Iowa wrestling set for Hawkeye Wrestling Club Showdown Open

Nineteen Iowa wrestlers will compete in the undercard and main event on Sunday at Xtream Arena.


Nichole Harris

Iowa’s 125-pound Spencer Lee grapples with Purdue’s Devin Schroder during the final session of the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament in Piscataway, NJ, on Sunday, March 8, 2020. Lee won by major decision 16-2, securing the 125-pound championship, and Iowa won the team title with 157.5 points..

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

The NCAA wrestling season will not start in November this year, but 19 Hawkeyes will compete in a freestyle dual format at the Hawkeye Wrestling Club Showdown Open on Sunday at Xtream Arena.

Getting the event set up was a process. Iowa wrestling head coach Tom Brands said he was kicking around this event idea since late July, and it took a lot of work with Iowa’s compliance and administration teams.

To work around those compliance rules, the Hawkeye Wrestling Club had to choose whether the event would take place before school started in August, sometime on Nov. 1, or after. The latter was the option chosen.

Given the uncertainty of the upcoming collegiate wrestling season, Brands and company are using the open as a sort of preseason warmup meet.

“I’ve said this a lot, the vehicle, the path to competition, these guys have been very professional in their handling of the situation they were put in,” Brands said. “Even [Pat] Lugo, who’s going to be in this card, but he lost a lot more than the guys that actually have eligibility left. So, they’ve handled it well, it’s time to compete, it made sense. We have great support. Hawkeye Wrestling Club is an extension of Iowa Hawkeye wrestling even though they have to be separate. We have a partnership with [Think Iowa City President] Josh Schamberger, it made a lot of sense, and remember, Iowa City is wrestling town, USA.”

There will be an undercard and a main event, starting at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.

In the main event, Iowa’s two-time NCAA Champion and 2020 Hodge Trophy winner Spencer Lee will be wrestling against Zach Sanders — a 2019 World Cup team member and a four-time All-American from 2009-12 at Minnesota.

RELATED: Hawkeye Wrestling Club to allow fans at Showdown Open

Also in the main event, Iowa’s Austin DeSanto will be competing against Bryce Meredith – a three-time All-American from 2016-18 when he competed at Wyoming. Meredith has competed freestyle at national events before.

“Freestyle, it’s just get on the mat and just wrestling,” DeSanto said. “Controlling the center of the circle, and I just think both of us are ready to score some points and get ready to score points and just get out there and compete.”

Iowa’s Alex Marinelli will be competing against James Green – a four-time All-American at Nebraska from 2012-15 and a 2017 Senior World medalist – in the main event.

“I found out a month or two ago and I was really excited just to wrestle anyone,” Marinelli said. “I didn’t really care who it was. And when he said it was James Green, I was just super excited because he’s a world-class level athlete and he’s very good on the freestyle scene and he’s ranked in the world.”

There will be two women’s matches in the main event. 2018 World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt will face three-time U.S. National Team member Erin Golston.

In the other women’s match, 2019 and 2020 U.S. Open champion Precious Bell will compete against Jordan Bell, who finished in third place at the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championships in 2020.

“We talked to a lot of different partners in the women’s wrestling community to make sure that we got this right,” Brands said. “We didn’t want to underrepresent them, and we didn’t want to overrepresent them. As far as the pay and everything like that, it’s all equal across the board. That was very important to us as we went forward with this event and I think we got it right.”