Iowa men’s wrestling narrowly avoids upset at Wisconsin

The No. 2 Hawkeyes defeated the No. 16 Badgers, 19-18, via the NCAA’s third tiebreaker criteria on Sunday.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa’s 174-pound Drake Rhodes wrestles Wisconsin’s Josh Otto 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. Otto defeated Rhodes by decision, 6-5. 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.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

MADISON, Wisc. — The No. 2 Iowa men’s wrestling squad narrowly escaped Madison with a 19-18 victory over the No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday.

Iowa is now 12-0 on the season and 5-0 in the Big Ten.

“I know one thing, when we’re ready to go and putting points on the board, things go our way,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said after the dual meet. “But if we hang and we’re lazy, we’re in trouble. And that’s just a metaphor for life.” 

The Hawkeyes started the match on a high note when top-ranked Spencer Lee earned his sixth consecutive fall against sixth-ranked Eric Barnett. But the tides turned when the Badgers took four of the last five matches to take a 18-15 advantage heading into the final bout.

Iowa’s third-ranked heavyweight Tony Cassioppi, however, avoided the Hawkeye upset in front of a record-setting crowd at UW Field House by defeating Wisconsin’s 11th-ranked Trent Hillger, 4-1, to knot the team score at 18 apiece. 

The NCAA’s third tiebreaker criteria rewards victory to the team with the most match points excluding falls. So, the Hawkeyes prevailed with 31 match points over the Badgers’ 24.

RELATED: Live Results: Iowa men’s wrestling takes on Wisconsin  

Cassioppi improved to 15-0 on the year and 4-0 against ranked opponents with the victory.

“I think the match against Nebraska [on Friday] was a really good match for me,” Cassioppi said post-dual outside of the visitors’ locker room. “I think my offense came together. I was moving my hands and feet and scoring points like I want to do. So I just needed to keep that rolling, keep my pace, keep my wrestling going.”

The win also marked the smallest margin of victory for Iowa over Wisconsin since 2008, when the Hawkeyes won, 22-20. Iowa, who wrestled its full starting lineup for the first time this season on Friday against Nebraska, had two true freshmen compete on Sunday.

Hawkeye freshman Drake Rhodes filled in for Nelson Brands in the 174-pound match and fell to Badger Josh Otto, 6-5. Rhodes led, 4-3, heading into the final period, but Otto scored a takedown with 35 seconds left to seal the victory.

Freshman Kolby Franklin made his varsity debut for the Hawkeyes at 197 pounds. Franklin, who came into the match with an unattached 8-3 record, filled in for four-time All-American and eighth-ranked Jacob Warner. Franklin fell to Wisconsin’s 13th-ranked Braxton Amos, 4-0.

“The good things that the [true freshmen] did were overridden by lack of hustle,” Brands said. “… When you get your hands locked on the leg, you have to climb high, get to your feet, and you have to finish. It takes something deep inside you.” 

The biggest upset of the match came at 184 pounds when Iowa’s eighth-ranked Abe Assad was pinned in the first period by Wisconsin’s unranked Tyler Dow, amplifying the UW Field House.

Dow, who was 5-9 coming into Sunday’s match, knotted the team score at 15 apiece with the victory.

“You have to be aware when someone wants to put a dagger in you,” Brands said. “At 184, we hung there too much.”

Iowa will have an even bigger task next Friday against top-ranked reigning national champion Penn State. The Hawkeyes’ last victory over the Nittany Lions came in a 19-17 thriller in January 2020 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

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