By James Geerdes
Tom Brands and Company found their groove again this past weekend after suffering two stumbles against Ohio State and Michigan in the last two weeks. Two dominating wins set the Iowa train back in motion, but its biggest challenge awaits.
Iowa pounded two teams for two wins this weekend; a 34-7 victory over No. 18 Minnesota and a 33-2 win over No. 17 Northwestern showed Hawkeye dominance across the board.
Now a household name in college wrestling, Spencer Lee furthered his campaign this season with two wins over top-10 opponents. The third-ranked lightweight topped Minnesota’s sixth-ranked Ethan Lizak with a convincing 15-0 technical fall on Feb. 2, then two days later, won a 7-4 decision over Northwestern’s 10th-ranked Sebastian Rivera.
“I just didn’t focus on scoring,” Lee said. “The coaching staff and me, we have a lot to work on. We have Penn State on Saturday.”
Penn State is the challenge facing Iowa. Lee, a native of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, will return home on Saturday to take on the powerhouse program that has won six of the last seven national championships, and parts of the lineup will have to be pieced together if Iowa is to win the dual.
Mitch Bowman took a step in the right direction on Sunday. After having dropped three matches in a row, he earned a major decision over Mitch Sliga of Northwestern.
Kaleb Young dropped his match on Sunday at the 174-pound spot against No. 17 Johnny Sebastion. On the other hand, Joey Gunther got the start on Feb. 2 and earned a 5-1 decision over Chris Pfarr of Minnesota.
For the majority of the weekend, Iowa’s lineup found ways to win.
The team won eight of its 10 bouts against Minnesota and won nine of its 10 against Northwestern.
Notably, freshman 141-pounder Carter Happel, down 4-3, pulled off a last-second takedown and pin to upset No. 10 Tommy Thorn of Minnesota.
But the battle for the 141-pound spot raged on, when sophomore Vince Turk won a major decision over Alex McKenna of Northwestern.
Freshman Alex Marinelli, the seventh-ranked 165-pounder in the nation, over-powered No. 8 Nick Wanzek of Minnesota in a 5-1 decision.
“I heard Terry [Brands] at the end say, ‘You ride him.’ He said it pretty loud, and that just gave me motivation to ride him,” Marinelli said. “I knew there was short time and getting that riding time is huge in those close matches.”
On Senior Day against Northwestern, Iowa’s lone senior in the lineup Brandon Sorensen, fended off No. 5 Ryan Deakin with a 5-4 win in sudden victory. A technical violation was called on Deakin in the overtime period, and Sorensen was able to walk away with a win.
He concluded with a 35-3 career record in Carver-Hawkeye.
“[Sorensen] is what we want our guys to be,” Brands said. “He puts his head down and goes to work every day. There’s been zero distraction with him.”
“I’m going to miss him a lot,” Lee said. “I was only here a year with him, but he’s the model of what you want to be in this program. If you want to be successful in this program, you just have to follow what Brandon Sorensen does.”