The Daily Iowan names Iowa wrestling 2020-21 Men’s Team of the Year

The DI sports staff bestowed the honor up on the Hawkeyes in unanimity.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s 125-pound Spencer Lee wrestles Oklahoma State’s Nicholas Piccininni during the fourth session of the 2019 NCAA D1 Wrestling Championships at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA on Friday, March 22, 2019. Lee won by decision, 11-4, and earned a spot in the finals of his weight class.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

After a historic 2020-21 campaign, Iowa wrestling has been named the Men’s Team of the Year by The Daily Iowan. The DI’s sports staff bestowed the honor upon Hawkeye wrestling in unanimity.

On March 20, the Hawkeyes claimed the 24th NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship in University of Iowa history, crowning an individual national champion in the process.

RELATED: Iowa wrestling claims long-awaited NCAA Championship

With one exception, senior Spencer Lee defeated all of his opponents throughout the regular and postseasons via major decision, technical fall, or fall — earning bonus points for the Hawkeyes every time he took the mat on his way to an NCAA title in the 125-pound weight class.

The only match Lee won by decision in 2020-21 came against Brandon Courtney in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship Finals. The Murrysville, Pennsylvania, native defeated Arizona State’s Brandon Courtney, 7-0, winning his third-straight national championship.

Lee’s efforts helped the Hawkeyes finish 15.5 points clear of all their opponents at the NCAA tournament at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

RELATED: Iowa wrestling’s Spencer Lee overcomes knee injury, wins national title

In total, seven Hawkeyes earned All-America status in St. Louis. Seniors Jaydin Eierman and Michael Kemerer both finished second in their respective weight classes. Senior Austin DeSanto and heavyweight Tony Cassioppi both placed third, while 197-pound Jacob Warner and 157-pound Kaleb Young finished the event in 4th and 7th place, respectively.

Before they won 2021’s national championship, the Hawkeyes also claimed last year’s Big Ten Championship. Iowa scored 159.5 team points on the event, crowning four individual champions: Lee, Eierman, Kemerer, and 165-pound Alex Marinelli. Iowa finished the 2021 Big Ten Championships 35 points ahead of the field.

RELATED: Top-ranked Hawkeyes dominate 2021 Big Ten Wrestling Championships for 37th conference title

The Hawkeyes spent the entirety of the 2021 season ranked first in the NWCA Coaches Poll. Iowa went 5-0 during the regular season — wrestling a reduced conference-only schedule because of COVID-19.

Iowa was initially slated to wrestle in nine regular season meets. The Hawkeyes, however, competed in just three dual meets and one triangular match.

Iowa wrestling paused team activities on Feb. 8 in response to positive COVID-19 test results within its program. The stoppage lasted nearly a month, as the Hawkeyes did not hit the mat again until March 6 at the Big Ten Championships in State College, Pennsylvania. As a result, the Hawkeyes’ last three 2021 regular season meets were canceled.

RELATED: Iowa wrestling pauses in-person activities

Iowa’s performance throughout the 2021 season helped Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands earn coach of the year honors from the Big Ten, NWCA, and Intermat.

Lee also received a bevy of individual awards in 2021, including the Dan Hodge Trophy and the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year award.

RELATED: Iowa wrestling’s Spencer Lee wins second-straight Hodge Trophy

All 10 wrestlers in Iowa’s starting lineup in 2020-21 will be returning to the UI for the 2021-22 season. Lee, Marinelli, Eierman, DeSanto, Young, and Kemerer will all utilize the additional year of eligibility the NCAA granted all of its winter sports athletes because of COVID-19.

The Hawkeyes lost their chance to win a team national championship in 2019-20, as the NCAA canceled its 2020 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships because of COVID-19.

In 2021-22, Iowa will be chasing its third-straight Big Ten title and its second-straight national championship. Alongside his team, Lee will pursue his fourth individual NCAA title.

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