With the rowdy crowd back inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa wrestling thumps Princeton

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — An older man with white hair and a gray shirt settled into his seat here inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night.

Section AA, Row 11, Seat 12, right next to media row.

He turned and looked at Steven Grace, the radio announcer for the Iowa wrestling team, and cracked a wry smile.

“We’re baaaack,” he said, drawing out that final word to express his obvious excitement.

Grace smiled. So did the rest of the announced 14,905 here during the top-rankedIowa wrestling team’s 32-12 win over No. 21 Princeton. The Hawkeyes are now 1-0 in duals this season, and 1-0 in sellouts, too.

“It was great,” Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “I think the loudest ovations were for the guys you’d think they were for. Our fans want to see great performances, and our guys want to give great performances.”

Iowa sold out its season ticket allotment earlier this month, a little over 12,000 tickets per home meet in total. Not every seat was used on Friday — 14,905 is Carver’s wrestling capacity — but every ticket had apparently sold in one form or another.

Even at a visually-less-than-full capacity, this rowdy wrestling crowd is capable of cranking up the decibels, and even after a year away because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were in peak form on Friday.

Austin DeSanto scored a takedown about 12 seconds into his match against Nick Masters at 133 pounds. The crowd instantly roared in response. DeSanto went on to score seven takedowns in a 22-6 technical fall win.

It took Jaydin Eierman just 1:12 to force a stall call in his match against Jacob Mann at 141. The crowd instantly crowed for more, especially after Eierman converted the first of his five takedowns and began racking up what became 3:21 of riding-time.

“Get him a pillow!” multiple fans yelled.

“What’s he doing down there?” questioned another.

Charles Matthews, a redshirt freshman from California, turned around from Iowa’s bench and looked toward the stands.

“Who has a blanket?” he asked.

Dan Gable claps during a NCAA wrestling dual against Princeton, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

“It was awesome,” said Eierman, who beat Mann, 15-7. “I really felt it coming out (of the tunnel). I got butterflies for the first time in a while. That doesn’t really happen that much. It was awesome to feel the crowd behind me and ready to go to war with me.

“You can imagine, you can dream about it, but until you do it, you won’t understand until you’re out there, running out of that tunnel in front of that crowd.”

The crowd’s roar rose and fell as wrestlers navigated specific situations and it spiked when Iowa wrestlers scored points — like when Cobe Siebrecht defended a shot with a headlock for a takedown against Josh Breeding at 149. Siebrecht then piled up three tilts and scored another takedown for a 16-1 first-period technical fall.

“That was insane,” Siebrecht said of the crowd. “I was thinking about it all week. I’ve just been sitting in my bed. I was a little more nervous wrestling in front of 14,000 people, because I haven’t done that before. But it was electric. It was insane.

“I normally can’t hear a crowd when I’m wrestling, but this crowd, I could hear, which was awesome.”

The loudest cheers of the night came during intermission, when newly-hired women’s wrestling coach Clarissa Chun was introduced to the crowd. They were on their feet for a full five minutes, giving her a proper Carver baptism. She waved her hands and soaked in the moment, and her walk back to her sleep was slowed by friendly fans.

Iowa women's wrestling coach Clarissa Chun is acknowledged the Iowa men's dual against Princeton on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

It helped that the Hawkeyes thumped Princeton, winning seven of 10 matches total. They racked up 35 total takedowns and allowed just six, and collectively outscored the Tigers in total match points, 113-50. Six of their seven wins resulted in bonus points, even with a few new faces getting the opportunity to wrestle.

The Hawkeyes led 20-3 at the intermission, after Kaleb Young’s 9-5 loss to seventh-ranked Quincy Monday at 157. Alex Marinelli began the second half with a 12-5 win over Grant Cuomo at 165. Nelson Brands scored 6 takedowns in a 16-8 major decision over Michael Squires at 174, and Myles Wilson scored 10 in a 23-8 technical fall at 184.

Despite the demolition, the dual ended on an unexpected note. Tony Cassioppi, the newly-crowned U23 world champ, was pinned by Jack Del Garbino. Cassioppi scored a takedown 30 seconds in and flipped Del Garbino to his back, but Del Garbino bridged and rolled Cassioppi to his back and settled in for the fall on the edge. Time: 2:07.

“Things like that happen, and it’s not a fluke,” Tom Brands said. “That’s on Cassioppi. You have to feel that as it’s happening, and then you have to fight off your back. He will be reminded of that. (Friday's) going to suck for him, but that’s athletics and that’s life.

“We’re going to keep getting better. We have 10 weight classes with 10 bodies that will step in there and are definitely capable of doing some damage on the national scene. It’s November. That’s why I’m patient. I’m not blowing a gasket here.”

Princeton's Jack Del Garbino, top, pins Iowa's Tony Cassioppi at 285 pounds on Friday.

Despite the odd ending, the crowd is what stood out on Friday. At the current pace, 89,430 fans will see the Hawkeyes live this season. Five home dates remain, including next Saturday’s scheduled scrap against Oregon State, set for 2 p.m.

Iowa’s led the nation in wrestling attendance for 14-straight seasons (last year was not counted due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting fan attendance virtually everywhere). But an average of 14,905 fans per home meet would break the current national average attendance record of 12,568 — set by the Hawkeyes during the 2019-20 season.

When Siebrecht stood up after his victory, the pyrotechnic machine behind blew fire into the air and the crowd stood up and showered him with applause. It was a song the crowd missed singing, the Iowa wrestling team missed hearing, and one they hope to put on repeat all season long.

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

No. 1 Iowa 32, No. 21 Princeton 12

  • 125: Jesse Ybarra (IA) by forfeit
  • 133: #3 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Nick Masters (P), 22-6
  • 141: #2 Jaydin Eierman (IA) maj. dec. Jacob Mann (P), 15-7
  • 149: Cobe Siebrecht (IA) tech. fall Josh Breeding (P), 16-1
  • 157: #7 Quincy Monday (P) dec. #6 Kaleb Young (IA), 9-5
  • 165: #2 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. Grant Cuomo (P), 12-5
  • 174: Nelson Brands (IA) maj. dec. Michael Squires (P), 16-8
  • 184: Myles Wilson (IA) tech. fall Forrest Belli (P), 23-8
  • 197: #29 Luke Stout (P) dec. Zach Glazier (IA), 4-0
  • 285: Jack Del Garbino (P) pinned #3 Tony Cassioppi (IA) in 2:07

Extra Matches

  • 184: Abe Assad (IA) pinned Forrest Belli (P) in 4:38