Wrestling: Instant reaction from the Hawkeye Wrestling Club's Showdown Open at Xtream Arena
CORALVILLE, Ia. — The Iowa wrestling team was back in action on Sunday, finally and again.
It had been 238 days since the Hawkeyes last competed collectively. That was back on Day Two of the 2020 Big Ten Championships at the Rutgers Athletic Complex in March. The novel coronavirus pandemic wiped out the NCAA Championships the following week.
On Sunday, a handful of Iowa wrestlers were back on the mat for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club's Showdown Open here at Xtream Arena. It was a 17-match freestyle exhibition that featured plenty of high-level wrestling.
The 8-match undercard featured many Iowa wrestlers — true freshmen, seasoned veterans, others expected to contend for starting spots, and more. The main card brought nine more bouts showcasing some of the best Hawkeye wrestlers against various opponents from across the country and, in one case, even around the world.
Here's a match-by-match breakdown of both cards:
1. Spencer Lee over Zach Sanders by fall, 1:13
Spencer looked scary good here. Quickly scored off a head-outside shot and added two quick gut wrenches for a 6-0 lead. On the restart, Spencer takes Sanders feet-to-back and settles in for the first-period fall.
Sanders is a grizzled veteran and maybe a step slower than he was in his prime, but man, Spencer deserves some kudos for just coming out and not making this close at all.
2. Erin Golston over Devyn Gomez by fall, :57
Golston was supposed to wrestle world silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt, but Hildebrandt was a last-minute scratch because of health concerns (she was in the hospital last night and wasn't in physical condition to compete). As such, Devyn Gomez, a true freshman at Life University, stepped in at the 11th hour to compete. Which was cool!
Golston, a multiple-time age-level world medalist, made this one quick. Give Gomez some credit for stepping in to compete, but Golston is a buzzsaw.
3. Bryce Meredith over Austin DeSanto, 11-3
This was an experienced freestyle wrestler beating a not-as-experienced freestyle wrestler. DeSanto fired off shots, per usual, but he got caught underneath, and Meredith feasted by scoring exposures from that position.
This was mostly an experience thing, and DeSanto has some freestyle subtleties he will need to work on if he wants to make the full transition once his folkstyle career is done. But those scrambles would've been very fun to watch in a folkstyle match.
4. Jaydin Eierman over Vladimer Khinchegashvili, 4-1
Eierman pumped some major juice into this crowd in this one. He trailed 1-0 after the first period, then scored two quick takedowns early in the second period to take out a two-time Olympic medalist — silver in 2012, gold in 2016.
Eierman's second takedown was a beautifully-executed low-level shot where he just corralled Khinchegashvili's ankles and yanked them in for two. He held center well and defended Khinchegasgvili's last-gasp attempts as the second wore on.
That's a huge win for Eierman — for both who he beat, and how he beat him.
5. Pat Lugo over Matthew Kolodzik, 7-2
Strong performance from Lugo, who continues to show his style will translate well to the sport's freestyle side. He led 3-0 after one thanks to a pair of step-out points and another via the shot clock, then scored two takedowns in the second to seize control.
Lugo did a good job working his underhook throughout the match. He looked physically strong, moving Kolodzik around the mat at times. Kolodzik kept coming with shots, and scored on one, but Lugo was ready for the others. Solid showing all around.
6. Precious Bell over Jordan Nelson, 9-0
Very workmanlike performance in the second women's bout. Bell, a past Final X participant, showed why she's always near the top of the women's freestyle ladder, scoring four total takedowns and adding another point on a step-out.
Bell's length creates all sorts of problems for her opponents. She can shoot from space a little bit and pull in her opponent's legs, and it helps defensively, too, on chest wraps and fending off shots. All of that was on display here. Solid match.
7. James Green over Alex Marinelli, 5-4
Green won this one on a 4-point takedown in the second. He level-changed and drove Marinelli all the way across the mat and then off the mat and put him on his hip. The refs awarded him four, and it was upheld after Iowa coach Tom Brands challenged the call, putting Marinelli in a 5-1 hole with about two minutes left.
