Hawkeye wrestling finds areas to improve on for NCAAs

Iowa finished third as a team and found areas to improve on as it prepares for NCAAs next week.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 133-lb Austin DeSanto wrestles Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak during the fourth session of the 2019 Big Ten Wrestling Championships in Minneapolis, MN on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Lizak won by decision, 6-2, and earned third in his weight class.

Sarah Altemeier, Sports Reporter

MINNEAPOLIS – After crowning just one champion with one second-place finish and two bronze medals, the Iowa wrestling team will need to step up its overall performance if it wants to improve its results at the NCAA Championships on March 21-23.

A large part of Iowa’s struggle was caused by matches from Session 1. Iowa had nine of 10 wrestlers competing in the quarterfinals, but only advanced Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto, Alex Marinelli, and Jacob Warner, the four wrestlers with byes.

“We have to be more ready to go,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “We have to maybe not struggle so much with putting points up on the board, and what I mean by that is that there might be a struggle in there, but you look at the real attempts, the explosive attempts.”

Going into the final session of the tournament, the Hawkeyes only had Lee and Marinelli in the championship bracket, while DeSanto, Pat Lugo, Kaleb Young, and Warner wrestled in the third-place match.

Cash Wilcke finished fifth with an opponents’ medial forfeit and Max Murin placed seventh in Session 3, leaving the Hawkeyes with a 4-3 record in placement matches.

Warner and Marinelli stood out for the Hawkeyes in the final session, and Brands noted a couple aspects of their matches that others can learn from.

“Look at Warner’s match where he didn’t waste the second period,” Brands said. “He had to have a takedown in the second period and then he had to have one in the third and then he had to have one in overtime, and that’s how you do it. Going back to Marinelli, there’s a lot of lessons there on keeping the pace high for the entire match. Keep scoring, not waiting.”

The three placement losses came from Lee, DeSanto, and Young.

Lee wrestled Sebastian Rivera for the 125-pound Big Ten title. Lee went into the third up 3-0 behind an escape and a takedown, but after a Rivera escape, the Wildcat gained a penalty point on a hands to the face call and two on a takedown, making the score 4-4 with Lee’s riding time point.

Rivera emerged victorious in sudden victory as he turned a Lee shot into a takedown.

In order for Lee to come out on top at the NCAA Championships, he will need focus on wrestling his match the way he knows how.

“Spencer scores a takedown in the third period, it’s over,” Brands said. “When I say “over,” I don’t mean the clock would stop and he’d get his hand raised. I’m talking about if he scores a takedown in the third period, we don’t have to do all the hands to the face stuff, and the things that derailed us. We just have to wrestle our match, and Spencer knows that, and when he wrestles his match, he’s dynamite.”

DeSanto wrestled Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak in his third-place match, but was unable to find a way out from underneath the Gopher, losing 6-2. Lizak tallied a takedown, a two-point near fall, an escape, and a point for riding time over the Hawkeye.

Before NCAAs, DeSanto plans to work on not rushing his shots and getting better in the bottom position.

“I need to be a lot better,” DeSanto said. “It’s a tough tournament; it’s [my] first time at the Big Tens. It was fun. [I] took some losses. I know what I need to improve on – there’s a lot. There’s so much, but just kind of feeling what I need to work on is – not eye-opening – but just more knowledge of what I need to work on.”

Iowa will have a little over a week to work on and apply what it learned at the Big Ten Championships before it heads to Pittsburgh for the NCAAs.

The Hawkeyes currently have eight automatic bids to the tournament while Mitch Bowman and Sam Stoll will have to wait until March 12 for at-large bids to be announced.

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