Iowa wrestling faces off in first dual meets

Hawkeye wrestling’s journey to chasing a championship begins today in Ohio.

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Iowa wrestling faces off in first dual meets

Iowa's 125-pound Spencer Lee walks off the mat after defeating Purdue's Luke Welch during Session 2 of the NCAAs Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, March 15, 2018.

Iowa's 125-pound Spencer Lee walks off the mat after defeating Purdue's Luke Welch during Session 2 of the NCAAs Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, March 15, 2018.

Ben Allan Smith

Iowa's 125-pound Spencer Lee walks off the mat after defeating Purdue's Luke Welch during Session 2 of the NCAAs Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, March 15, 2018.

Ben Allan Smith

Ben Allan Smith

Iowa's 125-pound Spencer Lee walks off the mat after defeating Purdue's Luke Welch during Session 2 of the NCAAs Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, March 15, 2018.

Anna Kayser, Assistant Sports Editor

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Iowa wrestling’s motto going into regular season competition is simple.

“If you want to be the champion, be the champion,” head coach Tom Brands said.

The Hawkeyes head into the season with one individual champion and a third-place team finish at the NCAA Championships in March.

RELATED: Iowa wrestling focused on two major points for the season

Penn State, the reigning national champions, creates a challenge for Iowa on all fronts. To close in on the Nittany Lions and the wide win margin that the Nittany Lions try to create season in and season out, the Hawkeyes have to attack from all corners.

By having wrestlers in every single weight class who can seriously compete with the Lions, Iowa’s chances increase.

“If all 10 of our guys win national titles, I’m pretty sure we win, right?” sophomore Spencer Lee said.

RELATED: Hawkeye wrestler Alex Marinelli prepped for season with new mindset

The work heading toward an end goal in March started at the beginning of training. The next step, however, begins today.

Iowa will compete in Ohio this afternoon, starting at 4:30 p.m. against Cal State-Bakersfield. At 6:30 p.m., Iowa will take on Kent State.

The No. 3 Hawkeyes have never faced Kent State, but they have gone 6-0 all-time against the Roadrunners.

Iowa will go into battle without one of its athletes today. Redshirt freshman Jacob Warner will not compete, Brands said. Warner competed at the World Championships through the middle of September and has been training but will be given a competition break.

“He hasn’t missed a beat,” Brands said. “Just to go from the World Championships from September right into the season, we got to do it right.”

For those who will compete today, it’s the first chance of the season to fight together as a team.

For sophomore Alex Marinelli, this competition isn’t just about starting the journey toward the NCAA Championships; it’s about going home.

“Looking forward to going to Ohio — I’ve got a lot of friends and family who are going to be there and just competing with my brothers,” Marinelli said. “We’re a family, and it’s showing a lot. We have a lot of good atmosphere going into this first dual meet.”

Iowa’s four returning All-Americans will anchor the lineup: Lee, Marinelli, Sam Stoll, and Michael Kemerer.

Lee, the reigning national championship at 125, goes into the season with a mindset that comes from his success as a freshman.

“I like knowing that I’m going to get the best out of every guy I wrestle,” Lee said. “That’s the whole goal of the sport.”

Being one of the top teams in the country gives the entire Iowa squad a target on its back. The Hawkeyes have their work cut out for them, but they have never been a team to shrink from battle.

“The challenge is great, and we’re up for it,” Brands said. “We’re never not up for it. Just got to do a better job. Got to do a better job when it comes to being 2, 3, or 4; 2, 3, or 4 is easy. One, that’s tough. Being 1 is tough.”

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