Iowa’s Spencer Lee makes season debut at the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Duals

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

NICEVILLE, Fla. — The Iowa wrestling team had never competed in the state of Florida before Monday evening. The outcome looked a lot like the Hawkeyes’ results everywhere else in recent years.

Iowa looked every bit like the nation’s best team, beating both Central Michigan and Lehigh on day one of the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Duals here at Raider Arena. The Hawkeyes blanked the Chippewas, 44-0, then downed the Mountain Hawks, 28-7.

The Hawkeyes, now 5-0 this season, will wrestle No. 6 N.C. State on Tuesday evening. The Wolfpack beat both Binghamton and No. 10 Missouri early Monday to advance to Tuesday’s crossover matchup. 

Northern Iowa also made the trip this week, but struggled in losses to both No. 9 Cornell, 29-7, and No. 2 Penn State, 29-9. The Panthers, InterMat’s 22nd-ranked Division I team, won 5-of-of 20 contested matches, and will face Hofstra on Tuesday, who also went 0-2 with losses to both No. 3 Arizona State and No. 7 Virginia Tech.

Here are six takeaways from Monday’s action:

Iowa's Spencer Lee made his '21-22 season debut on Monday at the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Duals in Niceville, Fla. Lee went 2-0, beating Central Michigan's Brock Bergelin and Lehigh's Jaret Lane.

Spencer Lee goes 2-0 in season debut

He’s back!

Spencer Lee made his long-awaited season debut on Monday night, and looked a lot like the same guy who’s won three NCAA titles and two Hodge Trophy's during his impressive Hawkeye career.

Lee went 2-0 as Iowa’s leadoff man at 125 pounds. He registered a 17-0 technical fall over Central Michigan’s Brock Bergelin, then an 8-0 major decision over Lehigh’s 11th-ranked Jaret Lane.

That’s no points allowed with no ACLs.

Against Bergelin, Lee led 10-0 at the end of the first period, on a takedown and two bar-armed tilts. He chose down to start the second period, quickly escaped, scored another takedown, and added another tilt to end the match in just 4 minutes and 19 seconds.

Against Lane, Lee again showed his offensive versatility, scoring three takedowns — one in each period — and added points for an escape and riding-time. He got to his arm-bar again while on top, but Lane’s length kept Lee from securing back points. In the third period, Lane actually chose top, and Lee muscled his way to an escape, then won a scramble before the end of the third period for his final takedown.

If Lee’s condition affected him — he chose not to get surgery to repair either of his torn ACLs — he didn’t show it in either match. He wore a brace on his left knee and a sleeve/wrap on his right. He moved quickly and worked efficiently. Much like his intra-squad match against Jesse Ybarra in November, his knees didn't look like an issue.

Lane was a much tougher test than Bergelin, and even tougher tests are on the way. But for the first time this season, Lee was on the mat. He wrestled two matches in two hours and won them both without allowing a point, which was an encouraging and promising start.

Iowa's Spencer Lee made his '21-22 season debut on Monday at the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Duals in Niceville, Fla. Lee went 2-0, beating Central Michigan's Brock Bergelin and Lehigh's Jaret Lane.

Abe Assad returns to Iowa's lineup

After Myles Wilson manned the starting spot at 184 pounds through Iowa’s first three duals, Abe Assad got the nod against both Central Michigan and Lehigh on Monday, and he was mighty impressive, going 2-0 with a pin and a major decision.

Against Central Michigan’s Ben Cushman, Assad built an 8-1 lead before securing a first-period fall. He was quick and efficient, scoring two takedowns then using a wrist-tilt for four back points. Cushman sat out to escape, but Assad caught him on his back, then re-adjusted into a headlock for the pin in 2:22.

Against Lehigh’s AJ Burkhart, Assad connected on a throw that put Burkhart on his back in the first minute. Assad led 6-0 and used a mean first-period ride, with some thunderous mat returns, to build more than two minutes of riding-time. He added four more takedowns, including three in the third period, for a 16-5 major decision.

We last saw Assad in an extra match ahead of Iowa’s home-opener against Princeton last month. Before then, he took second at the Luther Open. On Monday, he wore a sleeve on his right leg, but moved well and didn’t show any signs of hesitancy. He put forth arguably the most impressive performance of any Iowa wrestler.

His strong results likely means the starting spot belongs to him until we see otherwise — and if he continues to wrestle like he did on Monday, Abe Assad will likely be the starter for the rest of the season.

Abe Assad rejoined Iowa's starting lineup on Monday at the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Dual. Assad went 2-0 at 184 pounds.

