Top-ranked Iowa wrestlers look to extend Big Ten dual win streak to 23
Hawkeyes face Purdue and Ohio State on Sunday
By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The top-ranked Iowa wrestling team will look to extend its Big Ten dual meet win streak to 23 against No. 18 Purdue and No. 11 Ohio State on Sunday in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The tri-meet also will be the first time this season that the Iowa wrestlers will have the opportunity to wrestle multiple matches in one day, which will serve as a nice warmup for the type of atmosphere they will encounter in the postseason.
The Hawkeyes have won four of the last five duals against Ohio State dating back to the 2011-12 season and are 10-0 against Purdue under head coach Tom Brands.
“I think that when you look at the national tournament, the postseason, the Big Ten Tournament, you look at multiple matches,” Brands said. “In some instances, you’re going to have multiple matches in the same session. So, this is mimicking that to a certain degree. There’s not a two-day weigh-in, or a three-day weigh-in process, but this is getting there. So, this is important.”
Wrestling multiple matches in the same day is nothing new to most in the Hawkeyes lineup.
The only wrestlers listed in the probable lineup without collegiate postseason experience are 165-pounders Joe Kelly and Bretli Reyna, and 184-pounder Nelson Brands.
Kelly and Reyna are filling in for second-ranked Alex Marinelli, who is currently out due to COVID-19 protocol.
Even with that experience, top-ranked senior 141-pounder Jaydin Eierman stressed the importance not getting caught looking ahead.
“I’m excited for it,” Eierman said. “I’m excited to go out there and wrestle. We always focus on the first match first. We’re not overlooking our opponents. So, I’m excited to go out there and wrestle Purdue and then Ohio State. It’s going to be awesome. I’ve been to nationals three times, so I’m used to wrestling multiple matches on one day or weighing in one time then wrestling two or three more after that. It’s nothing I’m not used to.”
149-pound junior Max Murin will face perhaps his biggest challenge so far this season against Ohio State’s second-ranked Sammy Sasso.
Murin, ranked eighth by Intermat, also is slated to face No. 16 Griffin Parriott of Purdue.
Murin, a native of Edensburg, Pennsylvania, enters Sunday with a 3-0 record on the season with all three wins coming against ranked opponents.
“I’ll tell you without giving locker room material to anyone, Max Murin respects all, fears none,” Tom Brands said. “He’s not going to give credit to a number one ranking on an opponent, or a pizazz style, or an explosive this or that or the other thing this guy may possess or not. He’s going to go out there and he’s going to wrestle Max Murin’s style. Now, here’s the thing, you better be ready for a war, and we’re getting better.
“Without speaking for him too much, I think he’s excited for this challenge, and he’s up for it and he’s always been up for it. What are you going to do with this opportunity? That’s where we’re at.”
Senior 125-pounder and two-time national champion Spencer Lee is the only Iowa wrestler slated to face two opponents ranked in the top 10.
Lee, the reigning Dan Hodge Trophy winner and Big Ten Wrestler of the Year, already has faced three ranked opponents this season and pinned each of them in the first period.
The Murrysville, Pennsylvania, native has a 36-5 career record against ranked opponents and owns a career record of 25-0 in Big Ten duals.
Lee will face No. 12 Devin Schroder of Purdue and No. 10 Malik Heinselman of Ohio State.
Lee pinned Heinselman in the first period of their match at the Midlands Championships in 2018 and won 17-0 by technical fall over then-No. 5-ranked Schroder last season.
Tom Brands has described Lee as a spark plug for the Hawkeyes, and Eierman echoed that sentiment on Tuesday.
“He’s an inspiration to all of us,” Eierman said. “He’s the returning Hodge winner, two-time national champ coming in here for his third one. It’s just great to roll around with him every single day when we get the chance to and fuel each other’s knowledge in wrestling. It brings in that competitive drive in each other, because the ultimate goal is to win nationals and win a Hodge, so it’s always that friendly competition of, all right, let’s see who’s going to get it at the end of the year.”
Another noteworthy match is Iowa’s top-ranked senior 174-pounder Michael Kemerer against Ohio State’s third-ranked Kaleb Romero.
Kemerer, a native of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, beat Romero 7-1 in their only match last season.
Kemerer has scored bonus points in his last eight wins.
“Michael Kemerer is a wrestling rat if you want to call him that,” Tom Brands said. “He loves the mat. He’s good at positions that favor him, and he’s good at positions that maybe don’t look like they favor him. He’s a hustler and he knows how to stay in there. He’s got a really good feel.
“He’s got some funky things on his body, different body parts that are funky, explosive. What he brings to the mat is unpredictable. That’s how I would explain him. When he finds himself in an unfamiliar position, he usually gets out of it.”
Iowa faces Purdue at 10:30 a.m. and Ohio State at 1 p.m. Both duals will be televised on Big Ten Network.