Instant Reaction: Top-ranked Penn State wrestling defeats No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes, 23-14

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

The Iowa wrestling team went into a sold-out Bryce Jordan Center on Friday night and put up a fight against top-ranked Penn State, but ultimately fell, 23-14.

The Nittany Lions won six of 10 matches to improve to 11-0 overall this season and 4-0 against Big Ten opponents, but the second-ranked Hawkeyes, now 12-1 and 5-1, gave themselves an opportunity to win the dual — even if they took a rocky road to that opportunity.

More:Hawkeye Wrestling: 19 things we learned from Iowa’s 23-14 loss to top-ranked Penn State

The path to an Iowa win included, first, give up no bonus points; second, another pin from star 125-pounder Spencer Lee; and three, some hard-fought victories in the many swing matches. Penn State might very be runaway favorites in a tournament setting, but the Hawkeyes matched up fairly well against them in a dual.

Unfortunately, that plan, specific as it was, was thrown off course after just two weights.

First, Lee only scored a technical fall, 18-2 over Marco Vespa, who actually opened the match with a quick takedown. Lee quickly reversed Vespa and cinched up four 4-point tilts to win the match in just 2 minutes, 14 seconds.

Second, Brody Teske gave up a fall with 10 seconds left in his match with Roman Bravo-Young, the nation's top-ranked 133-pounder and two-time defending national champion. Bravo-Young built a 7-2 lead after a trio of takedowns, then locked up a cradle while countering an errant Teske shot and pinned Teske in 6:50.

That gave Penn State a 6-5 lead after two matches — and made an already-tough task even tougher.

Still, the Hawkeyes battled, with Real Woods and Max Murin muscling out 4-1 wins at 141 and 149 pounds to give Iowa the lead again. In fact, after Bravo-Young's pin, the Hawkeyes actually won three of the next four matches for a 14-9 lead, the third win being Patrick Kennedy's 2-1 overtime win over Alex Facundo at 165 pounds.

But the back half of Penn State's lineup, which features three returning NCAA champs and another All-American, won out — a 2-1 win from No. 1-ranked Carter Starocci over Nelson Brands at 174; a 22-7 technical fall from No. 1-ranked Aaron Brooks over Drake Rhodes at 184; a 2-0 win from Max Dean over Jacob Warner in an NCAA finals rematch at 197; and a 4-1 win for No. 2-ranked Greg Kerkvliet over third-ranked Tony Cassioppi at heavyweight.

That Iowa didn't have Abe Assad, the 12th-ranked wrestler in the country at 184 pounds, didn't help their path to winning this dual, but even without Assad's services, Iowa trailed just 17-14 with two matches to go. Even with everything else that went wrong, the Hawkeyes had a chance if they had won the final two matches.

Penn State, of course, had other plans.

Dean rode Warner out in the third period to put the Nittany Lions up 20-14 — and even then, Iowa had a chance to win, because a fall from Cassioppi would've given the Hawkeyes a criteria victory. But Kerkvliet ensured that wouldn't happen, scoring a quick first-period takedown and adding his own riding-time point to ice the dual.

It was always going to be a tall task for the Hawkeyes to knock off the nation's best team, and that task was made harder by mistakes and the lack of a full lineup. In front of a sellout home crowd, the Nittany Lions prevailed in convincing fashion, sending Iowa back home with, in the typical words of head coach Tom Brands, plenty of work to do.

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

No. 1 Penn State 23, No. 2 Iowa 14

  • 125: #1 Spencer Lee (IA) tech. fall Marco Vespa (PSU), 18-2
  • 133: #1 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) pinned #17 Brody Teske (IA) in 6:50
  • 141: #2 Real Woods (IA) dec. #4 Beau Bartlett (PSU), 4-1
  • 149: #7 Max Murin (IA) dec. #13 Shayne Van Ness (PSU), 4-1
  • 157: #9 Levi Haines (PSU) dec. #15 Cobe Siebrecht (IA), 3-2
  • 165: #13 Patrick Kennedy (IA) dec. #5 Alex Facundo (PSU), 2-1 (TB1)
  • 174: #1 Carter Starocci (PSU) dec. #16 Nelson Brands (IA), 2-1
  • 184: #1 Aaron Brooks (PSU) tech. fall Drake Rhodes (IA) 22-7
  • 197: #4 Max Dean (PSU) dec. #7 Jacob Warner (IA), 2-0
  • 285: #2 Greg Kerkvliet (PSU) dec. #3 Tony Cassioppi (IA), 4-1