On Senior Day, the Iowa wrestling team thumps Wisconsin, 29-6, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena
IOWA CITY — Alex Marinelli sat down in the media room underneath Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday afternoon, just as he has dozens of times before. This time, though, would be the last time he’d do that, and he came armed with a joke.
“I’ll probably have to buy a ticket the next time we have a dual meet here,” Marinelli said and chuckled.
Michael Kemerer, sitting next to him, started laughing.
“I don’t know if Alex Marinelli is going to have to buy a ticket to our next match,” he added.
Saturday was Senior Day for the Iowa wrestling program. After the second-ranked Hawkeyes blitzed 16th-ranked Wisconsin, 29-6, nine team members were honored — eight wrestlers, plus team manager Jenna Novak. Each one has played a unique role in one of the most successful chapters of the Iowa wrestling program’s storied history.
There’s Kaleb Young, the first Pennsylvania recruit to commit who became a two-time All-American. On Saturday, he put forth one of his best performances of the season, scoring three takedowns in an 8-3 win over Garrett Model at 157 pounds.
There's Marinelli, who followed with an 8-5 win over sixth-ranked Dean Hamiti at 165 after the intermission. Marinelli came from Ohio, ditching the hometown Buckeyes for Iowa’s black-and-gold. He is a two-time All-American and three-time Big Ten champion. His win over Hamiti was his 25th career win at Carver in 26 career home matches.
“I’ll remember the fans,” Marinelli said. “I’ll always remember the fans cheering me on, cheering my name, backing me up, giving high-fives to kids. That’s what we do it for. We come out here and wrestle in front of those guys and it’s so awesome.
“Seeing my coaches in the corner. It’s iconic. It’s Iowa wrestling at Carver. Growing up, I had a picture of Carver above my bed.”
Previously:Wrestling Mailbag: Rewatching Iowa-Penn State, Austin DeSanto, Alex Marinelli, Iowa State's Marcus Coleman and more
Then came Kemerer, who used a third-period cradle for an 11-2 major decision over Andrew McNally at 174. Kemerer is a three-time All-American and returning Big Ten champ. His commitment, which required an overnight, 700-mile drive by Iowa coach Tom Brands, is considered one of the most pivotal moments in program history.
“Marinelli and me both, when we were young, it was always Iowa wrestling,” Kemerer said after finalizing his 26-2 career record at Carver. “Our goal was to go out there and wrestle in that arena — and not just wrestle, but win tough matches out there.
“We’ve gotten the privilege to do that.”
Young, Marinelli and Kemerer sparked what became six consecutive victories against the Badgers on Saturday, and they received the loudest applause during the post-dual Senior Day ceremonies. The Hawkeyes won eight of 10 matches and scored bonus points in four of them to improve to 12-1 overall and 6-2 against the Big Ten.
Austin DeSanto and Jaydin Eierman, two more seniors, provided early firepower to give the Hawkeyes a lead they would not relinquish. They both transferred in after starting their college careers elsewhere: DeSanto from Drexel, Eierman from Missouri. DeSanto scored 13 takedowns in a technical fall. Eierman scored five in a major decision.
Both were crucial in Iowa’s championship pursuit, combining to score 41 team points to help the Hawkeyes score 129 at last year’s NCAA Championships. DeSanto finished third at 133 pounds and Eierman reached the finals at 141. They helped Iowa win its first NCAA team championship since 2010, and the 24th in program history.
“When you’re dealing with young people, there’s a lot of pitfalls in the world, and you don’t always know what you’re getting even though you do your job as a recruiter,” Brands said. “What you ended up with here is some really good people that are solid. They care about each other, they care about the future, they care about their team.”
More:The Iowa-Penn State dual was the most-watched wrestling broadcast in BTN history
Three others were honored as well: Vince Turk, Myles Wilson and Aaron Costello. They didn’t have the same shining roles as the other five, but they each produced moments throughout their wrestling careers and will forever be part of how Iowa built this championship team.
Turk was an on-again, off-again starter throughout his career. He got the nod for the 2018 postseason, and took fifth at the Big Ten Championships and went 3-2 at the national tournament. He left after the 2019-20 season to join the military, which froze his eligibility clock, then returned for one final season this winter.
He turned 25 years old on Friday and nearly created some Carver magic on Saturday against Wisconsin’s seventh-ranked Austin Gomez, a one-time Iowa State wrestler. Gomez scored a takedown in the second period for a 3-0 lead. Turk nearly scored a takedown on the edge in the third, but ran out of real estate and lost, 3-2.
Wilson fought for starting time during his career. He showed the depth of Iowa’s room last spring when he made the U23 men’s freestyle world team. Costello was in the Iowa room at the same time as Sam Stoll, an All-American talent who struggled with injuries, and Tony Cassioppi, another All-American and U23 men’s freestyle world champion.
Brands gave them all a moment on Saturday after the Hawkeyes thumped the Badgers, who fell to 9-2 overall and 5-2 against the Big Ten. Since Turk and Kemerer first arrived on campus ahead of the 2015-16 season, the Hawkeyes are 69-7 overall in duals and have won back-to-back Big Ten tournament titles and last year’s NCAA team title.
“The place is better because of them. That’s a really good feeling,” Brands said. “They’ve got big futures in front of them, every one of them.”
This is the weird part about a Senior Day. It is a chance to honor those who have given so much to the program, yes, but so much of the season still remains.
The Hawkeyes still have two duals left, against No. 5 Oklahoma State next Saturday at Globe Life Field in Texas, then against No. 7 Nebraska the following weekend in Lincoln. They’ll head to Lincoln again for the Big Ten Championships in March, which will set the stage for the NCAA Championships in Detroit two weeks after that.
“We’re a very forward-looking group,” Kemerer said, “and we have a lot of wrestling left.”
Put another way: The rest of the schedule is full of opportunities to add more lines to one of the most successful chapters of the Iowa wrestling program’s storied history.
Because what’s better than two Big Ten tournament titles and one NCAA team title? How about three and two?
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Brands said. “We’ve got to work harder in matches. We’ve got to work harder to finish. We’ve got to work harder to wrestle the full seven minutes. Every time out, you’ve got to be more ready.
“We’re going to have to be ready to do this again, at a higher level. A lot of these guys haven’t attained what they came here to attain, so we’ve got a big project in front of us.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
#2 Iowa 29, #16 Wisconsin 6
- 125: #7 Eric Barnett (WI) dec. Jesse Ybarra (IA), 4-0
- 133: #3 Austin DeSanto (IA) tech. fall Kyle Burwick (WI), 26-11
- 141: #2 Jaydin Eierman (IA) maj. dec. Joey Zargo (WI), 13-5
- 149: #7 Austin Gomez (WI) dec. Vince Turk (IA), 3-2
- 157: #12 Kaleb Young (IA) dec. #28 Garrett Model (WI), 8-3
- 165: #5 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. #6 Dean Hamiti (WI), 8-5
- 174: #2 Michael Kemerer (IA) maj. dec. #23 Andrew McNally (WI), 11-2
- 184: #17 Abe Assad (IA) dec. #27 Chris Weiler (WI), 4-2
- 197: #4 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. #22 Braxton Amos (WI), 4-1
- 285: #4 Tony Cassioppi (IA) maj. dec. #11 Trent Hillger (WI), 10-0