Michael Kemerer and Iowa wrestling ready for two duals Sunday

Iowa faces Purdue and Ohio State on Sunday in West Lafayette, Indiana.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 174-pound Michael Kemerer grapples with Illinois’ DJ Shannon during a wrestling dual meet between Iowa and Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. No. 1 Kemerer defeated No. 26 Shannon by major decision, 10-2, and the Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini, 36-6.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

After missing Iowa’s first dual of the season with an injury, Michael Kemerer came back to the mat in dominating fashion.

The 174-pounder’s first match of the season was against No. 16 Jake Allar of Minnesota on Jan. 22. Kemerer won that match, 12-4.

In his next dual, Kemerer earned another major decision, this time by defeating Illinois’ No. 26 DJ Shannon, 10-2.

Now, Kemerer has a chance to compete twice on Sunday, with Iowa slated to meet both No. 18 Purdue and No. 11 Ohio State in West Lafayette, Indiana.

In the Ohio State dual, Kemerer, who is ranked No. 1 in his weight class, is projected to compete against No. 3 Kaleb Romero. Last season, Kemerer defeated Romero, 8-0.

“First things first, we got Purdue first,” Kemerer said. “So, we can’t overlook anybody, especially Big Ten wrestling, right?… So, looking to that match first. Obviously, Romero a highly ranked wrestler, we’ve wrestled before, he’s a tough opponent. So, like I said, the focus is usually on me and doing what I do.”

For the three-time All-American, having great mat awareness allows him to succeed in many of his matches.

“I think it’s just a lot of time spent in the wrestling room in those positions since I was a little kid and just been in these positions so many times now that it’s second nature, it’s muscle memory,” Kemerer said.

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“Just, I guess, doing what I was trained to do, what I was born to do,” Kemerer added.

After taking a redshirt season as a freshman, the now-24-year-old started competing for the Hawkeyes in the 2016-17 season at 157-pounds. He finished third at the NCAA Championships that season. The following year, he finished fourth at the NCAA Championships.

The 2018-19 season was supposed to be Kemerer’s first as a 174-pounder, but then knee and shoulder injuries forced him to miss the season.

When the 2019-20 season started, Kemerer was more than ready, rested, and recovered. He won his first 15 matches, including a victory over No. 1 Mike Hall of Penn State that shook Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The only match Kemerer lost last season was against Hall for first place in the Big Ten Championships. That match ended up marking Kemerer’s final match of the season as the NCAA canceled its championships just four days later because of COVID-19.

Iowa head coach Tom Brands, who wished he could have seen what Kemerer would have done at the NCAA Championships last season, called Kemerer a “wrestling rat.”

“He loves the mat,” Brands said. “So, he’s good in positions that favor him and he’s good in positions that maybe they don’t look like they favor him. He’s a hustler, and he knows how to stay in there. He’s got a really good feel. He’s got some funky things on his body, some body parts that are funky explosive, and what he brings to the mat is unpredictable.”

Iowa will dual Purdue at 10:30 a.m and Ohio State a 1 p.m. Sunday. Both duals will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

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