While the Iowa Hawkeyes stormed through their abbreviated dual schedule last season in dominant fashion with wins over Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State, COVID cancelled the classic out-of-conference rivalry duals that bring that different kind of energy to college wrestling.
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This year, those battles are back, starting with none other than the famous Cy-Hawk meeting between the reigning champion Hawkeyes and the Iowa State Cyclones. Separated by just two hours across the state of Iowa, these two teams bring out the best in one another and always put on a show. Here are the key storylines to know when the No. 13 Cyclones welcome the No. 1 Hawkeyes to Ames for the first time in two years on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
The Iowa lineup questions continue
The biggest mystery surrounding the Hawkeyes this season isn’t about the depth of their lineup — the team has repeatedly proven just how strong it is — but rather when the full-strength lineup will be on display. In its first two duals against Princeton and Army, Iowa has sent out a mix of starters, freshman, backups and alternates to the mat to compete, leading to speculation about the health of several of last year’s starters and questions about when those athletes will return. The Hawks are expected to feature a similarly mixed lineup against the Cyclones, though this will be the highest ranked team that Iowa has faced so far this year, potentially leading to a starting squad this weekend that more closely resembles the championship team that is expected to compete at NCAAs in Detroit in 2022.
The most significant missing piece for the Hawks in the lineup so far has been three-time NCAA champion and two-time Hodge Trophy winner Spencer Lee, who announced publicly after last year’s NCAA tournament that he was wrestling with two torn ACLs. Lee’s absence isn’t terribly surprising, given his injury and his veteran status on the team, but it is worth mentioning. In his absence, Iowa’s Jesse Ybarra has been holding down the weight, and his 5-0 record thus far is admirable. He’ll have a bigger test this weekend against Iowa State’s No. 21 Kysen Terukina, but the experience that he’ll gain wrestling this ranked opponent on the road will likely benefit him in the long run, regardless of the result. Terukina, a Hawaiian native, is 9-0 on the year with his best win coming against NCAA qualifier and lightweight veteran Liam Cronin of Nebraska 4-3. If the dual starts at 125, Terukina could give the Cyclones an early spark against the Hawks, a weight Iowa has historically dominated.
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Team titles aren’t decided in November, and no matter what happens against Terukina, Ybarra will be a valuable part of Lee’s quest for a fourth NCAA title, in that Lee has, thus far, needed the young Hawk to step up and compete for the team while the starter preps. So while Lee’s return date is unknown, Hawkeye fans should appreciate the fight that they’re seeing from Ybarra and look forward to Lee, their veteran star, taking the mat later in the year. Iowa State fans, however, should recognize the benefit that Terukina could bring to this dual in particular and circle 125 pounds as a bout they need to win.
While 125 pounds has been a consistent, successful weight for Iowa over the last four years and prior, 149 pounds has been a little more up-and-down in the last several years, and this year’s expected starter, Max Murin, has yet to take the mat thus far in the 2021-2022 season. Murin stepped into the 149 spot last year after Missouri transfer Jaydin Eierman came to Iowa City and slotted into 141, moving Murin up, and Murin follows in the footsteps of graduate Pat Lugo, who held down the spot from 2016-2020 and really came into his own as a title contender before COVID ended the 2020 season.
Filling in for Murin thus far this year has been Cobe Siebrecht, a Iowa native who is 5-1 on the year with his only loss coming against No. 21 PJ Ogunsanya of Army. Siebrecht has wrestled tough for Iowa, and he’s expected to start again this weekend against either No. 22 Jarrett Degen or Ian Parker, both NCAA qualifiers who are proven at the weight. Degen, in particular, has an All-American honor to his name and appears to be the guy at 149 for the Cyclones thus far. Neither Murin nor Siebrecht have wrestled Degen in college, though Murin does have a 5-4 loss against Parker from the 2019 season Cy-Hawk dual. Both athletes — Parker and Degen — can push Siebrecht, making this another weight that leans the Cyclones way on paper.
