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Iowa wrestling moves to 3-0 after bonus points lead to big win over Illinois

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Another fast start turned into another lopsided win for the Iowa wrestling team.

The top-ranked Hawkeyes beat 13th-ranked Illinois, 36-6, inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday afternoon. Iowa ultimately won eight of 10 matches to improve to 3-0 overall this season, while the Fighting Illini fell to 4-1.

"It wasn't easy out there today," Iowa coach Tom Brands said, "but it looked easy."

Sunday was supposed to be a fun opportunity for the Hawkeyes. They were expecting No. 2 Michigan to join Illinois as part of a previously scheduled triangular. But the Michigan Department of Public Health and Human Services forced Michigan’s entire athletic department to pause for two weeks due to issues related to COVID-19.

What’s more, Iowa was also touched by COVID-19 ahead of Sunday’s dual: Alex Marinelli, the Hawkeyes’ two-time All-American and two-time Big Ten champion, was held out of competition due to the Big Ten's COVID-19 protocols. No more details were given. Joe Kelly took his spot at 165 pounds, and lost to Illinois’ Luke Odom, 10-6.

"He’s with us in spirit," Brands said. "We had Joe Kelly fill in, and that’s what we do — next guy in. You look at the 17-day protocol and all that, all of you people at home can look at a calendar and I don’t need to tell you when he’s going to be back.

"We’re looking forward to having him back, for sure."

► More:Inside the evolution of Iowa wrestler Nelson Brands

So Sunday’s competition might be remembered more by who wasn’t at Carver-Hawkeye Arena than who was — because the Hawkeyes rolled with the same businesslike attitude that’s fueled their current streak of 16-straight dual victories. They blew Illinois away in total takedowns (23-5) and total match points (71-29).

Iowa’s eight individual victories included six bonus-point wins, three of which were pins. At 125 pounds, Spencer Lee recorded his third first-period pin of the year, this time over Justin Cardani. At 141, Jaydin Eierman scored another over Dylan Duncan. Tony Cassioppi closed with a second-period fall over Luke Luffman at heavyweight via cradle.

"I wanted to run him straight over, but I ended up on my hip," Cassioppi said afterward. "I've always felt more comfortable there, so I hooked his foot, went to my hip and got that fall."

After Lee, Austin DeSanto scored six takedowns in an 18-6 win over Lucas Byrd at 133 pounds. After Eierman, Max Murin scored a third-period takedown to beat Michael Carr, 3-1, at 149. Kaleb Young closed the first half of the dual with five more takedowns in a 13-4 win over Johnny Mologousis at 157.

"We're definitely familiar with each other, so that makes it a little harder, but that's no excuse," said Murin, who is now 4-1 against Carr all-time. "I need to score more points. I don't think one takedown is going to do it at the end of the year."

Those first five victories put Iowa up 23-0 at the break. The Hawkeyes have won the first five matches in all three duals so far this season — they led 21-0 after five against Nebraska (and won 31-6), then 21-0 again over Minnesota (and won 35-4).

Those five wrestlers — Lee, DeSanto, Eierman, Murin and Young — are a combined 15-0 with 10 bonus-point wins so far: four pins, four major decisions and two technical falls. They have combined to score 51 takedowns and have allowed just one (Nebraska's Chad Red scored against Eierman in the season-opener).

"You feel that all the way down the lineup," Brands said. "The thing you cannot coach against is pace and energy. If you watch Spencer Lee, there's your example on how to handle anyone who tries to keep it close.

"DeSanto is his own man — he definitely thrives off Spencer, but he's got a motor, as well. Eierman has a funky style and likes to score a lot of points."

Michael Kemerer (174) added a 10-2 major decision over D.J. Shannon at 174 pounds following Kelly’s loss. Before Cassioppi’s pin, Jacob Warner scored a 4-0 win over Matt Wroblewski at 197. Iowa’s only other loss came at 184 pounds, where Nelson Brands dropped a 3-1 overtime decision to Zach Braunagel.

The Hawkeyes have won 25 of 30 individual matches in their three dual victories so far, with 15 bonus-point wins: 5 pins, 2 technical falls, 8 major decisions. Up next, a Super Bowl Sunday triangular against No. 18 Purdue and No. 6 Ohio State in West Lafayette.

"We're going to keep ironing things out," Brands said. "We have to be ready to be rock solid."

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

Iowa's Tony Cassioppi, middle, celebrates with teammates Max Murin, left, and Spencer Lee after scoring a fall at 285 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual against the Illinois Fighting Illini, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

No. 1 Iowa 36, No. 13 Illinois 6

125: No. 1 Spencer Lee (IA) pinned No. 13 Justin Cardani (Ill), 2:27

133: No. 4 Austin DeSanto (IA) maj. dec. No. 23 Lucas Byrd (Ill), 18-6

141: No. 1 Jaydin Eierman (IA) pinned No. 13 Dylan Duncan (Ill), 6:08

149: No. 5 Max Murin (IA) dec. No. 8 Michael Carr (Ill), 3-1

157: No. 6 Kaleb Young (IA) maj. dec. Johnny Mologousis (Ill), 13-4

165: Luke Odom (Ill) dec. Joe Kelly (IA), 10-6

174: No. 1 Michael Kemerer (IA) maj. dec. D.J. Shannon (Ill), 10-2

184: No. 11 Zach Braunagel (Ill) dec. No. 6 Nelson Brands (IA), 3-1 (SV1)

197: No. 3 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. No. 24 Matt Wroblewski (Ill), 4-0

285: No. 3 Tony Cassioppi (IA) pinned No. 5 Luke Luffman (Ill), 3:30

Extra Matches

  • 133: Cullan Schriever (IA) maj. dec. We Rachal (Ill) 22-9
  • 149: Christian Kanzler (Ill) dec. Cobe Siebrecht (IA), 5-4
  • 174: Patrick Kennedy (IA) dec. Trey Sizemore (Ill), 8-3
  • 197: Isiah Pettigrew (Ill) dec. Connor Corbin (IA), 3-2