Over the last 10 days, the Iowa wrestling program entered a lighter portion of its schedule.
Last Friday, Feb. 8, the Hawkeyes, ranked third nationally by Trackwrestling, trounced Maryland, 48-0, at home, marking their second shutout victory of the season. Two days ago, Iowa blew through Indiana, 37-9, to end the regular season home slate with a perfect 7-0 record.
The dominance continued Sunday at the UW Field House in Madison, Wisconsin, where the Hawkeyes flexed again in a 35-2 win over the Badgers. Iowa improves to 14-0 with the win and finished its conference slate a perfect 9-0.
In doing so, the Hawkeyes clinched a share of the Big Ten regular-season title (top-ranked Penn State beat No. 19 Illinois on Sunday to also finish 9-0). It is the 11th time Iowa has won or shared the conference crown since 1999. It also marks the eighth time under head coach Tom Brands that Iowa has posted an undefeated conference season, and the first time since 2015-16.
There’s still one dual left — the Hawkeyes wrestle at No. 4 Oklahoma State next Sunday at 2 p.m. — but if Iowa competes like it did Sunday, the Cowboys will be in for a handful.
“There’s some good things that happened,” Brands said. “… Happy is a funny word with me. What’s happy? It’s about waking up every morning and doing what you need to do to be the best you can be.”
The Hawkeyes took nine of 10 bouts from Wisconsin (8-6 overall, 3-6 in Big Ten), and six resulted included bonus points. Iowa accumulated more total match points (94-31) and more total takedowns (33-2) than their Badger counterparts.
There is a wet blanket, of course: Wisconsin, ranked 20th nationally by Track thanks to seven ranked individuals, sat three of their better wrestlers. Connor Brown (15th at 125 pounds), Tristan Moran (9th at 141) and Ryan Christensen (18th at 174) did not compete Sunday, allowing the Hawkeyes to roll up more bonus points.
Instead of Brown, Ethan Rotondo took the mat at 125, and Spencer Lee pinned him in 56 seconds.
Instead of Moran, it was Jens Lantz, who wrestled Vince Turk instead of 12th-ranked Max Murin, who lost by fall against Indiana’s Kyle Luigs on Friday. Turk scored two takedowns and a set of backs to win 11-1.
Instead of Christensen, it was Anders Lantz, who did not score a single offensive point against Mitch Bowman. The Iowa senior rolled up 11 takedowns and a four-point tilt to win by a 27-9 technical fall.
“Those matches were well in hand and we wrestled well,” Brands said. “We have to keep getting better. Our best wrestling is ahead of us, but our best wrestling is coming out of us, also.”
The dual did carry a few thrilling matches, none more so than Alex Marinelli’s bout against Evan Wick at 165. A takedown in the first gave Marinelli a 2-1 lead. Wick rode out Marinelli in the second to help secure riding time, then added a takedown in the third. Marinelli scored a reversal to force overtime, where he then scored the match-winning takedown to win, 6-4.
“Alex Marinelli delivering in a big match,” Brands said. “He had his wits about him. He knew exactly what he was doing in that match. When you get in those situations, you have to know exactly what you’re doing.”
After the match, Marinelli walked over and tapped the “bELIeve” that was printed on the side of Wisconsin’s wrestling mat. Prior to the dual, Wisconsin honored Eli Stickley, a former Badger wrestler who died last summer. Stickley is the twin brother of Iowa wrestling manager Moriah Stickley, who is Marinelli’s fiance. Eli Stickley had a tremendous impact on Marinelli’s life.
“I’m getting kind of emotional,” Marinelli said afterward. “I dreamed about that. I told Paul Glynn after the match that I dreamed about hitting that, and it means a lot that they honored him.
“He probably doesn’t want that. I know Eli is a humble guy. He’d ask, ‘Why is that on the mat?’ But he deserves it. It’s a good thing.”
At 149 pounds, Pat Lugo, ranked 10th nationally by Track, also needed a takedown in sudden victory to edge 19th-ranked Cole Martin, 3-1. At 184, 18th-ranked Mason Reinhardt scored a first-period takedown on 15th-ranked Cash Wilcke for a 2-1 lead, then Wilcke scored two in the third to win, 6-5.
“Overtime match with Lugo, that was big,” Brands said. “Wilcke, digging himself out of a hole. He was a little stagnant. Maybe slow, maybe a funk in him or something. He got going, though, and when he gets going, he’s pretty good.”
The heavyweight match between Iowa’s 5th-ranked Sam Stoll and Wisconsin’s 9th-ranked Trent Hillger was the only match to go the Badgers’ way — Hillger rode Stoll out in the third to win, 1-0. Extra curriculars following the match caused both teams to lose a point.
Everybody else contributed victories of the major-decision variety. Austin DeSanto scored seven takedowns in a 21-8 win over Jens Lantz at 133. Kaleb Young scored four and racked up almost five minutes of riding time in an 11-2 win over Garrett model. Jacob Warner scored three and rode Beau Breske for more than three minutes in a 9-0 win.
Afterward, both Brands and Marinelli were thinking bigger. They wanted to shut Wisconsin out, but were mostly pleased with the overall effort. A tie for the conference championship is nice, they continued, but bigger goals remain.
“There’s still a lot of wrestling left,” Marinelli said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
No. 3 Iowa 35, No. 20 Wisconsin 2
125: No. 2 Spencer Lee (IA) over Ethan Rotondo (WI) by fall, :56
133: No. 3 Austin DeSanto (IA) maj. dec. Jens Lantz (WI), 21-8
141: Vince Turk (IA) maj. dec. Michael Cullen (WI), 11-1
149: No. 10 Pat Lugo (IA) dec. No. 19 Cole Martin (WI) 3-1 (SV1)
157: No. 7 Kaleb Young (IA) maj. dec. Garrett Model (WI), 11-2
165: No. 2 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. No. 3 Evan Wick (WI), 6-4 (SV1)
174: Mitch Bowman (IA) tech. fall Anders Lantz (WI), 27-9
184: No. 15 Cash Wilcke (IA) dec. No. 18 Mason Reinhardt (WI), 6-5
197: No. 4 Jacob Warner (IA) maj. dec. Beau Breske (WI), 9-0
285: No. 9 Trent Hillger (WI) dec. No. 5 Sam Stoll (IA), 1-0*
*both teams were deducted one team point following the 285-pound match.
Rankings from Trackwrestling.