Top-ranked Hawkeye wrestlers wallop Oklahoma State, finish regular season a perfect 13-0

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — One by one, the fans walked through the doors and to their seats, all 13,109 decked out in some blend of black and gold. They came to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to watch the best Iowa wrestling team in a decade close out the 2019-20 regular season in style.

The top-ranked Hawkeyes trounced eighth-ranked Oklahoma State, 34-6, here on Sunday night, marking their largest win over the Cowboys since 1995 (31-3). As such, Iowa caps the regular season with a perfect 13-0 dual record while Oklahoma State finishes 13-3.

“We’re pleased,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “Go Hawks.”

Iowa blew through the Cowboys in much the same way it blew through the rest of the regular season, with a relentless combination of firepower and tenacity, a lethal cocktail that led the Hawkeyes to seven wins over top-10 teams and two more over teams inside the top-20. They left little doubt that they are the team to beat in Division I wrestling this season.

Against an Oklahoma State squad that hopes to contend for a trophy at next month’s NCAA Championships, Iowa won eight of 10 matches and scored bonus in six — four major decisions and a pair of pins. They scored more than twice as many total match points, 79-33, and more than three times as many total takedowns, 22-6.

The eruption began early, as Iowa stormed to a 20-0 lead. Spencer Lee, the nation’s top-ranked 125-pounder, bolstered his case for the Hodge Trophy with a 12-3 major decision over fourth-ranked Nick Piccininni. He led 6-0 early on a takedown and four back points, then added a two-point nearfall, a point for stalling and riding time along the way.

“I have to keep scoring points,” said Lee, who’s now 15-0 this year and has scored bonus in 14 of them. “I have bigger goals than just this match. It was a good win. I’m feeling good about it.

“It’s bonus points, bonus points, bonus points, and then again, bonus points. We have to keep scoring points.”

More bonus points came — and they came in a hurry.

Austin DeSanto followed with a pin over Reece Witcraft at 133, readjusting on the edge for a fall in two minutes, 38 seconds. Max Murin then scored five takedowns in a 15-4 major over Dusty Hone at 141. Pat Lugo followed with a pin over third-ranked Boo Lewallen at 149, using double-underhooks to bring Lewallen to the ground then running him over for the fall in 2:22.

“I felt it and I went for it and got the six points,” said Lugo, who entered ranked fourth nationally by Trackwrestling. “The only thing better would’ve been if I had done it in Stillwater, in front of all of them.

“It was a good night, but the job’s not finished. We’ve got Big Tens and nationals, you know? I want to do the same thing and get my hand raised on that stage.”

That result brought the crowd to fever pitch heard all too often this season.

The Hawkeyes had 10,000-plus fans at all seven home duals this season, totaling 87,979 fans for an average of 12,568 per home dual, all new NCAA single-season records. In its seven duals, Iowa went a combined 56-14 in individual matches and scored bonus in 22. For all 13: 108-22, with 45 bonus-point wins.

“Great schedule, and (the fans) showed up,” Brands said. “They showed up from the get-go. There was 10,000-plus for Chattanooga.”

Oklahoma State took two of the next four — Wyatt Sheets scored two third-period takedowns in a 9-4 win over Kaleb Young at 157 to put the Cowboys on the board, then Anthony Montalvo beat an undersized Nelson Brands, 8-2, at 184 — but the Hawkeyes countered with a pair of major decisions down the stretch, from Michael Kemerer (174) and Tony Cassioppi (285).

Every single fan stood for each performance. They have waited a decade for an Iowa team this good. They have longed to see the black and gold finish on top again. Eight of the last nine years have ended with a blue-and-white-colored March, a run of success that has driven these Hawkeyes.

Iowa's Austin DeSanto wrestles Oklahoma State's Reece Witcraft at 133 pounds during the Hawkeye's last home dual of the season, on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

This year’s team seems poised to reach the top again. The lineup is a fusion of elite talent, both seasoned and youthful — Brands said true freshmen Abe Assad, who has missed the last three duals, didn’t go Sunday for precautionary reasons, and that he will return for the Big Ten Championships in Piscataway, New Jersey, in two weeks.

Those all-important three days in March will come just two weeks after. An undefeated record, a Big Ten regular season title, another Midlands team crown and wins over rivals are nice, but the postseason will reveal how this story ends. Just minutes after Sunday night’s dual ended, Brands’ attention had already shifted.

“We have to get ready to give our fans something to be excited about going into this postseason,” Brands said. “Time to tune these guys in. Put a razor’s edge on them.

“Let’s put some exclamation marks on these next two tournaments.”

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

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No. 1 Iowa 34, No. 8 Oklahoma State 6

  • 125: No. 1 Spencer Lee (IA) maj. dec. No. 4 Nick Piccininni (OSU), 12-3
  • 133: No. 3 Austin DeSanto (IA) over No. 14 Reece Witcraft (OSU) by fall, 2:38
  • 141: No. 4 Max Murin (IA) maj. dec. No. 12 Dusty Hone (OSU), 15-4
  • 149: No. 4 Pat Lugo (IA) over No. 3 Boo Lewallen (OSU) by fall, 2:22
  • 157: No. 19 Wyatt Sheets (OSU) dec. No. 4 Kaleb Young (IA), 9-4
  • 165: No. 2 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. No. 7 Travis Wittlake (OSU), 3-2
  • 174: No. 1 Michael Kemerer (IA) maj. dec. No. 15 Joe Smith (OSU), 12-2
  • 184: No. 14 Anthony Montalvo (OSU) dec. Nelson Brands (IA), 8-2
  • 197: No. 4 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. No. 19 Dakota Geer (OSU), 8-3
  • 285: No. 3 Tony Cassioppi (IA) maj. dec. Austin Harris (OSU), 11-1

Rankings from Trackwrestling.