Iowa wrestlers earn road wins over Purdue, Ohio State without Kaleb Young, Tom Brands

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

It says a lot about how good this Iowa wrestling team is when two All-Americans aren’t in the lineup, and another sits during one dual in a same-day doubleheader, and the Hawkeyes can still win them both by substantial margins.

Such was the case on Sunday, where top-ranked Iowa beat both Purdue and No. 8 Ohio State at the Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Hawkeyes first beat Purdue, 31-18, then beat the Buckeyes, 33-14.

For the second-straight week, the Hawkeyes — who are now 5-0 this year and have won 18-straight duals — were impacted by COVID-19. Head coach Tom Brands tested positive last week and plans to work remotely through this week. Associate head coach Terry Brands took his place in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Additionally, the program announced before Sunday’s dual that starting 157-pounder Kaleb Young was withheld from competition and is following the COVID-19 protocols. He joins 165-pounder Alex Marinelli, who did not wrestle against Illinois last Sunday because he, too, is following the COVID-19 protocols.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of drama in the fact that Tom Brands has COVID and he was watching this from home,” Tom Brands said afterward via telephone from his home in Iowa City. “Wrestling is wrestling, and what wins big matches wins big matches.

“Number two, you go out, you wrestle, you do your job — and that’s what they did. Not an easy trip. The guys responded well.”

The growing number of COVID-19 issues is not ideal for an Iowa team that’s taking aim at its first NCAA team title in more than a decade. A reckoning likely awaits if those issues continue, but on Sunday, the absences didn’t much matter in the team scores.

The Hawkeyes won 13 of 20 total matches against both Purdue and Ohio State: 6-of-10 against the Boilermakers (2-4), then 7-of-10 against the Buckeyes (4-2). Of those 13 total wins, 10 included bonus-points: 6 pins, 3 technical falls, 1 major decision.

Both Jaydin Eierman (141) and Tony Cassioppi (285) pinned both of their opponents. Cassioppi stuck Ohio State’s 10th-ranked Tate Orndorff, and is now 3-0 with three falls since his loss to Minnesota's top-ranked Gable Steveson. Austin DeSanto (133) recorded two technical falls, outscoring his two opponents by a combined 42-12.

Spencer Lee (125) only wrestled against Ohio State, but recorded his fourth first-period pin of the year over Brady Koontz. Michael Kemerer (174) pinned Purdue freshman Emil Soehnlen. Max Murin (149) added a 19-3 technical fall over Purdue’s Trey Kruse, and Jacob Warner (197) beat Ohio State’s 24th-ranked Chase Singletary by an 11-1 major.

“Credit those guys for knowing that we had a little bit of a deficit with our lineup,” Brands said. “You want your backups to represent a little better, but tell you what, the guys that had to step up, they stepped up.”

Purdue's Parker Filius wrestles Iowa's Jaydin Eierman during a 141 pound bout in a Big Ten Duals wrestling match, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021 at Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette.

It’s a good thing Iowa brought its usual firepower from its usual stars, because, as both final team scores suggest, both Ohio State and Purdue were able to score bonus points as well.

The Boilermakers actually led 5-0, after Devin Schroder’s 18-0 win over Aaron Cashman at 125 pounds, then came within 16-15 after back-to-back bonus-point wins at 157 and 165: Kendall Coleman beat Zach Axmear by 18-6 major decision, then Gerrit Nijenhuis pinned Joe Kelly, respectively. 

Kemerer then pinned Soehnlen in the second period, but Max Lyon defeated Nelson Brands, 6-1, in a battle of former Iowa high school stars at 184 to keep the door open for Purdue. Warner and Cassioppi closed it shut with back-to-back wins to secure the dual.

The Hawkeyes then won the first three matches and the final four to topple the Buckeyes. Lee, DeSanto and Eierman all won to put Iowa up 17-0, but Ohio State came within 17-14 after Sammy Sasso pinned Murin at 149; Elijah Cleary beat true freshman Bretli Reyna, 4-3, at 157; and Ethan Smith beat Axmear, 18-3, at 165.

Kemerer and Brands stopped the bleeding with back-to-back decision wins — Kemerer, ranked No. 1 nationally at 174, beat fourth-ranked Kaleb Romero, 3-1, then Brands topped Rocky Jordan, 3-0, in a battle of young wrestlers with strong lineages — then Warner and Cassioppi iced the dual with two more bonus-point wins.

In addition to an 18-dual winning streak, the Hawkeyes have now won 23-straight against Big Ten opponents. Their next one will be perhaps their biggest test of the 2021 season, a road date with third-ranked Penn State.

And they will do so without their head coach and two All-Americans in the middle of their lineup — a fact Brands acknowledged a challenge they’re prepared to face.

“We’re going to get on a plane and fly into State College,” Brands said. “We’re going to be without 165 and 157, but we still have a 165-pounder and a 157-pounder. We have to keep it going.”

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

Purdue's Parker Filius wrestles Iowa's Jaydin Eierman during a 141 pound bout in a Big Ten Duals wrestling match, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021 at Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette.

No. 1 Iowa 31, Purdue 18

  • 125: No. 11 Devin Schroder (PUR) tech. fall Aaron Cashman (IA), 18-0
  • 133: No. 4 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Jacob Rundell (PUR), 23-8
  • 141: No. 1 Jaydin Eierman (IA) pinned Parker Filius (PUR), 3:46
  • 149: No. 5 Max Murin (IA) tech. fall Trey Kruse (PUR), 19-3
  • 157: No. 7 Kendall Coleman (PUR) maj. dec. Zach Axmear (IA), 18-6
  • 165: Gerrit Nijenhuis (PUR) pinned Joe Kelly (IA), 4:26
  • 174: No. 1 Michael Kemerer (IA) pinned Emil Soehnlen (PUR), 3:59
  • 184: No. 18 Max Lyon (PUR) dec. No. 8 Nelson Brands (IA), 6-1
  • 197: No. 3 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. No. 17 Thomas Penola (PUR), 9-4
  • 285: No. 3 Tony Cassioppi (IA) pinned Dorian Keys (PUR), 2:15

No. 1 Iowa 33, No. 8 Ohio State 14

  • 125: No. 1 Spencer Lee (IA) pinned Brady Koontz (OSU), 1:32
  • 133: No. 4 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Dylan Koontz (OSU), 19-4
  • 141: No. 1 Jaydin Eierman (IA) pinned Anthony Echemendia (OSU), 5:23
  • 149: No. 2 Sammy Sasso (OSU) pinned No. 5 Max Murin (IA), 6:53
  • 157: Elijah Cleary (OSU) dec. Bretli Reyna (IA), 4-3
  • 165: No. 6 Ethan Smith (OSU) tech. fall Zach Axmear (IA), 18-3
  • 174: No. 1 Michael Kemerer (IA) dec. No. 4 Kaleb Romero (OSU), 3-1
  • 184: No. 8 Nelson Brands (IA) dec. No. 17 Rocky Jordan (OSU), 3-0
  • 197: No. 3 Jacob Warner (IA) maj. dec. No. 24 Chase Singletary (OSU), 11-1
  • 285: No. 3 Tony Cassioppi (IA) pinned No. 10 Tate Orndorff (OSU),