Marinelli, Kemerer put final stamp on Carver as Iowa men’s wrestlers

Seniors Michael Kemerer and Alex Marinelli wrestled their final matches at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Saturday.


Grace Smith

Iowa’s Michael Kemerer, Kaleb Young, and Alex Marinelli take a selfie after a wrestling meet between No. 2 Iowa and No. 9 Wisconsin in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 29-6.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Iowa men’s wrestling head coach Tom Brands isn’t always sure what he’ll get out of his wrestlers when he recruits them out of high school. Some have unsuspected pitfalls, and others don’t.

Brands might’ve ended up with something better than he ever could’ve imagined when he brought 165-pounder Alex Marinelli and 174-pounder Michael Kemerer into his wrestling room.

Kemerer is a four-time All-American and Big Ten Champion. Marinelli is a three-time Big Ten Champion and All-American.

“When you’re dealing with young people, there’s just a lot of pitfalls in the world,” Brands said after Iowa defeated Wisconsin, 29-6, Saturday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “You don’t know what you’re getting, even though you do your job as a recruiter. What you end up with, with those two in particular, and really the group, is some really good people that are solid.”

Marinelli came to the University of Iowa from Miamisburg, Ohio, in 2016, opting to don the  Black and Gold, rather than Ohio State’s Scarlet and Gray.

“I had a picture of Carver above my bed [as a kid],” Marinelli said Saturday. “Now, I can put myself in that poster.”

Kemerer joined the Hawkeye wrestling program in 2015, moving 679 miles from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, to Iowa City.

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Both Marinelli and Kemerer redshirted during their respective freshman seasons. “Kemdawg” actually began his Hawkeye career as a 149-pounder.

Kemerer cracked Iowa’s starting lineup for the first time in 2016-17. Marinelli did so in 2017-18.

Marinelli and Kemerer have been an effective one-two punch in the middle of Brands’ lineup since 2017-18. Kemerer wrestled at 157-pounds in 2017-18, so Marinelli was his follow-up act.

After a year off in 2018-19 with an injury, Kemerer bulked up to 174 pounds. Kemerer’s multi-class move-up made him the Hawkeyes’ explosive encore to Marinelli.

“I don’t think you’d rather have anyone else than Michael Kemerer to back you up, right? I know he’s giving me a high-five after I get off the mat,” Marinelli said. “Then, he’s going and doing his job. He is the epitome of class. One of my best friends.”

The pair has been wrestling successively in duals for the better part of the last five years. Both put their own stamps on their last-ever matches at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on senior day Saturday.

Marinelli defeated sixth-ranked Dean Hamiti via 8-5 decision, and Kemerer earned an 11-2 major decision against Wisconsin’s Andrew McNally.

“It’s hard to put into words the amount of time and amount of things we’ve experienced together,” Kemerer said. “It’s been amazing. It’s been super fun. It’s a special kind of relationship we’ve built over the years that I don’t think a lot of people could understand, except us.”

During their six years together at Iowa, Kemerer and Marinelli helped shape the Iowa wrestling program in profound ways.

Kemerer was the first of six Pennsylvanians to commit to the UI over the last seven years. One of the five Quaker Staters to pledge their allegiance to the UI shortly after Kemerer was now-three-time NCAA Champion Spencer Lee, who, like Kemerer, is from Murrysville.

Last season, five of Iowa’s 10 starting wrestlers hailed from Pennsylvania. This year, none of the Hawkeyes’ 10 starters grew up in Iowa.

“There’s a lot of ways you could talk about the awesome things they’ve done for this program,” Brands said of Marinelli and Kemerer. “. . . It’s hard to stay somewhere six years and not leave a footprint of some kind.

“They care about each other, and they care about the future, and they care about their team,” Brands added. “The place is better because of them, and that’s a really good feeling.”