Hawkeyes focused on Big Tens after dominant regular season

Iowa took eight of 10 matches against Oklahoma State, but the team has work to do ahead of the upcoming Big Ten Championships.


Nichole Harris

Iowa’s 125-pound Spencer Lee grapples with Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccininni during a wrestling dual meet between No 1. Iowa and No. 9 Oklahoma State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. No. 1 Lee defeated No. 4 Piccininni by major decision, 12-3, and the Hawkeyes defeated the Cowboys, 34-6.

Robert Read, Sports Editor

With a 34-6 dual meet victory over rival Oklahoma State, Iowa wrestling clinched an undefeated dual meet season and tied its largest margin of victory over the Cowboys since 1995.

There are still things to clean up ahead of the approaching Big Ten Championships.

“We’ve got to tune these guys in,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “Put a razor edge on them.”

Top-ranked Spencer Lee opened the night with a 12-3 major decision over No. 4 Nick Piccininni, who defeated him to end the regular season last year. Lee dominated from the start but cooled off toward the end of the match.

“I feel like I wrestled an OK match,” Lee said. “I wrestled hard for the majority of it, just have to keep going and wrestle seven minutes and keep scoring. Tom and Terry [Brands] told me to keep going. I wasn’t really hurting or tired or anything, I just stopped wrestling a little bit at the end. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve got bigger goals than just this match.”

One of those goals for Lee is winning a Big Ten Championship, something that has evaded the two-time National Champion.

Lee won’t get ahead of himself though, every match is important.

“We know that we’ve got to be ready to go,” Lee said. “Even though you’ve got to be ready to go for every match no matter what. It’s the next one and that’s the biggest match you’ve ever seen because it’s the next one.”

The Hawkeyes took eight of ten matches against the Cowboys, two of them by pin.

Iowa’s dominated every dual meet this season except for the No. 1 vs. No. 2 bout against Penn State on Jan. 31. The team continues to show it is the best in college wrestling, but some parts of the lineup still need to be solidified.

“You talk about consistency, we’ve got two weights that didn’t win,” Brands said. “Consistently, we’ve been doing well at [157 pounds], but we’re winning tight matches and eking it out. That may be a good thing. I don’t believe in lessons or, ‘Oh, you’ve learned your lesson now’ and things just start clicking.”

Nelson Brands lost in the constantly changing 184-pound spot in the lineup. He got the nod over Cash Wilke and No. 9 Abe Assad, who is likely to wrestle in New Jersey at the Big Ten Championships.

At 157, No. 5 Kaleb Young dropped his third match of the season to unranked Wyatt Sheets.

“Kaleb Young is a guy that needs to manage his matches,” Brands said. “He didn’t do a good job of managing that match. That guy reversed us and made us pay with a reversal. You talk about riding time, that one was in his favor. You can talk about that match a lot of different ways.

“He doesn’t need to wrestle like Spencer or [Michael] Kemerer. He needs to wrestle like Kaleb Young. I think he understands that.”

This is the first time Iowa’s finished the regular season without a loss since 2011.

Going into postseason competition, the goal for Brands and Iowa is to give Hawkeye fans — who just set the NCAA single-season record for attendance — something to cheer about.

“Great schedule, [the fans] showed up,” Brands said. “They showed up from the get-go. I think there was 10,000-plus for Chattanooga…We’ve got to give our fans something to be excited about going into the postseason.”

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