.
“I just need to keep moving my hands and feet and focus on scoring,” said Lee, who’s ranked second nationally at 125 pounds. “I wrestled timid a little bit. I just have to move my hands and feet and wrestle.
“I just have to learn to keep wrestling, just being mentally tough. I can wrestle from anywhere, and I feel like I can score from anywhere, at any time.”
Iowa led 16-13 at that point. DeSanto put the clamps on the dual with a 25-10 technical fall over Brian Peska, wherein he scored 12 takedowns. On his final takedown, DeSanto picked Peska up and gave a thumbs up toward his teammates and coaches before taking him to the mat. He shushed the Nebraska bench once the referee signaled the match was over. Iowa was docked a team point after the dual for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Prior to Lee and DeSanto clinching the victory, the meet rocked back and forth during the first eight bouts. There were two ties and three lead changes. Seven matches were scoreless after the first period. Before Lee and DeSanto wrestled, Nebraska had actually outscored Iowa in total match points, 31-26, thanks largely to Mikey Labriola’s 14-4 major decision over Keegan Shaw at 174 pounds.
Vince Turk got the nod at 141 and lost to Chad Red, 4-1, in the dual’s opening bout. Pat Lugo then beat Jordan Shearer, 8-4, at 149. Nebraska’s Tyler Berger, ranked second nationally at 157 pounds, beat Kaleb Young, 3-1, in overtime, to give the Huskers a 6-3 lead. Alex Marinelli followed with a 3-0 win over Isaiah White at 165 pounds to tie the dual once more.
There were a couple of upsets. Iowa’s Cash Wilcke, ranked 15th at 184 pounds, beat fourth-ranked Taylor Venz by a 5-2 decision. Two matches later, Nebraska heavyweight David Jensen took out Iowa’s Sam Stoll, 3-0. Jensen rode out Stoll the entire second and third periods.
“It feels great,” said Wilcke, who improved to 14-3 with the win. “I tell myself that I’m a contender and I can beat every guy that’s across the line from me. Today, I proved that.”
On the whole, Iowa collected 16 total takedowns to Nebraska’s 10, and ultimately piled up 69 total match points to Nebraska’s 45. These Huskers came to scrap, but the Hawkeyes punched back, passing yet another regular-season test.
Only a couple more remain — at Wisconsin on Feb. 17, then at Oklahoma State a week later — before the postseason arrives.
Then the fun really begins.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
No. 3 Iowa 20, No. 7 Nebraska 13
141: No. 16 Chad Red (NE) dec. Vince Turk (IA), 4-1
149: No. 10 Pat Lugo (IA) dec. Jordan Shearer (NE), 8-4
157: No. 2 Tyler Berger (NE) dec. No. 7 Kaleb Young (IA), 3-1 (SV1)
165: No. 2 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. No. 6 Isaiah White (NE), 3-0
174: No. 7 Mikey Labriola (NE) maj. dec. Keegan Shaw (IA), 14-4
184: No. 15 Cash Wilcke (IA) dec. No. 4 Taylor Venz (NE), 5-2
197: No. 5 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. No. 10 Eric Schultz (NE), 4-1
285: No. 13 David Jensen (NE) dec. No. 2 Sam Stoll (IA), 4-0
125: No. 2 Spencer Lee (IA) maj. dec. No. 16 Zeke Moisey (NE), 18-4
133: No. 3 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Brian Peska (NE), 25-10*
*Iowa was deducted one team point following the dual.
Rankings from Trackwrestling.