Wrestling Season Preview

Nebraska wrestling head coach Mark Manning speaks with wrestler Mikey Labriola during a meet against Iowa at the Bob Devaney Sports Complex on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Iowa showed why it's the top-ranked wrestling team in the country on Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa with a convincing 31-6 victory over No. 5 Nebraska. 

It was clear Iowa had the upper hand early in the lower weight classes. At 125 pounds, three-time NCAA champion No. 1 senior Spencer Lee pinned Nebraska’s No. 16 senior Liam Cronin in just 80 seconds, putting Iowa up 6-0. At 133 pounds, Iowa’s No. 5 senior Austin DeSanto recorded eight takedowns, a four-point near fall and an escape to get a 21-6 technical fall victory over Nebraska sophomore Alex Thomsen in the second period to put Iowa up 11-0.

Iowa again had a top-ranked wrestler take the mat at 141 pounds, with Missouri transfer No. 1 senior Jayden Eierman facing off against Nebraska’s No. 7 senior CJ Red Jr.. Red Jr. held a 2-1 lead after one period thanks to a quick takedown, but Eierman fought back with an early escape and takedown in the second period on the way to a 8-4 victory by decision, extending Iowa’s lead to 14-0. 

Nebraska suffered another hard-fought loss in the 149 pound division. Nebraska No. 16 freshman Brock Hardy and Iowa No. 6 junior Max Murin were tied at two after the second period. In the third period, Murin’s quick escape, late takedown and riding time bonus gave him the 6-2 win by decision to extend the Iowa lead to 17-0. 

At 157 pounds, Iowa No. 7 senior Kaleb Young had four takedowns, one reversal and the riding time bonus to complete a 17-5 win by major decision over Nebraska senior Caleb Licking, who spent most of the match struggling to avoid the pin. Iowa led 21-0 going into the intermission. 

Following the intermission, another highly-ranked wrestler took the mat for the Hawkeyes at 165 pounds in No. 2 senior Alex Marinelli. He faced Nebraska No. 17 sophomore Peyton Robb. Robb had an early takedown of Marinelli in the first period, but upon review, it was ruled out of bounds and no takedown points were awarded. Robb would not get another takedown the rest of the match, as Marinelli used three, a stalling penalty against Robb and the riding time bonus to get a 9-3 victory by decision, extending the Iowa lead to 24-0.

After losing six straight matches, Nebraska got their first win of the night in the 174 pound weight class. No. 4 junior Mikey Labriola recorded three takedowns and an escape to defeat Iowa freshman Patrick Kennedy by decision 7-3. Kennedy was Iowa’s only unranked wrestler to step on the mat on Friday, but he put up a valiant effort in his first collegiate match. He nearly took control over Labriola late in the second period before the experienced Husker escaped the scramble to get a late takedown.

Iowa got its groove back at the 184-pound weight class. No. 8 sophomore Nelson Brands, son of Iowa wrestling assistant coach Terry Brands, had a dominant victory over Nebraska No. 6 senior Taylor Venz, who was making his season debut after failing a skin check last week. Brands was in total control the entire match, with five takedowns, one reversal and over two minutes of riding time contributing to a 13-5 victory by major decision and putting Iowa’s lead at 28-3. 

The most exciting match of the night took place at the 197-pound weight class between Nebraska No. 2 senior Eric Schultz and Iowa No. 3 junior Jacob Warner. Neither wrestler got much of an edge through the first two periods, with an early escape being the only points as Schultz led 1-0. Warner opened the third with an early escape of his own, and as time was winding down, Schultz got the first and only takedown of the match with 40 seconds remaining to win by decision, 3-2. Iowa wrapped up its victory in the heavyweight class, with Iowa No. 3 sophomore Tony Cassioppi shutting out Nebraska senior Christian Lance in a 4-0 win by decision. 

Iowa’s 31-6 win over Nebraska is its 12th straight in the series. Nebraska will look to bounce back against Maryland and Northwestern at the Devaney Center on Jan. 23.