Iowa wrestling secures second-straight Big Ten tournament team title

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Ia. — The Iowa wrestlers went back-to-back at the Big Ten Championships, for those who didn't get the message.

The Hawkeye wrestlers mathematically clinched their second-straight Big Ten tournament team title during Sunday afternoon's final round. It is the 37th league tournament team title in program history, far and away the most in the conference.

Iowa was the heavy favorite to win this weekend, with seven wrestlers seeded either first or second at their respective weights. The Hawkeyes met those expectations, with six finalists and three more wrestling for third for 139 team points before Sunday's finals.

Collectively, Iowa wrestlers posted a 22-5 overall record during the tournament's first three sessions. That work was enough to lead by as many as 49 points during Saturday night's semifinal session, and to hold off hard-charging Penn State, who entered Day Two trailing by just 15 points. Nebraska was within reach at a distant third place, too.

But the Hawkeyes clamped down with a strong performance on Sunday morning, as Nelson Brands (184), Jacob Warner (197) and Tony Cassioppi (285) all won to advance to their respective third-place matches. Penn State, meanwhile, went 1-3, and managed just 116 team points before the finals. 

At that point, it was a matter of when Iowa would clinch.

In the finals, Spencer Lee pushed the Hawkeyes closer with a 21-3 technical fall over Purdue's Devin Schroder in the finals at 125 pounds. Austin DeSanto's 5-2 loss to Penn State's Roman Bravo-Young delayed the inevitable for another round, then Jaydin Eierman formally clinched it with a 6-5 win over Penn State's Nick Lee at 141.

Iowa finished with 159.5 team points. Below is a weight-by-weight breakdown of their medal matches.

Iowa's Spencer Lee pins Michigan State's Rayvon Foley in the semifinals of the 2021 Big Ten Wrestling Championships at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

125 pounds

FIRST PLACE: Iowa's Spencer Lee tech. fall Purdue's Devin Schroder, 21-3

So Schroder connected on a sweep-single takedown for a 2-0 lead — yes, really — then Lee proceeded to outscore him 21-1. Lee escaped, scored a takedown and two back points. Schroder escaped, then Lee took him down again and scored four back points to lead 11-3 after the first period.

Lee added a takedown and two tilts that netted four back points each to polish off the technical fall in 4 minutes, 30 seconds. He is now a two-time Big Ten champion.

133 pounds

FIRST PLACE: Penn State's Roman Bravo-Young dec. Iowa's Austin DeSanto, 5-2

RBY got the better of ADS in this one, flashing his speed on takedowns in the first and second period. DeSanto got in on one good shot, midway through the third period, but Bravo-Young defended his way to the edge and evaded surrendering a takedown.

It was a good match, and there is a definite gap between RBY and ADS. DeSanto can close it with a little more offensive diversification. We'll see what kind of adjustments he makes before St. Louis.

Iowa's Jaydin Eierman turns Purdue's Parker Filius in a tilt in their quarterfinal matchup during Session I of the 2021 Big Ten Wrestling Championships at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center. Eierman ultimately pinned Filius to advance at 141 pounds.

141 pounds

FIRST PLACE: Iowa's Jaydin Eierman dec. Penn State's Nick Lee, 6-5

Eierman had to gut this one out. Lee scored the first takedown, then Eierman escaped and scored his own takedown and piled up nearly two minutes of riding time by the end of the first period. 

Eierman added an escape in the second period, then Lee scored another takedown in the third period. Eierman escaped, then gave up a stall point that tied it, 5-5, but that riding-time gave Eierman the winning point — and his victory mathematically clinched the team title for the Hawkeyes.

(Max Murin went 0-2 at 149 pounds. He's the only Iowa wrestler that did not make the podium this weekend.)

157 pounds

FIRST PLACE: Northwestern's Ryan Deakin dec. Iowa's Kaleb Young, 6-0

Deakin was in full control here, and captured his second-straight Big Ten title in the process. He converted on a double-leg for a takedown in the first period, then added another in the second for a 5-0 lead. He added another point at the end after accumulating 4:09 of riding time.

It seems like Deakin is just on another level compared to the rest of the field at 157 pounds. He hasn't lost a collegiate folkstyle match in two years. His last loss actually came to Young in the fifth-place match at the 2019 NCAA Championships.

That result seems like forever ago after watching this matchup on Sunday.

165 pounds

FIRST PLACE: Iowa's Alex Marinelli dec. Ohio State's Ethan Smith, 3-2

Workmanlike performance here from Marinelli. He connected on a shot in the second period for a takedown, which ultimately held up as the match-winner. He defended well, especially in the first period, and hand-fought tough.

Marinelli is now a three-time Big Ten champion. He is Iowa's 19th three-time Big Ten champ, and the first since T.J. Williams won his third Big Ten title in 2001.

Iowa's Alex Marinelli controls Michigan's Cam Amine during their semifinal match in Session II of the 2021 Big Ten Wrestling Championships at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

174 pounds

FIRST PLACE: Iowa's Michael Kemerer dec. Penn State's Carter Starocci, 7-2

Very workmanlike effort for Kemerer, who made the finals for the third time but won his first title. He scored a takedown in the first period for a 2-1 lead, then added another in the second and added two back points out of it to break it open.

Kemerer's title gives the Hawkeyes four individual Big Ten champions, a first for the program since 2001, when Jody Strittmatter, Eric Juergens, T.J. Williams and Doug Schwab each won.

Those four guys all won in 2000, too.

184 pounds

THIRD PLACE: Rutgers' John Poznanski dec. Iowa's Nelson Brands, 3-2

Brands caps a strong week with a four-place finish. Poznanski connected for an early takedown off a re-shot, and that was enough to top Brands in the third-place match. Brands ends the week 4-2. He won three-straight in the wrestlebacks to reach the top four.

FIRST PLACE: Penn State's Aaron Brooks dec. Nebraska's Taylor Venz, 10-5

197 pounds

THIRD PLACE: Iowa's Jacob Warner dec. Michigan State's Cam Caffey, 8-3

An excellent, excellent match here from Warner, who finishes third at the Big Ten tournament for the second-straight year. Scored a takedown in the first period, another in the third out of double-overs — which is impressive because Caffey has great hips and has a Greco background — and had more than two minutes of riding time.

FIRST PLACE: Michigan's Myles Amine dec. Nebraska's Eric Shultz, 7-3

285 pounds

THIRD PLACE: Iowa's Tony Cassioppi maj. dec. Penn State's Greg Kerkvliet, 9-0

Very strong finish to a strong tournament for Cassioppi. He finished 4-1 with four bonus-point wins: two pins and two majors. Against Kerkvliet, he scored three total takedowns, and added points for riding time, stalling and an escape for bonus points.

FIRST PLACE: Minnesota's Gable Steveson maj. dec. Michigan's Mason Parris, 12-4

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