Regular season crown within reach for Iowa wrestling

With only two duals remaining, Iowa wrestling can clinch the Big Ten regular season title with a win over Minnesota on Saturday.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 141-pound Carter Happel wrestles Penn State’s Nick Lee during a wrestling dual meet between No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Jan. 31. No. 2 Lee defeated Happel by technical fall in 5:53, and the Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions, 19-17.

Austin Hanson, Assistant Sports Editor

The 2019-20 season is shaping up to be a historic one for Iowa wrestling.

In their next meet on Saturday, the Hawkeyes will have a chance to add to their already impressive résumé. With a win over No. 13 Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa could clinch the Big Ten regular season title outright.

The Hawkeyes currently hold a share of the Big Ten regular season crown with Penn State. A win on Saturday would secure a perfect Big Ten conference record for the Hawkeyes. It is impossible for the Nittany Lions to achieve that feat. Iowa dealt Penn State its only conference loss of the season in a bruising 19-17 dual Jan. 31 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

There is a scenario that would allow the Hawkeyes to win the title outright before they even hit the mat on Saturday night.

Penn State will wrestle Ohio State at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. A Nittany Lions loss would mathematically eliminate them from the race for the Big Ten regular season crown.

Conversely, there is also a way for Iowa and Penn State’s tie for first to remain intact.

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A Hawkeye loss and a Penn State victory would result in a shared regular season title. The Big Ten does not have a regular season championship tiebreaker.

While a Big Ten regular season title is certainly impressive, the Hawkeyes have their sights set on larger targets.

“[A Big Ten regular season title] is good,” senior Michael Kemerer said. “It’s another check mark along the process. Obviously, we’ve got our eyes turned toward the end of the season, but we treat every match like it’s important. [The Minnesota dual] is the next [match], and it’s the most important one because it’s the next one.”

All-American Pat Lugo doubled down on his teammate’s statement. Suggesting that postseason achievements often determine how a team will be remembered.

“[Winning the Big Ten] is a definite big goal, big step,” Lugo said. “Bigger fish to fry is the [NCAA] National Tournament. No one remembers the Big Ten champion. They remember the national champion, so that’s definitely the main goal, but we want both. We just don’t want one. We don’t want to medal; we don’t just want to be on the podium. We want the gold medal. We want to be at the top of the podium.”

While the Hawkeyes have certainly been wrestling well all season long, they believe their best wrestling is still ahead of them.

Junior Carter Happel knows the Hawkeyes are always primed to peak at the right time.

“We have a great coaching staff,” Happel said. “Tom and Terry [Brands], [Ryan] Morningstar, and [Bobby] Telford know what they’re doing. They’re putting us through these workouts early in the week, these tough workouts.

“We kind of tailor it off at the end so that we’re not getting hurt, staying healthy. We kind of all peak for the dual at the end of each week. [We’re] just focusing in on these weekend duals toward the end of the week.”