Iowa wrestlers extend dual win streak to 28 with dominant win over Illinois

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

The Iowa wrestling team swept Illinois’ two Big Ten wrestling programs this weekend, following up Friday’s 33-6 win over No. 11 Northwestern with a 36-3 win over No. 18 Illinois on Sunday at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois.

The second-ranked Hawkeyes won 9-of-10 matches, and scored bonus points in four, to secure their 28th-straight dual victory, a streak that began during the '19-20 season. This was the Hawkeyes largest win over Illinois since 1985 (when they won 48-6). They are now 10-0 overall and 4-0 against the Big Ten. The Illini dropped to 2-2 and 0-2.

"We love the way this thing ended," Iowa coach Tom Brands said afterward. "Guys are wrestling well. I think the next step is bonus points. When it’s 5-0, make it 8-0. And when it’s 8-0 make it 15-0 and when it’s 15-0 get the fall. Keep making progress.

"There is a lot of wrestling left in the season. We have a lot of work to do. We’re going to Columbus, Ohio."

A pair of Dodgers gave Iowa the lead after the first three matches, then a trio of Illinois natives closed the dual by beating fellow Illinois natives. The Hawkeyes managed a 68-17 total match-point advantage, scored 18 total takedowns while allowing just two, and also scored riding-time points in 7-of-10 matches. 

Drake Ayala and Drew Bennett, both state champion wrestlers from Fort Dodge High School, opened the dual with victories at 125 and 141 pounds, respectively. Ayala scored two takedowns and beat Justin Cardani, 7-4. Bennett also scored two more takedowns and added a 4-point tilt in a 10-1 major decision over Josh Contreras.

That put the Hawkeyes up 7-3 after three weights. They did not trail again. Max Murin, Kaleb Young, Alex Marinelli and Michael Kemerer continued that run with wins at 149, 157, 165 and 174. Young posted a 16-1 technical fall over Joe Roberts, and Kemerer pinned Baan Racahl in 2 minutes, 35 seconds for his second fall of the weekend.

Kemerer’s pin put Iowa up 24-3, icing the dual with three matches left — and all three featured former Illinois high school wrestlers facing each other. The three wearing the all-black singlets won.

At 184 pounds, Abe Assad topped Zach Braunagel, 5-2. Assad was a two-time state champ for Glenbard North while Braunagel won two state titles for Althoff Catholic. Assad scored a takedown late in the second period for a 2-1 lead, then added a reversal in the third, plus another point for locked hands, to move to 9-2 this year.

At 197, Jacob Warner blanked Matt Wroblewski, 6-0, behind a pair of takedowns, an escape in the second period, and another point for riding-time. Warner was a three-time Illinois state champion for nearby Washington Community while Wroblewski won a state title in 2017 for Mount Prospect.

At heavyweight, Tony Cassioppi, a two-time state champ from Hononegah High School, pinned Luke Luffman, a three-timer from Urbana High School. Cassioppi scored three takedowns and built a 9-0 lead before flipping Luffman in a cow-catcher for the fall in 6:46. It was the 15th pin of his Iowa career. 

Assad, Warner and Cassioppi all had a spectacular weekend back in their home state. They went 6-0 with three bonus-point wins (Assad and Warner recorded a technical fall and major, respectively, on Friday, then Cassioppi's pin on Sunday) and outscored their opponents by a combined 54-7.

"I was just staying on it, staying on it," Cassioppi said afterward. "I thought maybe I was going to lose it, but I kept it going. It was awesome.

"My family got there around the 174 match. I went to the bathroom, came back, and they were standing there, then I went back and warmed up for my match. They came straight from a tournament. I wasn't sure if they were going to make it. It was awesome."

The Hawkeyes will stay on the road next weekend, as they face No. 9 Ohio State (5-1, 1-1) at the Covelli Center next Friday night.

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

#2 Iowa 36, #18 Illinois 3

  • 125: #12 Drake Ayala (IA) dec. #26 Justin Cardani (IL), 7-4
  • 133: #6 Lucas Byrd (IL) dec. Cullan Schriever (IA), 5-0
  • 141: Drew Bennett (IA) maj. dec. Josh Contreras (IL), 10-1
  • 149: #12 Max Murin (IA) dec. Christian Kanzler (IL), 9-3
  • 157: #12 Kaleb Young (IA) tech. fall Joseph Roberts (IL), 16-1
  • 165: #1 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. #27 Dan Braunagel (IL), 4-1
  • 174: #2 Michael Kemerer (IA) pinned Baan Rachal (IL) in 2:35
  • 184: #18 Abe Assad (IA) dec. #19 Zach Braunagel (IL), 5-2
  • 197: #5 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. #29 Matt Wroblewski (IL), 6-0
  • 285: #5 Tony Cassioppi (IA) pinned #17 Luke Luffman (IL) in 6:46