Iowa wrestling's Abe Assad, Alex Marinelli, Patrick Kennedy impress in intrasquad matches

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — Abe Assad wrestled a real, live, competitive wrestling match on Friday afternoon. It was a first-time-in-a-long-time kind of thing, and, all told, he looked really good.

OK, it was only the Iowa wrestling program's intrasquad matches, which took place Thursday and Friday inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. And his particular match came against a teammate who has yet to wrestle a full season at the Division I level.

But, hey, it was nice to see Assad, the talented sophomore 184-pounder, back in action, even in a somewhat-controlled environment. He won his match, 14-2, over Brennan Swafford, a two-time NAIA champ for Graceland who transferred to Iowa this offseason.

Swafford is no slouch, having gone 76-13 in three seasons at Graceland. He won his NAIA titles at 165 and 174 pounds. But he, too, looked good on Thursday, when he pinned freshman Andy Simaz in the first set of instrasquad matches this week.

But Assad showed there's a gap between him and the new guy, at least on this day. Assad scored five takedowns — two in the first, two in the second, another in the third — and added points on two escapes, riding-time and two stall calls on Swafford. It was a solid performance after he missed all of last season due to a couple of injuries.

These weren't wrestle-offs, and even if they were, we know Iowa coach Tom Brands well enough to know these results won't mean a whole lot once the Hawkeyes kick off their season. He prefers to see his wrestlers do well in competition. That's how Assad earned the starting spot during the 2019-20 season, after all.

But in a one-off match, where everybody weighed in and prepared as if it were the real thing, Assad took the mat against another high-level wrestler and put forth a performance that should inspire confidence as Iowa enters the '21-22 season.

Alex Marinelli returned and won twice

The last time we saw Alex Marinelli, he limped off the floor inside the Enterprise Center in St. Louis after losing in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships. He medically forfeited out of the tournament because of a separated rib.

This week, Marinelli wrestled twice during Iowa's intrasquad matches. He won them both — a first-period pin over Jack McClimon on Thursday, then a 13-6 win over Joe Kelly on Friday.

In typical Marinelli fashion, he dictated the pace throughout both matches, totaling seven takedowns between them. He led McClimon 6-1 when he ran a bar for the pin in 1 minute, 50 seconds, then scored five takedowns against a very game Joe Kelly — who scored a slick takedown of his own off of Marinelli's pressure in the first period.

Again, this was another first-time-in-a-long-time kind of thing. It will be easy to compare and contrast these results with freshman Patrick Kennedy, who wrestled the same two guys this week and dominated: 21-3 over Kelly, and a first-period pin over McClimon.

But remember: Marinelli didn't get the same offseason training Kennedy got. Separated ribs take anywhere from 2-3 months to heal. The pain is ridiculous. Brands once said it's like “somebody shoved a spear in your lung, and you can’t breathe.”

So, yes, Kennedy looked great, outscoring both Kelly and McClimon a combined 31-5. He said he plans to wrestle 165 pounds this season. Iowa's future at that weight is in good hands. But so is the present, with Marinelli back in action this week. 

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Iowa's Alex Marinelli warms up before a NCAA Hawkeyes men's wrestling intrasquad match, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, at the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Business as usual for Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto, Jaydin Eierman

Iowa's lightweight trio — Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto, Jaydin Eierman — looked every bit as dangerous on Friday as they did a year ago.

All three guys wrestled just one match this week, but all three scored bonus points over their teammates: Lee pinned Jesse Ybarra in the first period, Eierman pinned Wyatt Henson in almost the exact same time, and DeSanto topped Cullan Schriever, 12-4.

Lee looked as good as ever in his win over Ybarra, the talented freshman from Arizona. Ybarra tried to wrestle Lee from space, but Lee stalked him for a takedown, loaded up a couple of tilts for a 10-0 lead, then secured the fall in 1:46. His knees were not an issue.

Eierman arm-dragged his way to a takedown against Henson, another talented freshman who won state titles in both Missouri and Pennsylvania before joining the program. Henson actually beat Drew Bennett, 3-1, on Thursday to advance to Friday's match. After the takedown, Eierman locked up a cradle for the fall in 1:43.

DeSanto's match against Schriever was perhaps the most intriguing. Schriever had a strong spring and summer, finishing fourth at both the Junior and U23 world team trials. But DeSanto showed there's a gap between those performances and being a two-time All-American. He rolled up five takedowns, including three in the first, to win by major.

Lee, DeSanto and Eierman combined to go 36-3 last season with 28 bonus-point wins. Again, these were just intrasquad matches, but they looked every bit the part again on Friday afternoon.

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Iowa's Spencer Lee carries his headgear and a brace during a NCAA Hawkeyes men's wrestling practice, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, at the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Other notes and thoughts …

Kaleb Young put on a takedown clinic in an 18-6 major decision victory over Sebastian Robles. He scored three in the first period for a 6-2 lead, three more in the second to go up 13-4, then two more in the third. Robles is another freshman from Arizona, but Young looked quick on his attacks and finishes, and applied pressure all seven minutes.

Jacob Warner scored two takedowns in a 6-2 win over Zach Glazier, one quickly in the first, then another in the third on the edge as time expired, plus another point for riding-time. Glazier made the finals of the Junior world team trials in the spring, but Warner's heavy pressure and heavier hands made it hard for Glazier to set up his offense.

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Bretli Reyna defeated Caleb Rathjen, 7-3, in an all-freshman battle on Thursday. Reyna, who had a little bit of size and strength on Rathjen, scored three total takedowns, one in each period.  

Ybarra bounced back from his loss against Lee with a 5-3 win over Charles Matthews in the final match of the week. Ybarra can be very quick and efficient when he commits to his attacks, and showed it in his two takedowns against Matthews, one in the first period, another in the second. 

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

Iowa Wrestling Intrasquad Matches

Day One

  • Wyatt Henson dec. Drew Bennett, 3-1
  • Bretli Reyna dec. Caleb Rathjen, 7-3
  • Patrick Kennedy tech. fall Joe Kelly, 21-3
  • Alex Marinelli pinned Jack McClimon in 1:50
  • Brennan Swafford pinned Andy Simaz in 2:38

Day Two

  • Spencer Lee pinned Jesse Ybarra in 1:46
  • Austin DeSanto maj. dec. Cullan Schriever, 12-4
  • Jaydin Eierman pinned Wyatt Henson, 1:43
  • Kaleb Young maj. dec. Sebastian Robles, 18-6
  • Alex Marinelli dec. Joe Kelly, 13-6
  • Patrick Kennedy pinned Jack McClimon in 2:48
  • Abe Assad maj. dec. Brennan Swafford, 14-2
  • Jacob Warner dec. Zach Glazier, 6-2
  • Jesse Ybarra dec. Charles Matthews, 5-3