By James Geerdes
This season’s wrestling stories seem to be the dazzling efforts from true freshman Spencer Lee, the senior season of Brandon Sorensen, or even the hot start of sophomore Michael Kemerer.
But Iowa’s 165-pounder has emerged as one of the leaders of Iowa’s dynamic lineup.
Redshirt freshman Alex Marinelli, also known as “the Bull,” has compiled a strong résumé in his first three months as a starting Hawkeye.
“He came, and people called him the Bull,” Sorensen said. “He puts the pressure on you. He’s strong. So, Alex Marinelli — the Bull.”
This past weekend, the Miamisburg, Ohio, native lived up to his nickname. In a come-from-behind victory, the Bull upset Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph, the previously top-ranked 165-pounder.
“I think the second period I had a hard ride on him,” Marinelli said. “I looked at [Coach Ryan] Morningstar, and Terry [Brands], and Tom [Brands], they knew right away that I was getting to him in his head. I just had to stay low and be ready for whatever he had. I was ready for it … In the third period, I capitalized on it.”
Marinelli toppled the defending NCAA Champion with a 6-point feet-to-back move with 1:30 left in the third period to overcome a 5-3 deficit and win, 9-6.
“Props to him,” Brandon Sorensen said. “He did some good things, and he needs to keep moving forward with that. He said it best — he can score more points. He knows he can do it, so let’s widen the gap there.”
His efforts earned him Co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honor and a No. 2 ranking behind Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez.
Marinelli has worked as an underdog all season. In his opening match on Dec. 8 against Rutgers, the Bull upset ninth-ranked Richie Lewis with a 6-4 decision in sudden victory. Later that month, he won the Midlands Championships, beating Lewis again.
Marinelli’s workman mentality showed in January, notching wins against three top-15 opponents. His February showings have been equally as impressive, as he topped a No. 8 and, most recently, a No. 1.
“He’s ready to go, and he’s excited to compete,” head coach Tom Brands said. “That’s probably the thing that is the most consistent. Performance-wise, he goes out there ready to score points. When your mindset is that way, then you’re going to score points.”
However, beating Joseph did not earn him any hardware or championship — winning an national title is what he really wants.
“Beating a No. 1 guy — yeah, it’s a big deal. But honestly, at the end of the season, whoever’s No. 1, that’s what matters,” Marinelli said. “Rankings, to me, don’t matter, seedings don’t matter. Anyone can be a dark horse. You have to be ready for anyone.”
But even with the upset over top-ranked Joseph, Iowa still lost the dual with Penn State, 28-13, and that is not how the Bull wanted to end the dual.
“We love Marinelli,” Brands said. “He’s what we need. He’s a workman-type mentality. The thing about him is he’s selfish about the team; it’s not just about himself. He’s bittersweet. He’s walking off that mat after shaking hands, and he’s chewing on his lip. It’s hard for him to swallow the team, and I love it. It’s not about his own performance. He’s trying to make everyone better.”