The other notable absence for Iowa so far this year has been NCAA finalist Michael Kemerer at 174 pounds, but the Hawks have filled his spot seamlessly, for the time being, with NCAA qualifier Nelson Brands. Kemerer is back on the list of probable starters this weekend, along with Brands, and both should be favorites against Iowa State’s Joel Devine, regardless of who Iowa sends out to compete. Brands wrestled up at 184 pounds last year as the starter after splitting time at the weight and losing out on the postseason spot to teammate Abe Assad in 2020. Now, back down at 174, Brands has shown off his strength and speed in his first two dual performances with a 100% bonus rate, and he’s one of Iowa’s strongest backups in the lineup right now. The problem for Brands moving forward is that, if Kemerer is healthy, he’s a title contender, and it’s always challenging to be at the same weight as a veteran leader like Kemerer. The absence of Kemerer in Iowa’s first two duals suggests that, like Lee, he’ll be more strategic in which matches he wrestles this year because of age and potential for injury, and Brands seems ready anytime his teammate needs someone to fill the spotlight.
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While 174 will be expected to be ultimately filled by Kemerer, Iowa has played around with the starting lineup at the upperweights in general, resting expected starter Abe Assasd at 184 in exchange for U23 World Team member Myles Wilson and subbing out NCAA All-American Jacob Warner for Zach Glazier. Wilson is 2-0 in the duals against Princeton and Army, earning bonus points against the Tigers, while Glazier is 0-2 in duals and 3-2 overall. Wilson and Glazier are both listed as probables against Iowa State, as are Assad and Warner, creating even more suspense.
Iowa State has ranked starters at both 184 and 197 pounds, with the former, 184-pounder Marcus Coleman, ranked No. 14 at the weight. Assad and Coleman have not wrestled, so if Assad gets the nod, as he’s expected to particularly later in the season, look for a close one. Wilson, for his part, has done well holding down the spot in Assad’s absence, but he hasn’t had to face anyone of Coleman’s status yet. Coleman is one of Iowa State’s best wrestlers, and Iowa could make a game-time decision in who they want to take on the Cyclone depending on the way the dual is going, but the Hawks certainly have options at this weight, perhaps even more options than they have at 197 pounds.
Glazier has wrestled tough for the Hawks in place of Warner at the heavy of these two weights, but, ultimately, Warner will look to rejoin the lineup, and the question will be exactly when that happens. Warner is listed first on the probable starter list, and, if he goes, he’ll wrestle Yonger Bastida, Iowa State’s No. 24-ranked 197-pounder who is 5-1 on the year with a loss to Silas Allred.
Lineups matter, and the Hawks and the Cyclones are clearly both still figuring out when they will send out their full strength groups and who fills what weight. Iowa may showcase more returners in this dual than previously this season, but the question of who exactly goes combined with the rivalry tradition makes this dual all the more intriguing.
David Carr looks to fend off another top-ten opponent
Speaking of champions and intrigue, Iowa State’s David Carr will be expected to take the mat once again, likely competing against Iowa’s No. 8 Kaleb Young. Carr has already seen a number of highly-ranked opponents this year including Nebraska’s No. 6 Peyton Robb, but Young is another talented star would could push the defending champion. These two have actually met once, at this dual in 2019 when Carr won 6-1 and started his impressive season that was cut short by COVID. In his entire college career, Carr has lost just twice, once to Ryan Deakin and once to Peyton Mocco, but he hasn’t taken an L in over two years, making him a particularly dangerous wrestler who only adds to his legacy every time he takes the mat.
Carr’s a leader on this Cyclone team, and his influence is clear from the way he talks about Iowa State in press conferences and carries himself on the mat and online. Young’s good — All-American good — but Carr was a Hodge finalist last year, and that kind of a credential is hard to ignore. This will be a fun, fast match, and no matter what happens with the rest of the dual, this one is going to bring out all of the emotions, positive or negative, for both Iowa and Iowa State. If the match runs in traditional weight order, Carr will be the fifth and last wrestler to go before the break, and he could turn the momentum towards the Cyclones…in fact, he’ll be expected to do that.
Iowa is particularly tough at 165 and 174, so taking down Young, maybe with bonus, would be the message he’ll be looking to send. Young has some elite training partners though, and this isn’t his first rodeo. Fans are lucky to have this dual happen so early in the season and see these two guys put it on the line for their teams in December.
Cyclones can push Hawks in at least four weights
Iowa far outpaced the Cyclones at the last NCAA tournament, but duals are a different story, and these two teams match up in an interesting way with all 10 wrestlers. So much of Iowa State’s chances in this dual come down to who the Hawks send out in each weight, and the expected absence of Spencer Lee certainly makes the team competition here closer, as Lee averaged over five team points a bout last season. Based on rankings alone, Iowa has the edge in five of the 10 matches, even if they sit Kemerer, Assad and Warner, but anything can happen.
