Led by Jacob Warner's NCAA finals appearance, Iowa wrestling navigates rocky day to sit 4th in team race

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

DETROIT, Mich. — After a ferociously-tough-yet-optimistic first day at the NCAA Championships, things did not get any easier for the Iowa wrestling team on the second day here at Little Caesars Arena.

Really, Friday was a tale of two sessions for the Hawkeyes:

  • Session III was a struggle — a 4-8 overall record where four wrestlers were eliminated.
  • Session IV offered a chance at new life, and Iowa took advantage with a 6-3 record. 

The end result looks like this: The Hawkeyes sit 4th in the team race with 62 points — 46 behind first-place Penn State (108), 22.5 behind second-place Michigan (84.5), but just 1.5 behind third-place Arizona State, and 8 clear of fifth-place Nebraska (54).

After going 16-4 on Thursday, Iowa went 10-11 on day two, a rocky follow-up after all 10 qualifiers reached the all-important Friday here at Little Caesars Arena. Only five advanced to Saturday, which is reserved exclusively for All-Americans.

► RECAP: Match-by-match results from Day 2 of the NCAA Championships

Those five:

  • Jacob Warner reached the finals at 197 pounds;
  • Austin DeSanto (133), Alex Marinelli (165), Michael Kemerer are all alive for third;
  • and Tony Cassioppi will wrestle for seventh at 285.

Some days, you’re the hammer. Some days, you’re the nail.

At various times on Friday, Iowa was both.

Warner’s day — a 2-0 quarterfinal win over Nebraska’s Eric Schultz, a matchup he lost twice earlier this year; then a 6-4 semifinal win over Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan, the 2-seed — washed some of the bad taste away. His finals berth ensures that Iowa’s streak of having at least one NCAA finalist now extends to 31 national tournaments.

Even more, Iowa followed its rough quarterfinal round (2-4) with a strong showing in Friday night’s wrestlebacks, highlighted by four combined wins from Marinelli and Kemerer, who each lost in the quarters — Marinelli 3-1 to Michigan’s Cam Amine; Kemerer 5-3 to NC State’s Hayden Hidlay.

Their efforts gave Iowa an optimistic feeling leaving Little Caesars Arena on Friday.

A tough showing in Friday morning’s wrestleback rounds coincided with that rough quarterfinal round. Drake Ayala (125), Jaydin Eierman (141), Kaleb Young (157) and Abe Assad were all eliminated from the competition. It was among Iowa’s roughest NCAA round since Tom Brands became the head coach ahead of the 2006-07 season.

Ayala and Assad were both eliminated in their first matches, while Eierman and Young were both eliminated in their second. Eierman injury-defaulted from his round-of-16 match against Michigan’s Stevan Micic due to his lingering knee injury. Young lost 5-3 to Iowa State’s David Carr — after leading 2-1 on a second-period takedown.

NC State's Hayden Hidlay, left, wrestles Iowa's Michael Kemerer at 174 pounds in the quarterfinals during the third session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Friday, March 18, 2022, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich.

Then came Friday night. DeSanto lost to Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young 3-1 in the 133 semifinals, on a takedown with 8 seconds left in the match. Bravo-Young has now beaten DeSanto six straight times. Murin then lost his bloodround match, meaning he’s now finished one win shy of All-American honors at three straight NCAA tournaments.

But the light came on when Marinelli and Kemerer won, then won again. Cassioppi joined them as All-Americans, then fell to Michigan’s Mason Parris to drop to the 7th-place match — a result buried because of Warner’s triumph in the middle of an arena that housed 17,592 screaming fans on Friday night.

All those clad in black-and-gold were in full throat by then, a stark difference to Friday morning’s morose feeling. Such is life at the NCAA Championships, where emotions ebb and flow every session, often times with every match.

Despite it all, the Hawkeyes will enter Saturday with the chance to win another NCAA trophy — not the color they came for, of course, but considering all the injuries, the tough results and the grit required to persevere this brutal competition, they’ll take that.

Iowa's Jacob Warner celebrates after scoring a decision at 197 pounds in the quarterfinals during the third session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Friday, March 18, 2022, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich.

Iowa State trio Carr, Coleman, Bastida roar back to become All-Americans

Iowa State struggled mightily on the first day of the NCAA Championships — to the tune of a 4-14 record that saw five of its nine total qualifiers get eliminated.

But on Friday, the Cyclones flipped the page and produced an 11-2 overall record — a run that included 10 consecutive victories and ultimately ended with three Iowa State wrestlers earning All-American honors.

David Carr (157), Marcus Coleman (184) and Yonger Bastida made up the bulk of Iowa State's successful Friday, combining for an 11-1 record and the streak of 10 consecutive wins. All three muscled through the wrestlebacks to earn spots on the podium at their respective weights. (Ian Parker, at 141 pounds, lost his lone match on Friday.)

Carr won 3 matches by a combined 4 points, all thanks to late scores — 3-2 over Oklahoma State's Wyatt Sheets; 5-3 over Iowa's Young; and 4-3 over North Dakota State's Jared Franek in the bloodround. He accepted a medical forfeit over North Carolina's Austin O'Connor to remain in contention for third place at 157 pounds.

Bastida won two 1-point matches to reach the same spot at 197 pounds — 5-4 over Oklahoma's Jake Woodley (who beat Bastida twice this year), 4-3 over Rutgers' Greg Bulsak. Coleman won 3 in a row to reach the podium at 184, but dropped his last match to Ohio State's Kaleb Romero and will wrestle for seventh on Saturday.

Their efforts also helped Iowa State into the top-20 of the team race, giving the Cyclones  28.5 points for 19th. They could score an additional 20 team points if Carr, Coleman and Bastida max out their scoring potential on Saturday.

Iowa State's Marcus Coleman, right, wrestles Illinois' ZachÊBraunagel at 184 pounds during the second session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Thursday, March 17, 2022, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich.

UNI wrestling's Parker Keckeisen earns second All-American finish at 184

Parker Keckeisen battled back to earn All-American honors at 184 pounds after dropping his quarterfinal match early on Friday — and his performance was the lone bright spot for what was an otherwise tough day for the Northern Iowa wrestling team.

The Panthers began Friday in sixth place in the team race with 15 points, a position thanks largely to bonus points. They ended Friday with just nine more points, totaling 24 to sit in a tie for 20th with Rutgers. 

Keckeisen, the all-gas-no-brakes sophomore from Wisconsin, was a large reason why. After stumbling in his quarterfinal match early on Friday — a 6-5 loss to Cal Poly's Bernie Truax — he won twice on Friday night to not only secure All-American honors for the second consecutive year, but to also stay in contention for third place.

He did so with a pair of gutsy wrestleback victories: 7-5 over Nebraska's Taylor Venz, wherein Keckeisen rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the first period; then 7-6 over Cornell's Jonathan Loew, where he hung on after taking a 6-2 lead.

Keckeisen was one of six Panther wrestlers to advance to Friday, but the only one to advance to Saturday. Brody Teske (125), Kyle Biscoglia (133), Colin Realbuto (149), Austin Yant (165) and Lance Runyon (174) were all eliminated during Friday's early session.

Northern Iowa's Parker Keckeisen, right, wrestles Wisconsin's Christopher Weiler at 184 pounds during the first session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Thursday, March 17, 2022, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich.

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