By Taylor McNitt
Coming off a disappointing loss against No. 7 Michigan, the Iowa wrestling team will need to rally in order to take on Minnesota and Northwestern with its usual fire.
“We just have to move forward; the next match is the most important match, and that’s what we have to focus on,” said freshman Spencer Lee after the Jan. 27 match. “It’s Minnesota, and it’s the most important match of our lives right now, because it’s the next one.”
The team will need to embrace Lee’s attitude in order to rebound from Michigan.
“The big thing is staying calm and relaxed, focusing on one match at a time,” said Brandon Sorensen. “Not getting ahead of yourself, keep moving forward, and keep improving — be the best you can be. We’ve got an opponent coming in, and we have to get the job done. That’s where my focus is.”
The Gophers head into the match today ranked No. 18, and despite the overall dominance in the series, the Hawkeyes have only a three-year winning streak.
“I’ll tell you what: you better pull your singlet up and tie your shoes tight,” said head coach Tom Brands. “That’s a good compliment [to Minnesota]. When they’re competitive, they don’t hold back.”
Minnesota has two fewer ranked wrestlers than Iowa, which means breathing room after Michigan’s nine ranked wrestlers.
To start off at 125, Lee, ranked by Intermat at No. 3, will take on either No. 6 junior Ethan Lizak or junior Steve Polowetzki. At 133, either sophomore Paul Glynn or senior Phillip Laux will face No. 12 sophomore Mitch McKee, and either sophomore Vince Turk or freshman Carter Happel will battle it out against No. 10 junior Tommy Thorn at 141.
Looking at the undefeated middle three weights of 149, 157, and 165, No. 2 Sorensen, No. 2 sophomore Michael Kemerer, and No. 7 freshman Alex Marinelli will all compete. Their opponents will be Minnesota’s sophomore Ben Brancale, No. 18 senior Jake Short, and No. 8 senior Nick Wanzek.
Iowa’s Joey Gunther has the nod at 174, set to wrestle senior Chris Pfarr. No. 20 junior Mitch Bowman at 184 and No. 7 sophomore Cash Wilcke will wrestle either freshman Dylan Anderson or junior Brandon Krone. To finish the match, No. 3 Sam Stoll will take on either sophomore Rylee Streifel or junior Nate Rose.
Looking at this lineup, fans can let out their breath a little — Minnesota’s heavier weight classes won’t put up as much pressure as Michigan’s did; the lighter weights will have the fight.
Lee, having proved his ability against highly ranked competitors, shouldn’t fall to Lizak or Polowetzki. Glynn or Laux, on the other hand, are likely to hand over points at 133 against McKee. A similar predicament faces 141. Considering Turk’s resilience and victory against Michigan’s Sal Profaci, he may be the go-to pick.
After that, the only weight that faces a highly ranked wrestler is at 165, but Marinelli, a fighter, won’t be likely to yield.
Northwestern is a bit of a different story.
Lee will take on No. 10 freshman Sebastian Rivers to start the Feb. 4 match. At 133, again, either Glynn or Laux will face off against freshman Colin Valdiviez. 141 will see either Turk or Happel grappling with sophomore Alec McKenna.
Sorensen, at 149, will wrestle No. 5 freshman Ryan Deakin, Kemerer will wrestle sophomore Shane Oster at 157, and at 165, Marinelli will face senior Michael Sepke.
Gunther will take on No. 17 junior Johnny Sebastian at 174, at 184, Bowman will grapple with senior Mitch Sliga, Wilcke will wrestle sophomore Zack Chakonis, and in the heavyweight match, Stoll will face junior Conan Jennings.
Fans can expect Lee, Sorensen, Kemerer, Marinelli, Bowman, Wilcke, and Stoll to dominate if looking simply at the rankings. Gunther will have a run against Northwestern’s Sebastian, and the 133 and 141 matches are uncertain. The Northwestern match marks the last home match of Sorensen’s, Laux’s, and Logan McQuillan’s college careers. They will be recognized following the dual.