Opinion | Iowa men’s wrestling will narrowly beat Penn State on Friday

Daily Iowan Sports Editor Austin Hanson projects the results of Friday’s Iowa-Penn State dual.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa’s 157-pound No. 12 Kaleb Young wrestles Illinois’ Joe Roberts during a wrestling dual between No. 2 Iowa and No. 21 Illinois at State Farm Center in Champaign, IL on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. Young defeated Roberts, 16-1, by technical fall. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini 36-3.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

The stage is set and the stakes are established for the Iowa-Penn State men’s wrestling dual this Friday. The No. 1 Nittany Lions and No. 2 Hawkeyes will clash at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 8 p.m.

With the right to be No. 1 in the nation on the line, the degree of separation between the two teams is small. So, I’ll break down the dual match-by-match, determining which team is more likely to win.

125 pounds: Drake Ayala (IA) over Drew Hildebrandt via 9-7 decision

The odds aren’t in Ayala’s favor to win this one. He was upset by Ohio State’s Malik Heinselman last week in Columbus.

Still, I think the Hawkeyes’ true freshman has the edge in this match.

Ayala has been wrestling since Nov. 28. Hildebrandt competed in his first match Jan. 7. So, Ayala will probably win this bout because Hildebrandt still has some rust to shake off.

133 pounds: Roman Bravo-Young over Austin DeSanto (IA) via 12-8 decision

DeSanto has wrestled Bravo-Young five times in his career, posting a 2-3 record. On paper, it looks like DeSanto has a legitimate shot to win this bout.

A closer look at DeSanto and Bravo-Young’s matches suggests otherwise. DeSanto beat Bravo-Young twice in 2019 and is 0-3 against him since.

I don’t expect Bravo-Young’s winning streak against DeSanto to end Friday night.

141 pounds: Nick Lee over Jaydin Eierman (IA) via 6-4 decision

Eierman is 2-1 against Lee in his career. However, Lee beat Eierman in their most recent matchup.

Lee defeated Eierman in the NCAA finals last year, claiming a national championship in the process.

Eierman just hasn’t looked right to me this year. He hasn’t been as dominant as I expected him to be. “The Riddler” isn’t likely to avenge his NCAA Tournament loss to Lee.

149 pounds: Max Murin (IA) over Beau Bartlett via 12-6 decision

To be honest, I don’t know much about Beau Bartlett. And I think there’s a reason for that.

Yes, Bartlett is a nationally ranked wrestler. But I don’t think he has the same wrestling prowess as Max Murin.

Murin just took Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso to the brink. Bartlett hasn’t beaten anybody ranked in the top 15 at 149 pounds this season.

I think Murin will pull this one out for the Hawkeyes.

RELATED: Iowa men’s wrestling downs Ohio State, 21-12

157 pounds: Kaleb Young (IA) over Terell Barraclough via 12-4 major decision

I don’t think every bout in this dual will end via decision. Somebody will score bonus points, and I believe it’ll be Young.

Yes, Young’s had a tough season, but Barraclough hasn’t been nationally ranked for most of the year. Young has a clear advantage in this match, and he’ll prove it. Ranked Hawkeyes are really good at earning bonus points against unheralded opponents.

165 pounds: Alex Marinelli (IA) over Brady Berge via 10-6 decision

Just like Ayala, Marinelli was upset last weekend in Columbus. Ohio State’s Carson Kharchla beat Marinelli via 3-2 decision.

Brady Berge has only wrestled two matches this year. Berge, like Hildebrandt, probably doesn’t have his sea legs yet, giving Marinelli an advantage at 165.

174 pounds: Michael Kemerer (IA) over Carter Starocci via 7-5 decision

Kemerer has wrestled Starocci twice in his career and gone 1-1. Kemerer beat Starocci to become the 2021 Big Ten Tournament’s 174-pound champion. Starocci then defeated Kemerer in the NCAA Championship Finals less than a month later.

Kemerer’s looked good since he made his debut Jan. 7, earning bonus points in three of his five matches. Starocci has looked good too, racking up bonus points in nine of his 12 bouts.

This one is a toss up, and these two wrestlers will probably face each other more than once this season.

184 pounds: Aaron Brooks over Abe Assad (IA) via 8-4 decision

This might be a spot where Nittany Lion fans expect to score some bonus points, but I think Assad will hold his own and lose by decision.

Asaad recently took Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero to the brink, losing 3-1 in sudden victory. Romero is ranked inside the top 10 in the country at 184 pounds.

Assad and Brooks have only faced each other once, with Brooks reigning victorious via 7-2 decision. I expect this match to end in a similar fashion.

197 pounds: Max Dean over Jacob Warner (IA) via 5-3 decision

Dean transferred from Cornell to Penn State before this season began and he’s never faced Warner. So, this matchup is tough to predict.

I’m giving Dean the edge because his résumé looks just a smidge better than Warner’s.

Heavyweight: Greg Kerkvliet over Tony Cassioppi (IA) via 10-6 decision

Cassioppi and Kerkvliet have only wrestled each other once. Cassioppi won that match via 9-0 major decision.

Kerkvliet, however, recently beat Michigan’s Mason Parris. Cassioppi is 0-2 against Parris.

Given Kerkvliet’s recent win over Parris, I like him to pick up a victory at heavyweight for the Nittany Lions.

FINAL: Iowa 16, Penn State 15

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