Nelson Brands wins Big Ten debut, Patrick Kennedy fills in at 174 pounds in Hawkeye wrestling’s season-opening victory

The top-ranked Iowa wrestling team defeated No. 6 Nebraska, 31-6, on Friday.


Shivansh Ahuja

IowaÕs 184-pound Nelson Brands grapples with NebraskaÕs Taylor Venz during a wrestling dual meet between No. 1 Iowa and No. 6 Nebraska at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Nelson Brands enjoys wrestling. Fielding questions after a dual meet? Not so much.

The redshirt sophomore made his Big Ten dual debut in the No. 1 Iowa wrestling team’s commanding 31-6 victory over No. 6 Nebraska on Friday night in the 2021 season opener.

Brands, ranked eighth in the country at 184 pounds, defeated seventh-ranked Taylor Venz for his second career victory over a top-10 opponent. Rather than go in-depth on the match, or provide insight into his offseason, Brands kept his answers short in the post-match press conference.

“I just enjoy wrestling,” Brands said.

“I was just enjoying wrestling. I just know that I enjoy wrestling.

“I’m enjoying wrestling and I’m looking forward to enjoying wrestling this year.”

His time at the microphone was short, only long enough for him to say those 28 words, but Brands’ work on the mat spoke for itself.

In the first period of the 184-pound match, Brands notched two takedowns, and he added another in the second. Then in the third period, Brands secured his victory with a reversal, two takedowns, and a riding time point to win via major decision, 13-5.

RELATED: Top-ranked Iowa wrestling team dominates No. 6 Nebraska, 31-6, in season-opener

The 184-pound spot in Iowa’s lineup was a question mark throughout last season, and was again entering the 2021 campaign. Brands and Abe Assad fought for the spot, with the latter competing at the 2020 Big Ten Championships.

Brands posted a 2-2 dual record last season, but his first performance of the 2021 season will make it hard for Iowa head coach Tom Brands to take him out of the lineup moving forward.

“We answered a lot of questions,” Tom Brands said of Iowa’s victory. “As a coach, you’re looking at your team and you feel good about that performance. But what’s next, that’s where we have to keep going in our heads. It’s not tough to do. Our jobs are easier because these guys have the right mindset.”

Kemerer will return to lineup in next dual

The most notable absence from Iowa’s lineup Friday night was the top-ranked wrestler at 174 pounds: Michael Kemerer.

In his place was true freshman Patrick Kennedy, who had the daunting task of wrestling No. 4 Mikey Labriola in his Hawkeye debut. The four-time Minnesota high school state champion lost a 7-4 decision to Labriola, who scored a takedown in every period, but showed his head coach he is already capable of competing with the best of the best.

“[Labriola] wanted an easier match than how it went down,” Brands said.

But, as Brands said of Kennedy, “To be really game, you’ve got to finish.”

Iowa’s 174-pound Patrick Kennedy grapples with Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola during a wrestling dual meet between No. 1 Iowa and No. 6 Nebraska at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. No. 4 Labriola defeated Kennedy by decision, 7-4, and the Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 31-6. (Shivansh Ahuja)

Kennedy missed his shots on the offensive end. All four of his points came via escapes.

Brands said Kemerer, who is dealing with an unspecified injury, wanted to wrestle on Friday. But in the end, the “wisdom” of the medical staff outweighed Kemerer’s competitive desire to compete

Kemerer will be back on the mat for Iowa’s Jan. 22 dual against Minnesota.

“This isn’t a quarterback controversy,” Brands said, “this is Kemerer’s spot.”

By the Numbers: Iowa wrestling’s first dual victory of the season

Iowa dominated in its return to the mat to start the 2021 season. Here are the numbers that stood out:

  • The Hawkeyes have won 14 straight overall, 17 straight at home, and 19 consecutive Big Ten duals.
  • Iowa won eight of 10 weight classes against Nebraska, only dropping the bouts at 174 and 197 pounds.
  • Spencer Lee improved to 19-0 all-time at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.  In Lee’s 19 home wins, he has five pins, eight technical falls and three major decisions. Five of the wins are against top 10 opponents. Lee also extended his winning streak to 24 matches.
  • Four Iowa wrestlers scored bonus points.
  • The Hawkeyes held a 28-5 advantage in takedowns and an 89-35 edge in match points.

No. 1 Iowa wrestles at No. 14 Minnesota on Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. The dual is televised live on BTN.