The Daily Iowan

Iowa’s wrestling puzzle falling into place

Iowa%27s+Brandon+Sorenson+wrestles+Oklahoma+State%27s+Boo+Lewallen+during+the+Iowa-Oklahoma+State+dual+meet+on+Sunday+Jan.+14%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Cowboys+20-12.+%28Nick+Rohlman%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29brandon+sorenson+boo+lewallen
Iowa's Brandon Sorenson wrestles Oklahoma State's Boo Lewallen during the Iowa-Oklahoma State dual meet on Sunday Jan. 14, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cowboys 20-12. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)brandon sorenson boo lewallen

Iowa's Brandon Sorenson wrestles Oklahoma State's Boo Lewallen during the Iowa-Oklahoma State dual meet on Sunday Jan. 14, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cowboys 20-12. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)brandon sorenson boo lewallen

Iowa's Brandon Sorenson wrestles Oklahoma State's Boo Lewallen during the Iowa-Oklahoma State dual meet on Sunday Jan. 14, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cowboys 20-12. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)brandon sorenson boo lewallen

James Geerdes, [email protected]

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Tom Brands and Company added one more piece to the ever-growing puzzle on Sunday in Carver-Hawkeye with a 20-12 victory over Oklahoma State, placing the Hawkeyes that much closer with the nation’s top teams.

In November, Brands said that we would not see Iowa’s best team until late in the season. On Sunday, we saw a team much closer to what we were promised after the dual with No. 3 Oklahoma State.

Iowa won six of the 10 bouts, earning bonus points with a Brandon Sorensen tech fall at 149 pounds. The performance was greeted happily by more than 13,000 fans.

But just last month, Iowa was a much different team.

On Dec. 1, Iowa barely squeaked by Illinois, 18-17. The win came via a Sam Stoll pin at heavyweight. The next week, the Hawkeyes were challenged by a Rutgers squad and won, 23-15.

Iowa’s next major obstacle was the Midlands Championships at the end of December. But Brands’ squad hushed its doubters with a convincing team win, placing five champions.

A major piece of the puzzle came through the removal of true freshman phenom Spencer Lee’s redshirt. In his first match against Michigan State on Jan. 5, Lee pinned Rayvon Foley in 46 seconds to start his highly anticipated Iowa career. Next, against Oklahoma State, he beat No. 9 Nick Piccininni in a 10-5 decision.

Another piece came in the form of Alex Marinelli. The 165-pound redshirt freshman débuted against Rutgers, and he has swiftly worked to an 8-0 record this season, including a Midlands Championship under his belt. Most recently, Marinelli topped eighth-ranked Cowboy Chandler Rogers in a 5-2 decision.

But some pieces of Brands’ puzzle are yet to be placed.

“We have to figure out our personnel at 133 and 141,” Brands said. “I don’t share a lot of times what I say to these guys when they’re on the bench and I’m back talking to them, but I’ll tell you — yeah, I’m not going there. I just changed my mind.”

Phillip Laux and Paul Glynn have split Iowa’s duties at 133 pounds this season, but both have been unable to win big matches for the Hawkeyes.

At 141, redshirt freshman Carter Happel and sophomore Vince Turk have shared the load. Happel finished sixth at the Midlands Championships, and Turk lost earlier in the consolation bracket.

Brands is also recruiting a potential 184-pounder in Pat Downey. The graduate student was a national champion for Iowa Central Community College and placed fifth for Iowa State at the 2016 NCAA Championships. He was admitted into Iowa on Jan. 11 but is still considered a recruit, according to Brands.

Even with the Hawkeyes’ puzzle coming together, they still have a challenging slate of duals ahead of them. But with a win over the Cowboys, they are that much closer to the top tier of the wrestling landscape.

“This was a dual about two teams that are in the same category and two teams that are trying to get to the next category, and that means Penn State and Ohio State,” Brands said. “They are 1 and 2, and everybody else seems to be on the outside. To get there, you have to take steps. We took a step, and we have to keep moving forward.”

After Oklahoma State, the Hawkeyes will square off against No. 2 Ohio State, No. 8 Michigan, No. 14 Minnesota, No. 25 Northwestern, and No. 1 Penn State, all within the next month.

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