Austin DeSanto returns to starting lineup as second-ranked Iowa wrestling beats Ohio State

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

The Iowa wrestling team’s 21-12 win at Ohio State on Friday night featured more tense moments than fun moments.

Let’s start with one of the fun moments.

Austin DeSanto made his highly anticipated return to the Hawkeyes’ starting lineup, and promptly rolled up six takedowns in a 19-4 technical fall win over Dylan Koontz at 133 pounds. The senior led 10-1 after nearly pinning Koontz in the first period, then proceeded to score four takedowns in the second to improve to 12-0 this season.

“Good for him, and good for us,” Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said afterward. “It feels good to have him back in there. We’ve got to keep him going.”

DeSanto’s win gave Iowa a 5-3 lead after the first two matches, and the Hawkeyes never trailed the rest of the way, improving to 11-0 this season and 5-0 against the Big Ten. They’ve now won 29 duals in a row dating to the start of the 2019-20 season.

But those tense moments made frequent appearances throughout the night.

“A little frustration,” Brands said. “We were not sharp tonight … and I’m not even talking about the losses. I’m talking about overall on the night.”

The final stats might suggest a dominant performance. Iowa, ranked No. 2 nationally by InterMat, scored 16 total takedowns to Ohio State’s 7, and managed a 62-32 overall scoring advantage.

But the Hawkeyes won just 6-of-10 matches at the Covelli Center in Columbus, and their largest lead was the final score. Before Tony Cassioppi’s 13-4 major decision over Tate Orndorff at heavyweight, Iowa never led by more than five points all night.

“Cassioppi ended with an exclamation mark,” Brands said. “Got some bonus points for the major decision. That was big.”

Give credit to Ohio State, now 5-2 overall and 1-2 against league opponents. The 8th-ranked Buckeyes won four gritty matches — two in overtime, at 125 and 184; and two more by identical 3-2 scores, at 149 and 165. They all came after Iowa wins, and they all brought the announced crowd of 4,400 to their feet.

In all, five matches on Friday were decided by two points or fewer. Iowa won just one, Jacob Warner’s gutsy 6-5 win over Gavin Hoffman at 197 pounds. Warner led 4-2 in the third period with riding-time secured, then Hoffman scored on a low-level shot and added a late stall point, forcing riding-time to stand up as the winner for Warner.

“Warner let that guy slip back in,” Brands said.

Jaydin Eierman returned to Iowa’s starting lineup on Friday, too — he missed last weekend’s Friday-Sunday road doubleheader in Illinois — and notched a 4-0 win over Dylan D’Emilio at 141. That put Iowa up 8-3. The next match, Max Murin nearly upset second-ranked Sammy Sasso at 149, but Sasso scored a late reversal to win, 3-2.

Kaleb Young scored a second-period takedown and used a mean third-period rideout to beat Jashon Hubbard, 4-0, at 157, giving Iowa an 11-6 lead at the intermission. But out of the break, Carson Kharchla upset Alex Marinelli, 3-2, on a third-period takedown, bringing the Buckeyes back within 11-9.

Michael Kemerer righted the ship at 174 pounds, scoring two takedowns in a 6-3 win over Ethan Smith. But then Kaleb Romero connected on a re-shot in sudden victory to beat Abe Assad, 3-1, at 184, keeping the Buckeyes within 14-12 after eight weights.

“Marinelli was out there in the middle of the mat saying it’s not a big deal — I didn’t read his lips 100%, but he said I’m not going anywhere,” Brands said. “You have to put those matches away with more building and more attacking.

“You don’t have to be reckless to attack and score, but in-control, attack, and when the score presents itself, take it.”

This frustrating dual victory came right after Penn State, InterMat’s newly minted No. 1-ranked team, put a beating on No. 3 Michigan, winning 8-of-10 matches to claim a 29-6 statement victory in Ann Arbor. The Nittany Lions are now 12-0 overall and 4-0 against the Big Ten — and will be in Iowa City next Friday night.

The Iowa-Penn State dual, set for an 8 p.m. CT start time on Big Ten Network, sold out nearly three months ago. Back then, the Hawkeyes were brimming with confidence and optimism after bringing back all 10 starters from last year’s NCAA Championship-winning team.

Since then, Spencer Lee, the Hawkeyes’ three-time NCAA champ, opted for season-ending surgery, and two of the last five duals have left Brands both agitated and now frustrated, despite winning them all. Penn State, meanwhile, added two more All-Americans to a lineup that already featured four returning national champs.

Let the buildup to next Friday night's 1-vs-2 showdown begin.

“We’ve got a big match coming up a week from tonight,” Brands said. “Away we go.”

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

#2 Iowa 21, #8 Ohio State 12

  • 125: #18 Malik Heinselman (OSU) dec. #10 Drake Ayala (IA), 7-5 (SV)
  • 133: #3 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Dylan Koontz (OSU), 19-4
  • 141: #2 Jaydin Eierman (IA) dec. #23 Dylan D’Emilio (OSU), 4-0
  • 149: #2 Sammy Sasso (OSU) dec. #10 Max Murin (IA), 3-2
  • 157: #12 Kaleb Young (IA) dec. Jashon Hubbard (OSU), 4-0
  • 165: #7 Carson Kharchla (OSU) dec. #1 Alex Marinelli (IA), 3-2
  • 174: #2 Michael Kemerer (IA) dec. #7 Ethan Smith (OSU), 6-3
  • 184: #7 Kaleb Romero (OSU) dec. #18 Abe Assad (IA), 3-1 (SV)
  • 197: #4 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. #20 Gavin Hoffman (OSU), 6-5
  • 285: #5 Tony Cassioppi (IA) maj. dec. #12 Tate Orndorff (OSU), 13-4
Iowa's Austin DeSanto, right, shown during a Jan. 7 dual against Minnesota, won by technical fall over Dylan Koontz on Friday at Ohio State.