Given what the rankings and previous performances so far this season suggest about the strength of each expected starter, here’s how each weight could play out:
- Without Lee, the Cyclones have the advantage at 125, even given Ybarra’s solid, undefeated start to the season.
- Austin DeSanto at 133 pounds will be the first Hawkeye favored in the dual, and he comes into the dual ranked No. 3. A bonus-point win will be expected from DeSanto to not just earn a win but put the Hawkyes ahead. DeSanto is 6-0 on the year with 83.3% bonus and five tech falls, though he hasn’t faced a Division I NCAA qualifier yet this year. He’s expected to see unranked Ramazan Attasauov of the Cyclones in this bout who is also riding a winning streak in his first year as a starter.
- Jaydin Eierman likes making statements, and that’s what he’ll want to do at 141 pounds, following DeSanto. The Hawkeye graduate student hasn’t lost a match yet this season with three falls and a major on his resume so far. He’ll be part of the first ranked match of the night either No. 19 Zach Redding or Ian Parker. Redding and Parker are tough guys, but Eierman is on a different level. He might not dominate them the way he’s run through his opponents so far this year, but this one, on paper, leans towards the Hawkeye in a major way.
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- Iowa State has a chance to pick up some points at 149, again depending on who Iowa sends out to take on Jarrett Degen or Parker. Degen just took a 4-3 loss to Ogunsanya, the same guy Iowa’s Siebrecht lost to 11-3, so common opponents, at the very least, suggest that the Cyclones have the edge. Parker also has that last win over Murin, but Murin isn’t even on the list of probables, so expect to see Wilson got out there and battle for as many points as he can against whoever Iowa State puts in front of him to see if he can hang on.
- David Carr owns 157 pounds until proven otherwise. Young is competitive, but this is Carr’s weight for now. Advantage: Iowa State. The question is: can he get bonus? Carr went undefeated in 2021 with 65% bonus, and he beat Young 6-1 in his last match against the Hawkeye. He’s got a shot to add four points for the Cyclones, but he’ll need to wrestle his best.
Iowa State does have the edge, at least on paper, through the first five bouts with the ranked advantage at 125, 149 and 157. Bonus points make this interesting, but don’t be shocked to see the Cyclones put up more points against the Hawkeyes than any of the other teams this Iowa squad has dual so far this year.
- Alex Marinelli will kick off the second half of the dual for the Hawks, assuming the match is wrestled in weight order, and the Bull is on a roll. With two techs and two falls already on the year as well as two decision wins, Marinelli looks as good as he ever has, and he’s likely to carry this momentum into Iowa State where he’ll see one of three possible Cyclones including Isaac Judge, Austin Kraisser or Grant Stotts. This will all be new opponents for The Bull, and while all three have wrestled at least ten matches so far this year, they all have at least two losses. It’s dangerous to write off unranked guys, as we’ve already seen this year, but taking on the Bull is a tough challenge, no matter who you are. This one should be a chance for Marinelli to add to his win streak, potentially with bonus as well.
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- Iowa’s depth at 174 makes them a tough competitor here. Even if Kemerer sits, which is looking less likely than any previous dual this year just given the time that has passed and his position on the probables list, Brands is still expected to go out and earn the W. Against a 4-1 Joel Devine, this one is likely going Iowa’s way, and Iowa’s way by bonus.
- Marcus Coleman of the Cyclones is ranked higher than either of Iowa’s guys at this weight, and his team will need points here to keep it close. At home, in Ames, except Coleman to deliver, regardless of who is wearing the Black and Gold opposite him.
- Iowa State’s Bastida would be expected to beat Zach Glazier, but will Jacob Warner return to dual action? If so, the All-American could put up points and show off his strength. Bastida has majored every one of his opponents except one this year, so if he’ll be looking to keep that rolling, a task that is much more challenging against someone like Warner, but this is a weight where Iowa’s lineup decisions could significantly impact the result. This isn’t to discredit Glazier, as he has a winning record, but when Warner’s in the lineup and the last guy to compete at this weight in the postseason, the expectations to perform at 197 are high.
- Can Tony Cassioppi get another pin and continue to bury the memory of being pinned himself by Princeton? Potentially. He’ll see No. 29 Sam Schuyler, but Cassioppi’s summer U23 world title and 3rd place finish nationally last year suggest he’s on a different level.