By James Geerdes
Two days from now, 10 of Iowa’s wrestlers will go to war with the rest of the Big Ten, each with a goal in mind: survive and advance.
Both the front and back sides of Iowa’s talented lineup have men in position to win the tournament. With seedings released on Monday, head coach Tom Brands saw many of his wrestlers ranked.
In order of weight, Spencer Lee ranks third, Paul Glynn and Vince Turk are unranked, Brandon Sorensen landed in second, Michael Kemerer is tied for first, Marinelli is the second seed, Joey Gunther is the seventh, Mitch Bowman is the eighth, Cash Wilcke is the third, and Sam Stoll rounds out the Hawkeye seeding in fourth.
“I don’t think seedings matter,” Lee said. “All seedings are for is making a bracket. If you’re the best guy, it doesn’t matter where you’re put in, you should be able to win.”
The lighter half in Iowa’s lineup says they are ready for the war. The winning mentality is embedded in their heads.
“Just get the job done,” Turk said. “It’s part of the process of getting to the Big Ten and the national tournament, you have to win the battle and get ready for the war.”
Michael Kemerer, who is tied for the first seed with Penn State’s Jason Nolf, has lit up scoreboards this season. He is in contention for the Hodge Award after posting a perfect regular season as a sophomore.
Senior 149-pounder Sorensen has been through the postseason battle three times now. But for many of Brands’ wrestlers, this is their first college postseason experience. Even so, many have lived for the month of March their entire lives.
“For Sorensen, it’s his last chance, but for five guys, it’s their first chance,” Brands said. “Regardless of where you’re at, it’s important.”
Each wrestler has a goal in mind: a national championship. To win, one has to wrestle through the biggest stage in college wrestling.
Sorensen, who has placed second at Big Tens twice and third once, will have to overcome Penn State’s Zain Retherford to reach the top of the podium, a task that has been daunting in the past.
“The one thing that you can hang your hat on if you’re one of these guys is that you’ve been preparing for big events like this your whole life — whether it’s state events, regional events, or nationals,” Brands said. “We just have to be ready to go one match at a time.”
Each of Brands’ wrestlers has landed before on big stages, some bigger than others. Lee, Iowa’s true freshman, has won three world championships.
He will have to work through a gauntlet to win the Big Ten’s 125-pound category. In his way are the likes of Nick Suriano of Rutgers, Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State, Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern, and others.
“I don’t think there should be a mentality change; you go into every match the same way,” Lee said. “Treat every match like it’s a world or Olympic final.”