Wrestling: At HWC’s Showdown Open, Jaydin Eierman adds signature win ahead of Iowa career

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

CORALVILLE, Ia. — Jaydin Eierman cracked a smile as he nodded his head and flexed his arms. The crowd in front of him was on their feet, washing him with the kind of applause normally reserved for the most memorable Iowa wrestling performances.

Eierman added a signature win to his résumé during the Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s Showdown Open on Sunday night. He beat Olympic champ Vladimer Khinchegashvili, 4-1, in one of the highlight bouts of this freestyle exhibition contest at Xtream Arena.

“Every time I go out there, (Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands) goes, ‘Eierman, pace is Iowa style,’” Eierman said. “I knew I could do it. It was just a matter of doing what I do best.”

Iowa's Jaydin Eierman celebrates his win during the Hawkeye Wrestling Club Showdown Open on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Xtream Arena & GreenState Family Fieldhouse in Coralville, Iowa.

This was a big win for Eierman — not just because of who he beat, but how he beat him.

Khinchegashvili, a native of the country of Georgia, is one of the most decorated freestyle wrestlers of the past decade. He’s a three-time world medalist, including a world title in 2015. He’s a two-time Olympic medalist — silver in 2012, gold in 2016. He just turned 29 years old too.

And Eierman won this match thanks to a pair of takedowns in a 30-second span.

He trailed 1-0 after surrendering a shot-clock point in the first period, but less than 10 seconds into the second, Eierman exploded through Khinchegashvili on a double-leg takedown for a 2-1 lead. After the ref brought them back to their feet, he went to the same shot again for a 4-1 advantage.

He set them both up with head fakes and quick feet, traits that will translate seamlessly to the folkstyle season.

“He blew him off his feet, and then went back to it. That’s great wrestling,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said of Eierman’s performance. “He shut the guy down pretty good. He wrestled a good match.

“This match meant a lot to him.”

The result may also bolster expectations for Eierman this coming season, too.

Eierman announced his transfer to Iowa a year ago this month. While at Missouri, he was a three-time All-American, and made the 2019 U23 men’s freestyle world team. He also owns a win over another Georgian, Beka Lomtadze, a 2016 world silver medalist. 

So the hype was already glowing before he even moved to Iowa City. Since he’s been here, he’s placed fifth at the 2020 Senior men’s freestyle national championships last month, and now owns a win over a past world and Olympic champion. He will be a bonafide national title contender at the 2021 NCAA Championships.

Folkstyle, the discipline contested collegiately, is different from freestyle, of course, and more challenges await Eierman once he and the Hawkeyes officially begin their 2020-21 campaign.

But if Sunday night’s unofficial start to the season was any indication of what the new guy might bring — well, let's just say there was a little more conviction in his voice when he brought up his goals for this year.

“I’m going to help them win a national title this season,” Eierman said.

About that whole freestyle thing …

All 17 matches — nine on the main card, eight on the undercard — were freestyle, the Olympic discipline that closely resembles folkstyle, and perhaps the largest takeaway was that Iowa’s guys have a ways to go when it comes to mastering freestyle.

On the main card, Iowa wrestlers went 2-4 in their matches: Eierman and Spencer Lee both won. That doesn’t count Pat Lugo, a recent Iowa grad who beat Princeton All-American Matthew Kolodzik, 7-2. All three have extensive freestyle experience.

The others ... not as much, at least not recently. And it showed during their matches.

Austin DeSanto fell to two-time NCAA finalist Bryce Meredith, 11-3. DeSanto fired off plenty of shots, but often got caught underneath, which allowed the long-and-lanky (and heavier) Meredith to score on various exposures. He led 9-0 before DeSanto finally finished a shot in the second period.

Michael Kemerer lost to NC State All-American Tommy Gantt, 10-6, in much the same way. Kemerer scored a pair of takedowns to lead 4-2 early in the second, but Gantt stuffed another shot and scored 8-straight points in less than a minute, including six off exposures, to take a commanding 10-4 lead with 38 seconds left in the match.

Iowa's Michael Kemerer, red, works for a takedown against Tommy Gantt during the Hawkeye Wrestling Club Showdown Open on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Xtream Arena & GreenState Family Fieldhouse in Coralville, Iowa.

“It’s a different game,” Brands said. “The positive is, the freestyle game, we’re learning, and that savviness makes us better all around. You have to create scoring opportunities with explosive explosion. That’s what comes to mind.

“Situations where you might feel comfortable, you’re never safe and there can’t be any let-up.”

Alex Marinelli and Tony Cassioppi both struggled in their matches, too, but flashed moments of freestyle toughness. Marinelli lost to two-time world medalist James Green, 5-4, after Green scored a 4-point takedown in the second period. Cassioppi lost by technical fall to Nick Gwiazdowski, another two-time world medalist, after giving up a leg lace in the second period — it was only 2-0, Gwiazdowski, after the first.

