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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | February 8, 2021

Spencer Lee's pin streak continues and every other big-time college wrestling story to know right now

Relive Iowa's Spencer Lee defending his 125 pound title

Iowa's Spencer Lee continued his pinning streak this weekend and Virginia Tech's Sam Latona stepped up as a hero for the Hokies.

Here's what you might have missed in college wrestling last weekend and what you need to know as the conference tournaments inch closer. 

Iowa notched two more wins despite COVID-19 absences

Iowa, despite being outside of the welcoming walls of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, had no problem downing two more Big Ten opponents on Sunday. The Hawkeyes got dominant efforts from top-ranked Spencer Lee and Jaydin Eierman, and key victories from bonus-point machines Austin DeSanto and Tony Cassioppi.

Lee added another pin to his perfect record in his bout against Ohio State’s Brady Koontz, but he did not see action against Purdue’s Devin Schroder. Instead, Iowa sent out Aaron Cashman for the bout, and Cashman fell by tech to Schroder, putting Iowa in a deficit for the first time all season. In that same Purdue match, DeSanto picked up the first of two tech falls of the weekend against Purdue’s Jacob Rundell to tie the score, and then Iowa went to work against the Boilermakers. Eierman pinned Parker Filius in the second period, and Max Murin notched a bonus point win for himself as well with a tech fall over Trey Kruse. Eierman also secured a big pin against Ohio State’s Anthony Echemendia later in the day, while Murin’s second result went the opposite way, as he was pinned by Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso in a top-five bout. 

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Iowa All-Americans Kaleb Young and Alex Marinelli, and head coach Tom Brands missed the dual because of COVID-19 protocols, putting Bretli Reyna, Joe Kelly Zach Axmear in the lineup for the first time this season.

Reyna held Ohio State’s Elijah Cleary to a decision, while Kelly and Axmar fell by bonus points in their bouts. The Hawks, however, didn’t need points from them to win the duals.

Iowa’s sixth-year senior Michael Kemerer battled tough against the Boilermakers and the Buckeyes, earning a 3-1 decision over No. 4 Kaleb Romero of Ohio State and a pin against unranked Emil Soehnlen of Purdue. His 2-0 performance was matched by teammates Jacob Warner and Tony Cassioppi, as Warner earned a major against Chase Singletary and a decision against Thomas Penola while Cassioppi pinned both of his opponents.

Iowa’s 184-pounder Nelson Brands split on the weekend, dropping a 6-1 decision to Max Lyon but pulling out a 3-0 win over Ohio State’s Rocky Jordan. The Bucks beat the Boilermakers 23-12 while Iowa’s efforts helped them win both duals, 31-18 against Purdue and 33-14 against Ohio State. The Hawks, however, gave up more points than they have all season as a result of missing two starters. Missing Marinelli and Young would have been more impactful against Penn State this week, as the Hawks were expected to battle for their undefeated record in Rec Hall on Friday, but COVID-19 has postponed that dual

Penn State is 3-0 but the team is young and scrappy, figuring out its strengths as the season progresses.

In its first two road duals against Rutgers and Michigan State Penn State forfeited 125 pounds and lost a few unexpected bouts but still held on for convincing 24-15 and 29-13 wins.

Two days later, Penn State came roaring into Wisconsin with its typical energy and power and blew past the Badgers 34-6. The performances so far this season from the Nittany Lions and the Hawkeyes set up fascinating top-five matchups at 133, 141, 174, 184 and heavyweight if the dual is able to rescheduled. Iowa won this dual last year 19-17, but with two missing starters for the Hawkeyes, this year’s bout could be even more interesting. The Hawks are still favored on paper, but Penn State has yet to put out its full lineup, so wrestling fans will be in for a treat if these two tops teams in the country meet in a dual in 2021. 

Nebraska, the No. 7 team in the country, also had a solid weekend and will contend for a team trophy in March. The Huskers went 2-0 with a 27-10 win over Michigan State and a 47-0 shutout win against Indiana.

197-pounder Eric Schultz of Nebraska continued his impressive senior campaign with a 6-5 win over Cam Caffey of the Spartans and an injury default win over Indiana.

