The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Two Iowa men’s wrestlers shine despite a disappointing home loss to Penn State

Drake Ayala started off the dual with a bang at 125 pounds, while Caleb Rathjen earned a sudden-death victory at 149 pounds.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa head coach Tom Brands watches a match during a wrestling dual between No. 3 Iowa and Purdue at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Boilermakers, 34-6. Brands has been the head coach for 17 seasons.

The Iowa men’s wrestling team lost, 29-6, against Penn State on Friday evening at Carver-Hawkeye Arena following a 24-11 loss last week to Michigan.

It is the first time the Hawkeyes have lost back-to-back duals since January of 2018 when they lost to Ohio State and Michigan.

“We got to score more takedowns and we have to get off the bottom,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said on the loss. “I don’t know how much riding time there was combined, but it was a lot. We weren’t ready. We weren’t ready.”

The two Hawkeyes who did seem prepared for the prime-time matchup against the Nittany Lions were 125-pounder Drake Ayala and 149-pounder Caleb Rathjen, who each won their respective bouts and scored four of Iowa’s five takedowns on the evening. 

The seventh-ranked Ayala started the night off with a high by earning a 4-2 upset victory against No. 2 Braeden Davis at 125 pounds, earning the loudest roar of the evening. 

Davis came into the bout against Ayala with an undefeated 14-0 record and ranked in the top five as a true freshman.

“He needed that, he needed that,” Brands said on Ayala’s win. “He’s had a little adversity, and he needed that.”

Ayala suffered his third loss of the season last week against Michigan, losing to Michael DeAugustino 2-1 in a tiebreaker period. 

Ayala brought the fans to their feet by scoring a takedown in the first period. An escape in the second period took Ayala’s score to four. A second escape by Davis in the third brought the match closer, but Ayala showed strong takedown defense and held off his attacks to secure the win. 

“They have a high-powered team, they score a lot of points,” Brands said of Penn State’s style. “You have to be ready, like beyond ready. And if you think you’re ready and you think it’s normal it’s not normal.” 

After top-ranked Real Woods fell short in the highly anticipated No. 1 v No. 2 match against Beau Bartlett at 141 pounds, it was time for second-year Caleb Rathjen to take the mat for the 149 bout against No. 10 Tyler Kasak.  It marked the first time Rathjen had entered the starting lineup since a victory on Jan 28 against Northwestern. 

Rathjen has battled fellow second-year Victor Voinovich III for the starting spot, but Voinovich has earned the bulk of the mat time so far. 

But, when his number was called, Rathjen didn’t disappoint. 

Facing blue-chip prospect Kasak, he quickly jumped out to an early lead, only to see Kasak tie the score in the third period. But, Rathjen flashed great resilience and came out on top in sudden death overtime with an 11-8 victory. 

Following the dual, head coach Tom Brands praised Rathjen’s performance. 

“He scored three takedowns, and that’s what I want the rest of the team to do,” Brands said. 

With his squad in a position it hasn’t been in for six years, Brands is prepared to move on from the loss and finish out the season strong, starting with Iowa’s Senior Day matchup against Wisconsin on Feb. 18.

“We got to be better when we go out there,” Brands said. “We got to be more ready when we got out there.”

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About the Contributors
Isaac Elzinga
Isaac Elzinga, Sports Reporter
Isaac Elzinga is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass communication. This is his first year working at The Daily Iowan; he also works as a producer for 1600 ESPN a sports radio station in Cedar Rapids.
Brad Schultz
Brad Schultz, Sports Reporter
Brad Schultz is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Sports Studies. This is first year working as a sports reporter and he has a deep passion and love for sports. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Brad is a contributor for Saturday Blitz, a college football site, with his content primarily covering Iowa and the Big Ten.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.