Marinelli hit a slick duck-under to come back within 5-3, but couldn't really get to any of his shots. Green did a good job defending — and yes, he cleared ties and backed away a lot, because that's where Marnielli likes to be, of course.
8. Tommy Gantt over Michael Kemerer, 10-6
More freestyle savvy on display here from Gantt. Kemerer went up 4-2 after a takedown in the second, then got caught underneath another shot and Gantt turned it into a 6-point sprint thanks to some tilts and exposures. He added another takedown to lead 10-4 with about 30 seconds left.
Kemerer got one back, and generally looked good on his feet, but the subtleties that help guys transition fully from folkstyle to freestyle take practice.
9. Nick Gwiazdowski tech. fall Tony Cassioppi, 10-0
Cassioppi had some solid moments in that first period. Gwiazdowski scored a takedown in the first period, and nearly had another exposure/takedown/point-scoring moment before the break, but Cassioppi fought it off well. His footwork was nice at times, too.
But there's a reason Gwiazdowski is a two-time world medalist. He added another takedown early in the second and locked up a lace to end the match less than a minute into the second period.
1. Nodir Safarov over Jesse Ybarra, 12-4
Pretty exciting opener. Ybarra scored first, but then Nodir flexed his freestyle chops. He scored a takedown and a couple of exposures to lead 6-4 after the first period, then went takedown to a couple of gut wrenches in the second period to take control in the second period.
Nodir's good, you guys. He competed at the 2018 Senior men's freestyle world championships for Uzbekistan. Fun opportunity for Ybarra, one of the many true freshmen competing Sunday.
2. Carter Happel over Justin Stickley, 11-7
Good back-and-forth here. Stickley scored three-straight takedowns between the first and second for a 6-2 lead. Happel tied it with two takedowns, then led 10-6 on a big four-point takedown.
Stickley almost countered with a four-pointer of his own near the edge, but after a referee conference, Happel was awarded a point on a step-out. Good action in that one. May not have been as high-scoring if it had been folkstyle.
3. Cobe Siebrecht tech. fall Leif Schroeder, 10-0
Leif Schroeder, a true freshman from Bozeman, Montana, takes the place of Bretli Reyna here. It mattered. Siebrecht, a Lisbon native and redshirt freshman, scored a takedown and four quick gut wrenches to win by technical fall in 58 seconds.
4. Max Murin over Mitch McKee, 4-2
These two always bring the heat, and this match was no different, despite just six points scored. Murin led 2-0 at the break off a slick takedown, then McKee led 2-2 on criteria after a period at the top of the second. Murin then scored an exposure to win it. McKee is a tough freestyle guy, too, and Murin did a good job sinking his hips on his shots to avoid any rolls and exposures, which is what McKee is known for in freestyle.
5. Kaleb Young tech. fall Jeremiah Moody, 11-0
Young looked real tough in this one, especially from a freestyle perspective. He led 6-0 quickly on a takedown and two gut wrenches. He went for a body-lock that led to a step out, then scored another takedown and two quick guts to end this one in 2:24. Particularly impressive because of Moody's
6. Patrick Kennedy over Myles Wilson, 8-5
Kennedy, another true freshman, looked real good here. Wilson led 4-1 early after a nifty 4-point takedown on the edge in the first period, but Kennedy came right back with a takedown before the break, then scored two more in the second period to seize control. He did a good job controlling the center and hand-fought really well. Kennedy didn't look terribly undersized, but Wilson definitely had some weight (and height) on him.
7. Nelson Brands over Abe Assad, 9-0
This was maybe the biggest surprise of the entire undercard.
Brands, noticeably a little stronger, used a combination of speed and sound technique to score three takedowns here. He scored one in the first for a 3-0 lead at the break, then went takedown to a gut wrench to break in the second to break it open. Assad couldn't really get anything going, and definitely slowed down some after Brands' takedown-to-gut in the second.
8. Jacob Warner tech. fall Zach Glazier, 10-0
Workmanlike performance from Warner, who also looked a little stronger and was quite bigger than Glazier. Warner scored a quick takedown and went right into four-straight gut wrenches for the technical fall in just 96 seconds.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.