Iowa men’s wrestler Tony Cassioppi delivers dual-clinching win over Wisconsin

With the Hawkeyes down, 18-15, heading into the final match, the heavyweight took down the Badgers’ 11th-ranked Trent Hillger to continue Iowa’s undefeated season.


Ayrton Breckenridge

No. 3 nationally ranked 285-pound Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi wrestles No. 11 nationally ranked 285-pound Wisconsin’s Trent Hillger during a wrestling dual between No. 2 Iowa and No. 16 Wisconsin at the Wisconsin Field House in Madison, Wis. on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. Cassioppi defeated Hillger by decision, 4-1. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers 19-18. After the dual, one point was awarded to Iowa for criteria for most match points to break the tie.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

MADISON, Wisc. — Senior Tony Cassioppi found himself in a familiar position in the Iowa men’s wrestling team’s 19-18 victory over Wisconsin at UW Field House on Sunday. Once again, the Hawkeyes needed the 285-pounder from Roscoe, Illinois, to deliver a victory to keep their undefeated season alive. 

Down 18-15 to the Badgers, the third-ranked Cassioppi faced off against 11th-ranked Trent Hillger in the final match of the dual. 

“It doesn’t really change anything for me, I’ve got to go out there and do my job,” Cassioppi said at a post-dual press conference outside the visitors’ locker room. “The big thing is, I want my teammates to win, I want what’s best for them, so that’s really the biggest thing on my mind there. I’m disappointed for my guys, but that doesn’t affect how I wrestle or how I prepare.” 

After a scoreless first period, Hillger slipped out of Cassioppi’s grasp to open the scoring with an escape point. Cassioppi evened the match with an escape point to open the final period, then tossed Hillger over his back for a takedown to take a 3-1 lead, which he carried to the end of the match. 

“He went, had a stalemate, very slow neutral danger zone count, didn’t get it,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “Probably not going to get, those referees are going to really be conservative there, and he went again. One was a head-outside, and one was a head-inside [takedown], he scored on the head-inside; it was a good finish.” 

The Hawkeyes took down the Badgers, 19-18, because of the NCAA’s third tiebreaker criteria — Iowa had 31 match points compared to Wisconsin’s 24.

Brands also thought Hillger had an unfair advantage during the heavyweight match. 

“Guy was oiled up too, guy was oiled up, print that,” Brands said. 

“I don’t know if he had oil or anything on him, he was just kind of slick,” Cassioppi added. “I just had to brush it off and just keep wrestling. Maybe keep that mind that I’ve got to really, really secure that leg or really, really secure that wrist when I wrestle.”

Cassioppi is now 15-0 on the season with 10 pins, nine of which came within the first period. Including Sunday, Cassioppi has won the dual-winning match five times in the last two seasons. 

During the Rofkin Duals in Niceville, Florida, in December 2021, Cassioppi won via regular decision over NC State’s Tyrie Houghton to preserve a 16-15 Hawkeye lead. 

With the Hawkeyes up 17-15 over Nebraska on Feb. 20, 2022, the three-time All-American again delivered, taking down then-12th-ranked Christian Lance for a regular decision victory.  

This season, his regular decision victory over ninth-ranked Sam Schuyler of Iowa State on Dec. 4, 2022, broke a 15-15 tie and gave the Hawkeyes an 18-15 win in the Cy-Hawk dual. Then on Jan. 6, Cassioppi defeated Illinois’ Matt Wroblewski via stalling disqualification to take the match.

“We’ve got a pretty doggone heavyweight with ice water in his veins … He’s got incredible resolve, a good, even mind, ” Brands said. “He’s best when he’s on the attack, he’s best when he’s on the attack, and that’s how he’s going to win the big prize.” 

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