By Pete Ruden
In just a few days, the Iowa wrestling team will be on a bus to Edinboro, Pennsylvania. That’s where the No. 3 Hawkeyes will take on No. 23 Edinboro in the National Championships Dual Series on Friday.
The last time the two faced off was in 2013, when the No. 3 Hawkeyes barely took down No. 15 Edinboro, 22-19.
In that dual, a few things happened. In the 133-pound match, Iowa’s No. 1 ranked Tony Ramos was upset by No. 8 A.J. Schopp. But Ramos rebounded nicely, and he ended up taking home Big Ten and NCAA titles.
The other thing that happened was the emergence of Thomas Gilman. Gilman, who was filling in for an injured Cory Clark, dismantled a top-20 opponent in Kory Mines in his dual-meet début.
Since then, Gilman has been an absolute wrecking machine for Iowa. He’s now a two-time All-American and runner-up at the NCAAs who is ranked No. 1 at 125 pounds with a 23-0 record.
“We wrestled at Edinboro … my very first dual and we went in there and got punched in the mouth, and it was a close dual — closer than it should have been,” Gilman said. “So we gotta be ready for those guys. They kind of gave Oklahoma State all they could handle, and they’re going to try to do the same to us.”
For the first time this season, Michael Kemerer will wrestle in his home state of Pennsylvania. Kemerer grew up in Murrysville, which is around 123 miles south of Edinboro.
The one time Iowa did wrestle a team from Pennsylvania was at home, where they suffered a 26-11 loss at the hands of No. 2 Penn State. In that dual, No. 2 Kemerer took on No. 1 Jason Nolf, a person from Kemerer’s childhood, and lost his first and only match of the season, 9-4.
This time around, he will wrestle redshirt senior Chase Delande, who is 18-14 on the season.
Kemerer, who was recruited some by Edinboro but grew up an Iowa fan, thinks it will be a good opportunity for young Iowa wrestling fans in the state to watch the Hawkeyes.
And while he doesn’t know if he’ll do anything special for the dual, the 157-pounder is excited to get the chance to wrestle in front of those who have supported him throughout his career.
“It’s not something that was expected, really, just because we didn’t know who we were wrestling yet, so to see that just adds something to it,” Kemerer said. “It’s good for my family, and people who have supported me already talked about coming to the dual, so it’s good for them.”
The Iowa wrestling schedule was packed this year. In the span of 12 days, Iowa had No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Penn State, and No. 4 Ohio State.
After losing two duals in a row to the Cowboys and Nittany Lions, a huge rarity for the Iowa program, the Hawkeyes beat the Buckeyes and went on to win five straight to close out the regular season.
Heading into the postseason, Iowa has half of its lineup ranked in the top five, with four in the top three.
“It was something that we knew was on our calendar,” head coach Tom Brands said. “We learned a lot about our team, and we moved forward from week to week to week, and we’re still moving forward.”