Caffey also picked up a win of his own with a 4-2 decision over Indiana’s Nick Willham while leading the Spartans to victory against Indiana, 28-10. Schultz will be expected to take over the No. 1 spot at 197 pounds this week, but he’ll see Caffey again at the Big Ten tournament. 

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Minnesota’s top-ranked Gable Steveson added an impressive win with a first-period pin against Luke Luffman of Illinois at heavyweight as the Gophers took the team win 25-13 against the Illini. Steveson and Spencer Lee of Iowa further separate themselves from their weight class with every passing dual. 

Bedlam goes to Oklahoma State again

Speaking of rivalries and successful dynasties, the Oklahoma State Cowboys flexed their muscles against historic rival Oklahoma in the first of two Bedlam duals of the season on Sunday, picking up a 24-10 win over the Sooners.

The Cowboys won seven of the ten bouts and picked up bonus points in two. Travis Wittlake and Dakota Geer notched a tech and a major decision, respectively, against their opponents. Wittlake’s win helped him stay undefeated and push his bonus rate over 50 percent while Geer’s win against Oklahoma, and then later in the day against Little Rock, moved him to 8-1 on the year.

Freshman sensations Trevor Mastrogiovanni, Dustin Plott and AJ Ferrari also picked up wins, with Ferrari's being the only ranked win of those three as he beat No. 12 Jake Woodley of Oklahoma in a tight 3-2 battle to stay undefeated on the year.

Filling in for 133-pounder Daton Fix, Oklahoma State’s Reece Witcraft also picked up a W in the dual while No. 4 in the country Boo Lewallen earned a workmanlike 4-0 win over No. 17 Mitch Moore. 

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Two of Oklahoma’s three victories in the dual came from top-15 ranked wrestlers. No. 8 Dom Demas outscored Oklahoma State’s Dusty Hone 11-3 and No. 11 Justin Thomas stopped No. 13 Wyatt Sheets of the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State’s heavyweight Austin Harris took a loss to end the match, but Harris has battled this year, and, after picking up a win against Little Rock later in the weekend, moves to 6-3 on the year. 

In perhaps even more dramatic Big 12 news, the other conference Cowboys — Wyoming — picked up a 21-12 win against No. 20 West Virginia behind a major upset win from Stephen Buchanan over No. 1 Noah Adams of the Mountaineers 8-7. This result will cause major shake ups in the individual rankings at 197 pounds, and Wyoming will also see a boost in the national rankings after the conference victory.

The Cowboys lost their second match of the weekend against Arizona State 29-15, but head coach Mark Branch has a lot to be excited about with his Cowboy squad, and he’ll have another test next weekend against undefeated Oklahoma State. 

Tech tops ACC with a win over N.C. State

While the Big 12 has its history of rivalries and legendary athletes, the dual of the weekend came out of the ACC, specifically, Blacksburg, Virginia. 

On paper, the N.C. State-Virginia Tech dual was supposed to be close. These two teams both had six or more ranked athletes, at least two of whom were ranked in the top five. Virginia Tech and N.C. State were also both ranked in the top ten nationally as teams and fielded lineups that could compete for a trophy in March. The dual was expected to be intense, but the degree of the intensity was unreal, and 125-pounders Jakob Camacho and Sam Latona can attest to that fact. 

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Virginia Tech kicked things off in the Friday night dual with a win at 133 pounds, as sixth-year senior Korbin Myers took the first win of the night with a major decision over N.C. State’s Jarrett Trombley. His win would be the only bonus-point win for Virginia Tech over the course of the dual, and his four points were key to keeping the Hokies in the fight. 

The Pack and Hokies then split the next seven bouts, with State winning 141 pounds, Tech taking 149 pounds, and Hayden Hidlay and Mekhi Lewis winning 157 and 165 pounds for their respective teams in anti-climatic decisions.

N.C. State's Daniel Bullard came up big for the Wolfpack at 174 pounds with a 10-2 bonus win that tied the team score at 10-10 and countered Myers bonus win from earlier, but Tech then won 184 pounds in a tight 2-1 battle between two top-five wrestlers in Hunter Bolen and Trent Hidlay.

