By James Geerdes
Last week, Spencer Lee wrestled in his biggest college dual yet. The true freshman rose to the occasion in front of a packed Carver-Hawkeye crowd and upended No. 9 Nick Piccininni in a 10-5 decision.
This week, it will be even bigger.
Iowa will head to Columbus on Jan. 21 to take on top-ranked Ohio State. Lee will start action for the Hawkeyes with a top-10 dual with Ohio State’s top-ranked Nathan Tomasello at 125 pounds, a three-time Big Ten champion and a national titlist.
Tomasello’s last match resulted in an 18-3 tech fall over fourth-ranked Ethan Lizak of Minnesota.
“Every guy you wrestle, and every week, you have to get ready for it like it’s the national-championship finals,” Lee said.
And for a lot of this weekend’s event, it could potentially mirror matchups in the national championship. The meet with the Buckeyes will host numerous top-20 bouts.
No. 6 Lee and No. 1 Tomesello will go at 125, No. 2 Brandon Sorensen will wrestle No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes, No. 2 Michael Kemerer will face No. 6 Micah Jordan at 157, No. 8 Alex Marinelli and No. 13 Te’Shan Campbell will meet at 165, No 20 Mitch Bowman will face No. 2 Myles Martin, No. 5 Cash Wilcke will wrestle No. 1 Kollin Moore at 197, and No. 3 Sam Stoll will get No. 1 Kyle Snyder at heavyweight.
Nine of the 10 bouts will feature wrestlers who have never faced each other, with an exception being the Wilcke-Moore matchup; Moore won, 19-7, last season.
At heavyweight, Stoll has had an impressive season, but Snyder’s résumé is otherworldly for a senior in college. He is perhaps the most decorated college wrestler: an Olympic gold medalist, a two-time world champion, and a two-time NCAA champion.
“They’re a real solid team,” Bowman said. “That’s why they’re ranked and [why] they’re competing with Penn State. They’re a good team. They’re as good as they come, so we have to bring our A-Game.”
Redshirt freshman Marinelli to bring his A-Game in front of a hometown crowd. The Miamisburg, Ohio, native was a four-time Ohio state champion and was heavily recruited by both the Hawkeyes and Ohio State. His matchup with Campbell could be his fourth win over a ranked opponent. To put that in perspective, Marinelli has wrestled eight times this season.
“It’s another team on our schedule,” Marinelli said. “People say there may be bad blood, but I’m just looking to go and face whoever they have — whoever they put on the mat. I’m excited to go fight alongside my brothers. We’re a family, and we’re going to go take down Ohio State, hopefully. I can’t wait.”
Iowa leads the all-time series 39-3 and has won the last three meetings with the Buckeyes — but this will be the toughest one yet. Ohio State has a ranked wrestler in every weight class; Iowa is ranked in seven.