Iowa was supposed to wrestle Oregon State this weekend. It wrestled Army instead. Here's why, and how.

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — The top-ranked Iowa wrestling team beat Army West Point 36-7 on Sunday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but that’s probably not the story you’re here to read.

The Hawkeyes were supposed to host Oregon State on Saturday, but travel difficulties kept the Beavers from making the trip. Instead, an announced crowd of 14,905 — a second sellout in as many home meets this season — watched Iowa pummel the Black Knights.

“I give them praise and thanks,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said afterward. “We owe them a lot of gratitude. That’s number one, to Army.”

Here’s how it happened:

Oregon State's travel difficulties included a 5-hour delay because of mechanical problems with the plane. They were supposed to connect in Denver, but missed that flight because of the delay. Iowa first moved the dual to Saturday night, then to Sunday afternoon to try to accommodate the ongoing snafu. 

The team even tried utilizing as many as four flights to get everybody to Iowa, but the Thanksgiving holiday threw a wrench into that plan. Nate Engel, the Beavers’ associate head coach, partly chronicled all the struggles online. Chris Pendelton, Oregon State’s head coach, said one United employee quit their job at the airport.

Ultimately, Oregon State never even left the state of Oregon. That left the Hawkeyes without an opponent for the weekend — but Brands hatched an idea.

On Friday night, Brands called Army assistant coach Scott Green. The Black Knights were already in Ames for a Saturday dual against Iowa State (the Cyclones won 25-9) and Sunday's Harold Nichols Cyclone Open. Brands told Green about Oregon State’s predicament, and asked if Army would be willing to drive in to wrestle the Hawkeyes.

“I said (let's go),” Army head coach Kevin Ward told Stalemates, who broke the news of the schedule change on Friday night.

“We went to work on it hard on Friday night,” Brands added. “It was clear right away that it wasn’t going to work out for Saturday at 2 p.m. That’s when we started scrambling.”

Brands opened his post-match press conference by expressing gratitude to both Army and California Baptist. Brands said he also called Lennie Zalesky, Cal Baptist’s coach and a three-time All-American for Iowa in the 1980s. The Lancers wrestled Iowa State in Ames on Saturday, too (they lost 39-0), and were ready to drive to Iowa City if needed.

“There may have been a little bit of a blossoming of a relationship, at least in my mind, because it’s not easy to do what they did,” Brands continued. “Lennie Zalesky was game, too. We called both of those coaches. They were both ready.

“You’re going to see Cal Baptist on our schedule. That came to fruition in the talks when we were arranging this. We’re also going to make a return trip to Army. They’ll get to roll out the red carpet for us.”

Iowa's Alex Marinelli, right, celebrates after pinning Army's Christian Hunt at 165 pounds Sunday in Iowa City.

Iowa thumped Army, winning eight of 10 matches with five bonus-point victories. Jaydin Eierman (141), Alex Marinelli (165) and Tony Cassioppi (285) all notched pins, while Austin DeSanto (133) added a second-period technical fall and Nelson Brands (174) won by major decision.

In all, Iowa scored 31 total takedowns and allowed just four. Hawkeye wrestlers also collectively outscored their Army opponents 93-40 — and just 13 of the Black Knight’s total scoring output were considered offensive points. The Hawkeyes are now 2-0 overall and 2-0 in sellouts, too (another 14,905 watched Iowa beat Princeton last week).

Up next for the undefeated Hawkeyes is a road contest against No. 19 Iowa State, which is also 2-0 after two wins this weekend. Hilton Coliseum hosted the last Cy-Hawk dual, in 2019, and an announced 11,238 watched the Hawkeyes top Iowa State, 29-6.

Iowa has won 16 in a row in the series and has retained the Dan Gable Traveling Trophy all 10 years since its inception. Tom Brands’ mind was already trained on the Cyclones immediately after Sunday’s contest with Army — but he made sure to express his thanks to Ward, Green and the entire Black Knight program.

“It is a story, and this guy, right here, owes a debt of gratitude to Army,” Brands said, then added: “We’re going to Ames, Iowa. We’ve got to keep a good thing going.”

Iowa's Tony Cassioppi has his hand raised after scoring a fall at 285 pounds on Sunday in Iowa City.

Iowa, Iowa State, UNI results from the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open

A few hundred wrestlers — including many from Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa — competed at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open in Ames. Here’s some quick hits from the action:

  • Iowa’s Patrick Kennedy took first at 165 pounds, going 4-0 and outscoring his opponents 44-8. That included a 20-3 technical fall over Iowa State’s Isaac Judge in the semifinals. He was slated to wrestle Northern Iowa’s Austin Yant in the finals, but Yant medically forfeited.
  • Iowa heavyweight Aaron Costello also took first, going 3-0 with wins over Northern Iowa’s Tyrell Gordon (7-5), Army’s Paul Robinson (6-2), and Iowa State’s Ethan Andersen (10-3).
  • Two more Hawkeyes, Drake Ayala and Wyatt Henson, both won their weights in the freshman/sophomore division. Ayala went 3-0 with two pins and a major decision at 125. Henson went 3-0 at 141.
  • Northern Iowa finished with six champs in the Open Division: Julian Farber (133), Cael Happel (141), Derek Holschlag (157), Pat Schoenfelder (174), Parker Keckeisen (184) and Noah Glaser (197).
  • Farber beat teammate Kyle Biscoglia, 5-3, in the finals, thanks to takedowns in the first and second period.
  • Happel went 3-0, outscoring his three opponents 28-17. Holschlag went 4-0 with a technical fall, a pin, a 9-2 semifinal win over teammate Evan Yant, then an 8-6 finals win over Army’s Nate Lukez. Keckeisen went 3-0 and outscored his opponents 50-13. Glaser went 2-0 with a decision and a pin.
  • Schoenfelder went 2-0 and finished with a 6-4 finals victory over Iowa’s Brennan Swafford, thanks to a reversal in the first period and a takedown in the third.
  • Three other Panther wrestlers — RJ Weston (157), Jared Simma (174), Adam Ahrendsen (197) — won titles in the freshman/sophomore division.
  • Iowa State’s Cam Robinson (149) joined Andersen as a finalist in the Open Division. In the finals, he lost to Army’s Matthew Williams 4-2 in overtime.

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

No. 1 Iowa 36, Army West Point 7

  • 125: Jesse Ybarra (IA) dec. Ryan Chauvin (AWP), 3-1 (SV)
  • 133: #3 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Dominic Carone (AWP), 21-6
  • 141: #2 Jaydin Eierman (IA) pinned Corey Shie (AWP) in 5:54
  • 149: #22 PJ Ogunsanya (AWP) maj. dec. Cobe Siebrecht (IA), 11-3
  • 157: #8 Kaleb Young (IA) dec. Markus Hartman (AWP), 4-1
  • 165: #1 Alex Marinelli (IA) pinned Christian Hunt (AWP) in 6:37
  • 174: Nelson Brands (IA) maj. dec. Clayton Fielden (AWP), 18-5
  • 184: Myles Wilson (IA) dec. Brad Laughlin (AWP), 4-1
  • 197: #20 J.T. Brown (AWP) dec. Zach Glazier (IA), 4-1
  • 285: #7 Tony Cassioppi (IA) pinned Brandon Phillips (AWP) in 3:54