N.C. State’s Isaac Trumble and Deonte Wilson took wins at 197 and 285 pounds, putting the score at 16-13 heading into the final weight class: 125 pounds. 

Everything rested on the shoulders of Virginia Tech’s Sam Latona and N.C. State’s Jakob Camacho.

A decision win for State would seal the deal, and a bonus point win for Tech would give them the win. Camacho knew the stakes, and so did Latona. The battle was on. 

Camacho came out with the first takedown in the final seconds of the first period, but Latona countered with a takedown of his own in the second. Two escapes brought the score to 4-2 in favor of Camacho, but an escape from Latona made it 4-3 as time ticked down in the third period. With 15 seconds left in the match, with everything on the line, Latona went in for his last shot. This was it. Camacho worked to scramble out, but he was caught on his back for near-fall points and came out on the losing end 7-4, tying the dual 16-16.

Criteria came down to points scored over the course of the dual, and Tech had the edge, 49-48, sealing the victory of the Hokies and ending the longing current winning streak in the country from the Wolfpack. Both teams will see each other again at the ACC tournament, but, for now, the ACC belongs to the Hokies.

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North Carolina sits in third in the conference behind Virginia Tech and N.C. State after a 23-12 win over Pitt and a non-conference win over Lehigh, while Virginia is fourth at 2-2 after a recent victory against Duke. All four teams sit in the top-20 of the national rankings and will have one more weekend of duals before the conference tournament. 

Camels capture SoCon regular season title with undefeated record

While ACC action will continue next weekend, the SoCon dual season has ended with a familiar champion on top: The Campbell Camels. Despite a head coaching change at the end of last season, Campbell’s success has continued into 2021, and the Camels once again ran through the SoCon with a perfect conference record. In their final dual of the year, Campbell topped a tough UT-Chattanooga team 17-15 after a key pin from 174-pounder Austin Murphy and a decisive victory from heavyweight closer Taye Ghadiali. 

The Camels faced an early 9-0 deficit in the dual after the Mocs took decision wins at 125, 133 and 141, but veteran Josh Heil put his team on the board with a solid 4-0 decision against Aidan Murphy. Chattanooga responded with wins at 157 and 165 to further extend their lead 15-3, and Campbell needed wins and bonus points in the remaining bouts to have a chance. Enter Austin Murphy. 

A junior in his first year as a starter for the squad, Murphy was 9-0 heading into his match against unranked Carial Tarter, and he did exactly what his team needed him to do. Less than 90 seconds into the match, Murphy locked up a cradle against Tarter, put him on his back and secured the fall. His six team points proved to be the determining factor in the match, and his momentum set up his teammates Caleb Hopkins and Chris Kober for wins at 184 and 197 pounds. 

The dual then came down to heavyweight, a position that Taye Ghadiali was familiar with. Earlier in the season against App State, Ghadiali took the mat with with the dual score at 18-17 and put up a gritty 8-2 decision against Michael Burchell for the team win, 21-17. He did the same over the weekend, this time by a score of 4-1, but the win was enough to hold off Chattanooga and give the Camels yet another regular season title.

The squad will suit up again at the end of the month for the SoCon championships and will likely field a deep team for the national tournament as well. Campbell’s performances this year have sent a message that the Camels aren’t going anywhere, and they’re ready to compete nationally again. 

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Campbell has been in and out of the Top 25 all season, coming up just short of the national ranking last week, but the Camels are certainly one of the best 30 teams in the country, and the rankings will shift this week as well after a series of upset wins from Rider and Utah Valley.

The Broncs topped the Lehigh Mountain Hawks 17-15 after an upset win at heavyweight from Ethan Laird over Jordan Wood, while Utah Valley beat Stanford 19-16 to 2-2 on the year. These shifts might put Campbell in the Top 25, but Rider will also look to move from the “Receiving Votes” category into the ranked spot. With the NWCA rankings coming out tomorrow, Campbell and Rider will be two teams to keep an eye on. 

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