By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Senior Night quickly turned into yet another beat-down night for the top-ranked and undefeated Iowa wrestling team as traditional power Oklahoma State had no answer for Iowa’s firepower.
Iowa and Oklahoma State have combined for some classic battles over the years, but Sunday’s dual wasn’t one of them as Iowa won eight of 10 matches and cruised to a 34-6 victory in the regular-season finale at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Sunday’s demolition was similar to most of Iowa’s matches this season in how the opponent just couldn’t contend with Iowa’s talent, depth and attacking style. The 28-point margin of victory was also Iowa's largest over Oklahoma State since 1995.
Iowa’s dominance on the mat created the ideal atmosphere for the Senior Day ceremony, which came afterwards.
Many of the fans stuck around to honor the 12 seniors on the team, and for most of the seniors, it was a rare moment in the spotlight being that only two seniors wrestled for Iowa on Sunday.
Iowa always draws well for wrestling, but the fans have embraced the current team in record numbers, considering Iowa set an NCAA average attendance record, averaging 12,568 in seven duals. The 87,979 fans through the gates is also a school single-season record.
There was no need for any build up to the drama as Sunday’s dual started at 125 pounds where Iowa’s two-time defending national champion Spencer Lee faced fourth-ranked Nick Piccininni in what was by far the most anticipated match of the evening.
Piccininni has the rare distinction of having defeated Lee, and he didn’t just beat Lee, he pinned him and that propelled Oklahoma State to a victory over Iowa last season.
Lee was asked earlier in the week what he had learned from the loss to Piccininni, and Lee basically tried to downplay any effect it might have had.
Lee said that he moved on from the loss, and it’s hard to dispute that claim considering his dominance since then, including on Sunday.
Lee scored an early takedown and led 6-0 after the first period. He would go on to win 12-3 as Piccininni failed to sustain any offense.
Lee wasn’t thrilled with his offense, either, especially as the match wore on.
“I feel like I wrestled an okay match,” said Lee, who improved to 15-0 on the season. “I wrestled hard for a majority of it. I’ve just got to keep going and wrestle seven minutes and keep scoring.
“I wasn’t like really hurting or tired, I just stopped wrestling at the end, and I don’t know what I was thinking. You’ve got to keep scoring points. I’ve got bigger goals then just this match."
Junior Austin DeSanto then brought the fans to their feet by pinning Reece Witcraft in the second period at 133 pounds, giving Iowa a 10-0 lead after just two matches.
The energy, and Iowa’s lead, continued to build as sophomore Max Murin won by major decision 141 pounds, expanding Iowa’s lead to 14-0 with seven matches remaining.
Senior Pat Lugo might have received the loudest ovation of the night when he pinned sixth-ranked Boo Lewallen in the first period.
Lugo then credited Lee for helping to set the tone for Sunday's dominance.
"Spencer Lee's winning is contagious," Lugo said.
That made the score 20-0 and it seemed pretty clear at that point that Oklahoma State, despite its storied tradition, was no match for this Iowa team.
The second half of the dual was more of the same as Iowa won four of the five matches after the break.
But as great as this regular season has been for Iowa from a performance standpoint, now comes the real important stuff.
Fair or not, this Iowa team will be judged and remembered for what it does from this point on.
The Big Ten Championships are certainly a big deal, but where Iowa finishes at the NCAA Championships will ultimately determine its legacy.
And there is no margin for error because the bar has been set so high this season that anything less than an NCAA title would be considered a disappointment.
Iowa 34, Oklahoma State 6
125 – Spencer (I) major dec. Nick Piccininii, 12-3
133 – Austin DeSanto (I) pinned Reece Witcraft 2:38
141 – Max Murin (I) major dec. Dusty Hone, 15-4
149 – Pat Lugo (I) pinned Boo Lewallen 2:22
157 – Wyatt Sheets (OS) dec. Kaleb Young, 9-4
165 – Alex Marinelli (I) dec. Travis Wittlake, 3-2
174 – Michael Kemerer (I) major dec. Joe Smith, 12-2
184 – Anthony Montalvo (OS) dec. Nelson Brands, 7-2
189 – Jacob Warner (I) dec. Dakota Greer, 8-3
285 – Tony Cassioppi (I) major dec. Austin Harris, 11-1