The subtle differences between folkstyle and freestyle can make a huge impact in these matches. When DeSanto goes underneath in folkstyle, for example, he’s able to methodically work his way toward the finish. In freestyle, without a quick finish, Meredith racked up exposure points.

Consider Sunday night something of a larger lesson about how big of a difference there is between the two styles.

Iowa's Spencer Lee, red, takes Zach Sanders to his back during the Hawkeye Wrestling Club Showdown Open on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Xtream Arena & GreenState Family Fieldhouse in Coralville, Iowa.

Spencer Lee looked like Spencer Lee

Spencer Lee may not have wrestled much live freestyle — or at all, really — in the recent months leading up to Sunday, but he showed he’s ready for whatever comes his way during the ’20-21 season.

Lee pinned Minnesota graduate Zach Sanders in 74 seconds during the night’s first bout. Lee scored a quick takedown and two gut wrenches to lead 6-0 after just 31 seconds, then hip-tossed Sanders to his back and settled for the fall.

Sanders is no slouch, either, a four-time All-American and, at one point, a regular contender on USA Wrestling’s men’s lightweight freestyle circuit. But it mattered little. Lee blasted through him like a windshield taking out a bug on the highway.

It was a heck of an unofficial beginning to his encore performance after winning the 2020 Hodge Trophy.

“It was nice to get into competition mode and train with the team,” Lee said. “We had a lot of guys competing tonight, so that was a lot of fun. It was a good warmup for the season and to get ready for whatever is next.”

Undercard Surprises

A handful of interesting results highlighted Sunday evening’s undercard.

Max Murin, a two-time NCAA qualifier for Iowa, beat Minnesota graduate Mitch McKee, 4-2. They split their two meetings collegiately last season, and McKee is perhaps better at freestyle than he is folkstyle. But Murin used a pair of takedowns and some heavy hips to evade some of McKee’s freestyle funk. 

“My mindset was to wrestle each position and fight in every position,” Murin said. “It doesn’t matter what position I’m in, if I’m up 9-0 or down 9-0, just wrestle and fight and look to score, and that’s what I did.”

Patrick Kennedy, one of Iowa’s highly-touted true freshman, beat out junior Myles Wilson, 8-5. Wilson actually led 4-1 after a 4-point takedown on the edge in the first period. Kennedy, a Minnesota native, clawed his way back with three takedowns — one before the break, and two more in the second period.

“It feels good to be back on the mat and wrestling hard,” Kennedy said. “Being down early isn’t a big deal for me. It was really early, so I just stayed calm and wrestled in sound positions. I didn’t freak out mentally, which was good.”

Iowa true freshman Patrick Kennedy, red, shoots against Myles Wilson during the Hawkeye Wrestling Club Showdown Open on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Xtream Arena & GreenState Family Fieldhouse in Coralville, Iowa.

Nelson Brands decisively beat Abe Assad, 9-0. Brands looked a little stronger than he did a year ago, competing as an undersized 184-pounder, and used speed and sound technique to score three takedowns against Assad — including one in the second that led to a gut wrench that turned a 3-0 lead into 7-0.

The other results from last year’s starters were somewhat expected: Kaleb Young beat Iowa grad Jeremiah Moody by first-period technical fall, and Jacob Warner beat redshirt freshman Zach Glazier by the same result.

Sunday’s event served as an unofficial beginning to Iowa’s ’20-21 season, and they’re all ready for more.

“This was like a dual,” Warner said. “It was a real match. For us, it was like another dual on a Sunday. But just because I’m training for a match on a Sunday doesn’t mean I’m not working throughout the week.

“There’s a tournament in two weeks in Omaha. We’re getting ready for that, too.”

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

HWC Showdown Open

Main Card Results

  • 59 kg: Spencer Lee pinned Zach Sanders, 1:17 
  • 52 kg: Erin Golston pinned Devyn Gomez, 0:57
  • 141 pounds: Bryce Meredith def. Austin DeSanto, 11-3 
  • 67 kg: Jaydin Eierman def. Vladimer Khinchegashvili, 4-1
  • 153 pounds: Pat Lugo def. Matthew Kolodzik, 7-2 
  • 75 kg: James Green def. Alex Marinelli, 5-4 
  • 170 pounds: Precious Bell def. Jordan Nelson, 9-0 
  • 176 pounds: Tommy Gantt  def. Michael Kemerer, 10-6
  • 125 kg: Nick Gwiazdowski tech. fall Tony Cassioppi, 10-0

Undercard Results

  • Nodir Safarov def. Jesse Ybarra, 12-4
  • Carter Happel def. Justin Stickley, 11-7
  • Cobe Siebrecht tech. fall Leif Schroeder, 10-0 (0:58)
  • Max Murin def. Mitch McKee, 4-2
  • Kaleb Young tech. fall Jeremiah Moody, 11-0 (2:24)
  • Patrick Kennedy def. Myles Wilson, 8-5
  • Nelson Brands dec. Abe Assad, 9-0
  • Jacob Warner tech. fall Zach Glazier, 10-0

*Freestyle wrestling discipline (two 3-minute periods).