Iowa men’s wrestling looking to bounce back in trip to Minnesota

The No. 2 Hawkeyes will face the No. 12 Gophers on Friday at 8 p.m. at Maturi Pavilion.


Grace Smith

Iowa’s 165-pound Patrick Kennedy poses for a portrait during Iowa Wrestling Media Day in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. Kennedy had a 17-2 record with seven technical falls during his 2021-22 season. He also placed sixth at the Southern Scuffle during the season.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

The No. 2 Iowa men’s wrestling team will head north to battle No. 12 Minnesota on Friday at 8 p.m. at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis. Friday’s dual meet will be televised live on BTN with Ray Flores and Tim Johnson on the call.

Iowa leads the all-time series against Minnesota, 78-28-1, including a 22-10 victory in last year’s dual meet. The Gophers’ last victory over the Hawkeyes was a 19-15 win on Jan. 25, 2014, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa is 12-1 this season and 5-1 in conference after suffering its first loss against top-ranked Penn State, 23-14, on Jan. 27. Minnesota is 11-2 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten with losses to Northwestern and Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes’ second-ranked 141-pounder Real Woods said he and his teammates have bounced back from the loss against the Nittany Lions and are continuing to prepare for the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments in March.

“We’ve responded well. We’re just back on the horse,” Woods said in a press conference Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to work. We know that what’s important is March and the NCAA tournament.”

Friday’s dual meet features one top-10 matchup at 125 pounds. Iowa’s top-ranked Spencer Lee is projected to face sixth-ranked Patrick McKee.

Lee is 11-0 this season with 11 bonus point victories. McKee, a two-time All-American, is 10-2 this season with losses to Purdue’s third-ranked Matt Ramos and Nebraska’s fifth-ranked Liam Cronin. Lee pinned Ramos in 2:54 on Jan. 8 and Cronin in 38 seconds on Jan. 20. The three-time national champion is 1-0 all-time against McKee with a fall in 1:53 in the 2020-21 season.

Friday’s match will be a homecoming for the Hawkeyes’ seventh-ranked 165-pounder Patrick Kennedy, who hails from Kasson-Mantorville, Minnesota. Growing up surrounded by Gophers, Kennedy showed animosity towards the Hawkeyes — but he wouldn’t change a thing about where he’s at now.

“When I was growing up, I was a Gophers fan,” Kennedy said at a press conference Tuesday. “My first memory of seeing a Tigerhawk was, ‘I don’t like Tigerhawks,’ but now that I’ve grown up, I freaking love Tigerhawks … I jumped on board, and I’m not getting off.”

Kennedy is 13-2 this season with two pins, three technical falls, and four major decisions. Four of those victories have come against ranked opponents, including a 2-1 tiebreaker win over Penn State’s 13th-ranked Alex Facundo. Kennedy is projected to face Minnesota’s 28th-ranked Andrew Sparks, who is 13-7 this season.

RELATED: Iowa men’s wrestling falls short in Happy Valley

Iowa’s 16th-ranked 174-pounder Nelson Brands is projected to face No. 11 Bailee O’Reilly on Friday. The match will be Brands’ third consecutive bout against a ranked opponent. Brands narrowly lost to Nebraska’s then-No. 3 Mikey Labriola, 3-2, and Penn State’s top-ranked Carter Starocci, 2-1.

The 184-pound wrestler for Iowa on Friday is to be determined, according to Iowa’s bout sheet. Hawkeye freshman Drake Rhodes filled in for eighth-ranked Abe Assad at 184 pounds against Penn State and lost, 22-7, to top-ranked Aaron Brooks. Assad’s last outing was against Wisconsin on Jan. 22 where he was pinned in 1:24 by unranked Tyler Dow. Whoever gets the nod on Friday is projected to face 10th-ranked Isaiah Salazar, who is 14-1.

Iowa head coach Tom Brands said overall, the Hawkeyes need to be more aggressive at putting points on the board.

“I think our guys need to do a better job of going out with the idea that it doesn’t have to be close,” Brands said Tuesday. “Why make it close? It’s like you have a choice. Go perform. Go put on a show — a spectacular display.”

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