Iowa wrestling set for explosive season opener

The Hawkeyes are ready to kick off their much-anticipated 2019-20 campaign on Sunday by putting their wrestling styles on display.

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Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 133-pound Austin DeSanto wrestles Michigan’s Stevan Micic during the third session of the 2019 NCAA D1 Wrestling Championships at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA on Friday, March 22, 2019. Micic won by decision, 3-2.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

Iowa wrestling’s journey to a run at the national championship begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

It’s not one of the top seven teams on Iowa’s 2019-20 schedule, but Tennessee at Chattanooga gives the Hawkeyes a chance to prepare for those teams down the road.

It also brings a chance to play with lineup variations before getting to the powerhouses in Penn State and Ohio State in 2020.

The biggest variable in Iowa’s probable lineup comes in the lower weights, 133 and 141. No. 2 ranked Austin DeSanto sits as an option at both weights, with senior Paul Glynn and redshirt freshman Gavin Teasdale at 133 and Carter Happel at 141.

“We don’t even know really where we’re plugging those options in yet. We may not know till Saturday,” head coach Tom Brands said. “We know that we have a lot of firepower. We’ve got to make sure that we’re putting guys in the right places to get them ready for what’s down the road.”

Firepower is right. Seven of Iowa’s 12 listed wrestlers for Sunday are ranked in the top 10 in both Intermat and TrackWrestling’s polls.

The goal this weekend is not for just the team to get excited, but for the program to get its fans invested in the season early, something that shouldn’t be too difficult with the early No. 2 team ranking and reintroduction of Michael Kemerer to a lineup filled with Spencer Lee, Alex Marinelli, and Jacob Warner.

“I just see a lot of talent and excitement and camaraderie and a good group of guys,” Marinelli said. “We’ve changed the culture I think. We love wrestling, but we don’t let it control us in a way that our emotions aren’t normal, I guess robotic. We’re just normal guys, and we like to wrestle, and we like to wrestle hard. I think it’s exciting.”

RELATED: Michael Kemerer is ready to return to Iowa wrestling’s lineup

Lee, ranked No. 1, tops off Iowa’s lineup as the only listed option at 125. All-American and No. 5/3 Pat Lugo is in at 149, followed by No. 2 Kaleb Young, No. 2/6 Marinelli, No. 4/2 Kemerer, No. 10/9 Cash Wilcke, No. 4/5 Jacob Warner, and No. 12 Tony Cassioppi rounding it at 285.

“There’s all kinds of things going on in our lineup, and it’s from the bottom to the top,” Brands said. “We’re really excited about that.”

For the Mocs, who are already 1-2 on the season, four of their wrestlers are ranked according to TrackWrestling. Junior Fabian Gutierrez comes in at No. 28 at 125-pounds, No. 21 sophomore Tanner Smith is at 149, No. 21 Matthew Waddell is at 184, and Rodney Jones is No. 24 at 197-pounds.

“Always the first match is important; you’ve got to start off strong,” DeSanto said. “These guys are no joke, can’t take anybody lightly, so it’s important to wrestle really tough.”

This weekend kicks off four-straight Sunday dual meets for Iowa. On Nov. 24, the Hawkeyes will travel down Interstate 80 to take on the Cyclones in Ames. Iowa’s first Big Ten matchup comes in primetime against No. 7 Wisconsin on Dec. 1 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The slate ends with a trip to Princeton on Dec. 8.

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