Hawkeyes rolled through both Central Michigan and Lehigh

Iowa won 18-of-20 total matches on Monday, with eight total bonus-point victories. Eight of Iowa’s 10 starters went 2-0: Lee, Assad, Austin DeSanto, Jaydin Eierman, Alex Marinelli, Nelson Brands, Jacob Warner and Tony Cassioppi. Lee, DeSanto and Assad all went 2-0 in bonus-point wins, too. 

Even more, Iowa scored 56 total takedowns and allowed just four. They also racked up 187 total match points and allowed just 68. Max Murin and Kaleb Young were the only Iowa wrestlers to lose on Monday, both against their Lehigh counterparts, Manzona Bryant and Josh Humphreys, respectively. 

This is what the No. 1 team in the country is supposed to do, of course. Tuesday’s matchup against N.C. State — which is now 5-0 overall this season after thumping Binghamton, 35-7, and beating Missouri, 19-12. The Wolfpack is ranked No. 6 nationally by InterMat and feature 10 ranked wrestlers, including four in the top five.

Tuesday’s Iowa-N.C. State dual will start at 5 p.m., and it’s expected to be a dandy with the amount of firepower both teams have.

Abe Assad rejoined Iowa's starting lineup on Monday at the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Dual. Assad went 2-0 at 184 pounds.

Northern Iowa struggled against both Cornell, Penn State

Northern Iowa coach Doug Schwab looked forward to this event because of the top competition available here. In all, eight of InterMat’s top-25 teams came to this event, including each of the top three: No. 1 Iowa, No. 2 Penn State and No. 3 Arizona State.

The Panthers learned plenty of tough lessons after Monday’s decisive losses to both Cornell and Penn State.

They recorded just five victories in 20 total matches: Cael Happel (141) and Parker Keckeisen (184) won against Cornell, and Brody Teske (125), Derek Holschlag (157) and Austin Yant (165) won against Penn State. Teske’s win, 2-0 over Jakob Campbell, was a cool moment, since he transferred from Penn State to Northern Iowa.

Only one of Northern Iowa’s five wins included bonus points — Happel scored six takedowns in a 14-6 major decision over Cornell’s Cole Handlovic — while the Panthers gave up bonus points in seven of their defeats. Even more, the Panthers went a combined 0-4 in matches decided by one point across both duals.

That’s a tough dose of reality, and shows the distance between where the Panthers are and where they want to go. They’ll wrestle Hofstra on Tuesday, which could be an opportunity to leave Florida on a high note. Hofstra is 2-5 overall, and lost to Arizona State and Virginia Tech by a combined 77-7 on Monday.

Northern Iowa's Cael Happel beat Cornell's Cole Handlovic, 14-6, at the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Duals on Monday in Niceville, Fla.

Northern Iowa's Colin Realbuto meets Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis … again

Colin Realbuto has entered the conversation as potentially Northern Iowa’s starter at 149 pounds, and his start against Cornell allows us to bring up the fun connection between him, the Cornell program, and his opponent, Yianni Diakomihalis.

Realbuto transferred to Northern Iowa from Brown, but two of his brothers, Brian and Dylan, both wrestled for Cornell. Brian is perhaps the better-known of the two, a three-time All-American and three-time EIWA champion.

Colin Realbuto has shown he’s a capable wrestler himself. This past summer, he represented Italy at the 2021 Senior men’s freestyle world championships, and earlier this month, he won the UNI Open, knocking off Minnesota’s Michael Blockhus, a former Panther, in the finals. 

On Monday, Realbuto got the nod against Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis, a two-time NCAA champion and Senior world team member for the United States. It was actually the second time they’ve wrestled in the last three months. They actually wrestled in the first round of the world championships, and Diakomihalis won 10-0 in just 80 seconds.

On Monday, Diakomihalis won again, this time by a 14-6 major decision, which put Cornell up 11-4 after four weights. The Big Red prevailed 29-9. Against Penn State, Triston Lara, an NCAA qualifier last season for the Panthers, got the nod, and lost a hard-fought 4-3 match to Beau Bartlett. 

We’ll see how this lineup battle continues to unfold throughout the season, but Realbuto’s appearance against Cornell was fun because of the history.

Northern Iowa's Parker Keckeisen beat Cornell's Jonathan Loew, 6-2, at the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Duals on Monday in Niceville, Fla.

UNI's Parker Keckeisen nearly beats Penn State's top-ranked Aaron Brooks

Despite the mostly-lopsided results against the Panthers, Parker Keckeisen got an opportunity to wrestle the returning NCAA champion at 184 pounds — and he nearly pulled the upset.

Keckeisen ultimately lost to Penn State’s Aaron Brooks, 3-2, during the Panther’s dual against the mighty Nittany Lions. Keckeisen nearly converted a handful of shots, and had a great opportunity near the edge in the second period, but Brooks evaded and scored a takedown of his own before the second period ended.

