By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The matchup between No. 1-ranked Iowa and No. 2-ranked Penn State was as good as advertised in front of a raucous, sell-out crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night.
With Iowa trailing 17-16 heading into the final match, third-ranked freshman heavyweight Tony Cassioppi capped things off with a 7-0 win over No. 15 Seth Nevills to give Iowa the 19-17 win and its first dual meet victory over Penn State since 2015.
But perhaps none of it would have taken place without a thrilling win by senior second-ranked 174-pounder Michael Kemerer over No. 1 Mark Hall that put Iowa within one point of Penn State and sent Carver-Hawkeye into a frenzy.
It was also Kemerer’s fourth consecutive win over an opponent ranked in the top eight.
“Honestly it’s just a blur to me right now,” Kemerer said. “I would have to go back and watch the match. I just believe in what God has given me and let it happen when I go out there. It has been like that my whole life. Good things happen the less I think and the more I just do it.”
Top-ranked junior 125-pounder Spencer Lee continued his dominance, dismantling Penn State’s Brandon Meredith for a technical fall 17 seconds into the second period to the opening match of the meet to improve to 11-0 on the season.
The two-time national champion has won his last six matches by technical fall, outscoring his opponents 100-2.
But things quickly took a dark turn as second-ranked 133-pounder Austin DeSanto was forced to forfeit due to injury against No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young.
Iowa was also docked a team point during the match due to the coaches’ failure to control the mat area.
“We went after the official,” head coach Tom Brands said. “We’re better than that. We have to be better than that.”
A loss by technical fall by Carter Happel at 141 pounds put Penn State ahead 11-4, but there was no panic on the Iowa bench.
“You wrestle your match,” Brands said. “And that’s what Kemerer did. That’s what Kemerer did. It was a steady onslaught. It was back and forth for a little while, but we stayed on it.”
Next up came workmanlike victories by decision at 149 and 157 pounds by No. 3 Pat Lugo and No. 5 Kaleb Young, respectively to cut the Penn State lead to 11-10 at intermission.
Kemerer’s path to this moment was a difficult one after missing last season due to injury.
But the Murrysville, Pa., native bulked up to 174 pounds and will now more than likely be the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class.
“We’ve always seen it in him,” Brands said. “We know what he needs to do, he needs to keep wrestling. That was a back and forth match and he stayed in there. He was calm.”