No. 2 Iowa wrestling team avoids scare, escapes with a 19-18 win over No. 13 Wisconsin
After throttling No. 5 Nebraska on Friday, the Iowa wrestling team beat No. 13 Wisconsin via tie-breaking criteria on Sunday.
The No. 2 Hawkeyes prevailed, 19-18, in front of a record 5,056 fans at the UW Field House in Madison, Wis. They are now 12-0 overall this season and 5-0 against Big Ten opponents. They've now beaten the Badgers 42 times in their last 43 meetings, including each of the last 11.
There is a lot about Sunday's matchup that will be viewed as frustrating. Iowa won four of the first five weights for a 15-3 lead, then watched as the Badgers, now 7-5 overall and 1-4 against the Big Ten, won four in a row for an 18-15 lead into the final match.
There, third-ranked Tony Cassioppi scored a third-period takedown for a 4-1 win over Trent Hillger, Wisconsin's All-American heavyweight, tying the dual at 18-all and ultimately giving Iowa the team victory on the third tie-breaking criteria: total match points scored in bouts that weren't pins, defaults or disqualifications. The Hawkeyes held a 31-24 advantage, thanks largely to Real Woods' 9-2 win over Joey Zargo at 141 pounds.
"You know, you look at it, it’s criteria, good for them," Iowa coach Tom Brands said afterward. "It was 5-5 in matches. We’ve had a lot of 5-5 duals. Penn, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Illinois. But we have a doggone good heavyweight that has ice water in his veins. He’s got incredible resolve and he’s got a good, even mind.
"(Cassioppi) is best when he’s on the attack. That’s how he’s going to win the big prize. We have to be on the attack. He went twice to that guy. They were waiting. We have a heavyweight that didn’t wait. Our heavyweight is not unsure."
That the Hawkeyes were in a tie-breaking scenario at all is at the root of the frustration, and it stems largely from Wisconsin's stunning upset pin at 184 pounds. Tyler Dow, a Greco-Roman connoisseur who entered Sunday's matchup 5-9 overall, went double-overs and tossed eighth-ranked Abe Assad to his back for the fall in 84 seconds. When Brands and his wrestlers talk about banana peels, this is what they mean.
"You have to be aware when someone is trying to put a dagger in you," Brands said. "At 184, we hung there too much … there’s no hanging. If you hang and you hesitate, you’re dead."
It did not help that, two days after employing the full A-Team lineup, Brands started two true freshmen, since the NCAA allows true freshmen to compete attached five times and still maintain their redshirt. Drake Rhodes (174) and Kolby Franklin (197) started for Nelson Brands and Jacob Warner, respectively. Both lost — Rhodes gave up an early lead and lost 6-5 to Josh Otto; Franklin was outmanned in a 4-0 loss to 13th-ranked Braxton Amos.
"We had two true freshmen in the lineup. I don’t know if that’s ever happened before," Tom Brands said. "The good things that they did were overridden by a lack of hustle and just knowing, when I get my hands locked on the leg, I have to climb high, get to my feet, and finish. It takes something deep inside you."
There were encouraging moments, sure. Spencer Lee built a 16-3 lead and pinned sixth-ranked Eric Barnett. Brody Teske controlled a 4-0 win over Taylor LaMont, a past All-American. Cobe Siebrecht scored late to beat 18th-ranked Garrett Model 3-2 at 157. Patrick Kennedy wrestled well despite a 4-3 loss to sixth-ranked Dean Hamiti. But in a vacuum, Iowa mostly weathered a storm Sunday to top a scrappy Badger squad.
"We did what we had to do," Brands said. "Good job."
In the wider view, Sunday's result also revealed that the Hawkeyes' margin for error is incredibly small if they want to take down top-ranked Penn State this season.
That particular matchup takes center stage this week, as Iowa will take on the Nittany Lions (10-0, 3-0) on Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's campus. If the Hawkeyes thought the UW Field House was a hornet's nest, wait until there's nearly three times as many fans rooting against them in primetime.
But the Iowa-Penn State dynamic has quietly bubbled up over the last few months. More and more, as the 2022-23 college wrestling season has unfolded and the Division I pecking order takes shape, it looks a lot like Penn State sitting comfortably on top, Iowa sitting a step behind in second, then as many as 10-12 teams firmly behind in a heated chase for the third- and fourth-place NCAA team trophies.
Friday's dual meet will be the first opportunity to see how the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions stack up against each other at all 10 weights. There's a path to a dual-meet victory for Iowa if the full A-Team brings its A-Game, and those results could help position the Hawkeyes at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships come March.
The Nittany Lion lineup features plenty of firepower — with four NCAA champs in Roman Bravo-Young (133), Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (184), and Max Dean (197) — plus another All-American in heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet and budding youngsters Beau Bartlett (141), Shayne Van Ness (149), Levi Haines (157) and Alex Facundo (174). It has the potential to be one of Cael Sanderson's best Penn State teams.
On paper, Iowa is favored at two weights (125 and 141), Penn State is favored in four (133, 174, 184, 197), and the remaining four will largely decide the outcome. Upsets are possible, too, and bonus points will undoubtedly come into play. There are dozens of different dual results on the table here, which is an exciting prospect.
But these Hawkeyes have a tall mountain to climb to catch mighty Penn State. It will take a strong performance to get the Lions on Friday and perhaps an even better one to keep pace with them in a tournament setting. These are all things Brands and company already knew, and Sunday's frustrating criteria win only reinforced the idea.
"I know one thing," Brands said. "I know that when we’re ready to go and we’re putting points on the board, things go our way. When we’re winning tough positions, things go our way. If we hang, if it’s lethargic, if it’s lazy, then we’re in trouble — and that’s just a metaphor for life."
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at@codygoodwin.
#2 Iowa 19, #13 Wisconsin 18
- 125: #1 Spencer Lee (IA) pinned #6 Eric Barnett (WI) in 4:37
- 133: Brody Teske (IA) dec. #28 Taylor LaMont (WI), 4-0
- 141: #2 Real Woods (IA) dec. #26 Joey Zargo (WI), 9-2
- 149: #2 Austin Gomez (WI) dec. #7 Max Murin (IA), 5-3
- 157: #21 Cobe Siebrecht (IA) dec. #18 Garrett Model (WI), 3-2
- 165: #6 Dean Hamiti (WI) dec. #10 Patrick Kennedy (IA), 4-3
- 174: Josh Otto (WI) dec. Drake Rhodes (IA), 6-5
- 184: Tyler Dow (WI) pinned #8 Abe Assad (IA) in 1:24
- 197: #13 Braxton Amos (WI) dec. Kolby Franklin (IA), 4-0
- 285: #3 Tony Cassioppi (IA) dec. #11 Trent Hilger (WI), 4-1
- Iowa won on third tie-breaking criteria: Most NON Pin, Default, DQ Match Points: Iowa 31, Wisconsin 24
- Individual rankings from InterMat.