Brooks beat Keckeisen, 6-4, in the semifinals of last season’s national tournament. It was Keckeisen’s only loss of the season, as he wrestled back for third place, earning All-American honors. Keckeisen 28-2 since entering the Panthers’ starting lineup, and both losses have come to Brooks.

Both guys still have plenty of eligibility remaining, too — Keckeisen has four years, Brooks has three. These guys will more than likely have more epic battles over the next few years.

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

Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Duals 

#1 Iowa 44, Central Michigan 0

  • 125: #1 Spencer Lee (IA) tech. fall Brock Bergelin (CMU), 17-0
  • 133: #3 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Vince Perez (CMU), 16-1
  • 141: #2 Jaydin Eierman (IA) dec. #7 Dresden Simon (CMU), 13-12
  • 149: #8 Max Murin (IA) maj. dec. Corbyn Munson (CMU), 14-5
  • 157: #8 Kaleb Young (IA) dec. #19 Johnny Lovett (CMU), 6-0
  • 165: #1 Alex Marinelli (IA) over Tracy Hubbard (CMU) by stalling DQ
  • 174: Nelson Brands (IA) dec. Bret Fedewa (CMU), 8-3
  • 184: Abe Assad (IA) pinned Ben Cushman (CMU) IN 2:22
  • 197: #7 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. Aaron Bolo (CMU), 9-4
  • 285: #6 Tony Cassioppi (IA) over #9 Matt Stencel (CMU) by injury default

#1 Iowa 28, Lehigh 7

  • 125: #1 Spencer Lee (IA) maj. dec. #11 Jaret Lane (LEH), 8-0
  • 133: #3 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Satoshi Abe (LEH), 20-5
  • 141: #3 Jaydin Eierman (IA) dec. Connor Mcgonagle (LEH), 8-3
  • 149: #30 Manzona Bryant (LEH) dec. #8 Max Murin (IA), 7-5 (SV)
  • 157: #10 Josh Humphreys (LEH) maj. dec. #8 Kaleb Young (IA), 11-2
  • 165: #1 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. #27 Brian Meyer (LEH), 6-2
  • 174: Nelson Brands (IA) dec. Jake Logan (LEH), 3-2
  • 184: Abe Assad (IA) maj. dec. AJ Burkhart (LEH), 16-5
  • 197: #7 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. JT Davis (LEH), 6-1
  • 285: #6 Tony Cassioppi (IA) dec. #8 Jordan Wood (LEH), 3-2

#9 Cornell 29, #22 Northern Iowa 7

  • 125: Vito Arujau (COR) maj. dec. #10 Brody Teske (UNI), 18-7
  • 133: Dom Lajoe (COR) dec. #31 Kyle Biscoglia (UNI), 5-2
  • 141: #26 Cael Happel (UNI) maj. dec. Cole Handlovic (COR), 14-6
  • 149: #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (COR) maj. dec. Colin Realbuto (UNI), 14-6
  • 157: #25 Colton Yapoujian (COR) dec. Derek Holschlag (UNI), 2-1
  • 165: #9 Julian Ramirez (COR) dec. #23 Austin Yant (UNI), 4-3
  • 174: #12 Chris Foca (COR) dec. Pat Schoenfelder (UNI), 13-6
  • 184: #4 Parker Keckeisen (UNI) dec. #15 Jonathan Loew (COR), 6-2
  • 197: #19 Jacob Cardenas (COR) pinned Noah Glaser (UNI) in 5:12
  • 285: #18 Lewis Fernandes (COR) dec. Tyrell Gordon (UNI), 4-0

#2 Penn State 29, #22 Northern Iowa 9

  • 125: #10 Brody Teske (UNI) dec. Jakob Campbell (PSU), 2-0
  • 133: #1 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) pinned #31 Kyle Biscoglia (UNI) in 4:34
  • 141: #1 Nick Lee (PSU) maj. dec. #26 Cael Happel (UNI), 18-4
  • 149: #22 Beau Bartlett (PSU) dec. #28 Triston Lara (UNI), 4-3
  • 157: Derek Holschlag (UNI) dec. Tony Negron (PSU), 5-2
  • 165: #23 Austin Yant (UNI) dec. #26 Creighton Edsell (PSU), 4-1
  • 174: #1 Carter Starocci (PSU) maj. dec. Pat Schoenfelder (UNI), 14-4
  • 184: #1 Aaron Brooks (PSU) dec. #4 Parker Keckeisen (UNI), 3-2
  • 197: #3 Max Dean (PSU) tech. fall Noah Glaser (UNI), 19-3
  • 285: #4 Greg Kerkvliet maj. dec. Tyrell Gordon (UNI), 12-1