By James Geerdes
It’s impossible to predict the future in wrestling. But a good guess is always fun.
Iowa’s wrestling program has had ups and downs, upsets from individual wrestlers, and shortcomings from the team.
But those strong upsets can give insight on who may emerge on top at the Big Ten Tournament in March.
Spencer Lee, Michael Kemerer, and Alex Marinelli, in my opinion, have the best chances of winning Big Ten individual titles. Each has a proven track record this season to show they can win big when it counts.
Against Ohio State, Spencer Lee took down the nation’s top lightweight, Nathan Tomasello. The effort, although without a takedown, showed Lee has what it takes to compete with the top dogs.
There was little doubt whether Lee could handle himself among the top when he emerged on college wrestling’s scene. He has earned tech falls and pinned his way through the majority of his opponents this season, and I won’t be surprised to see that at the Big Tens — at least until he meets Tomasello or Rutgers’ Nick Suriano.
Kemerer has also made a strong case for one of the nation’s top 157-pounders. After Penn State’s Jason Nolf suffered a knee injury against Rutgers, Kemerer emerged as arguably the best competitor at his weight.
He has amassed a 19-0 record this season with wins over then-No. 6 Micah Jordan of Ohio State, then-No. 7 B.J. Clagon of Rider, and then-No. 7 Joshua Shields of Arizona State. If Nolf doesn’t reach peak health, Kemerer will be the favorite at Big Tens and NCAAs.
Iowa’s Marinelli has also shown an ability to win a Big Ten title. The redshirt sophomore has five wins over top-15 opponents, four of which are from the Big Ten. Marinelli, en route to his perfect season thus far, has also knocked off then-top-ranked Vincenzo Joseph. Marinelli is ranked No. 2 nationally at 165 behind Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez.
There’s my best guess. Iowa notches three champions, yet it has the firepower to land more. A questionable champion could be Brandon Sorensen. Iowa’s senior 149-pounder has posted quite a career, but time and time again, he falls short to Penn State’s Zain Retherford.
By Taylor McNitt
As the Big Ten Championships approach the collegiate wrestling world, two Hawkeyes stand out as champions in their weight classes: freshmen Alex Marinelli and Spencer Lee.
At the start of the season, predictions would have been very different. Returning All-Americans Michael Kemerer and Brandon Sorensen would have been the go-to bets. But over the course of the season, things have changed.
Junior heavyweight Sam Stoll has fallen twice this season. Adam Coon of Michigan blemished Stoll’s record first, but not for the first time. Penn State’s Nick Nevills also did a number on Stoll’s record. He doesn’t seem likely to pull out ahead at this point.
Sorensen, undefeated prior to Saturday, would have been a strong contender; but long-time rival senior Zain Retherford dominated once again, making it unlikely Sorensen will beat him at Big Tens.
Kemerer, however, is a little harder to anticipate. The one wrestler who outranks him is the reason he likely won’t take first. Penn State’s junior Jason Nolf and Kemerer have a long history, and Kemerer isn’t on the winning side of it. Kemerer likely won’t change that at Big Tens.
Lee and Marinelli, on the other hand, have both jumped the rankings in leaps and bounds, bringing down the top-ranked wrestlers in their weight classes, despite the odds. Marinelli’s raw strength and endurance and Lee’s explosive aggression will take them to the top notch in the rankings and hand them the Big Ten titles.