The University of Iowa wrestling team competes at the 2018 Big Ten Championships on Saturday and Sunday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. The two-day event begins Saturday at 9 a.m. (CT). Session II starts Saturday at 5 p.m. Session III begins Sunday at 11 a.m., followed by the finals at 2 p.m. The finals will be televised by BTN.

Undefeated Alex Marinelli leads the Hawkeye upper-weights as a #2 seed at 165 (Mark Lundy photo)


Auto-bids: 10
Pre-seeds: 1. Isaiah Martinez (Illinois), 2. Alex Marinelli (Iowa), 3. Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State), 4. Richie Lewis (Rutgers), 5 Evan Wick (Wisconsin), 6. Nick Wanzek (Minnesota), 7. Logan Massa (Michigan), 8. Isiah White (Nebraska), 9. Te’Shan Campbell (Ohio State), 10. Jacob Morrissey (Purdue)

One of Iowa’s top performing wrestlers this season has been redshirt freshman Alex Marinelli, who has burst onto the scene in what is an absolute loaded weight in the Big Ten and across the country. The Big Ten conference boasts nine ranked individuals in The Open Mat’s top 15, including three of the top five. This weight features two returning NCAA champions – top pre-seed Isaiah Martinez and the reigning champion is #3 Vincenzo Joseph.Because of this weight’s depth the Big Ten will be sending 10 wrestlers to the NCAA championships, which leaves plenty of breathing room for Marinelli to advance, but with the end goal being getting his hand raised on Saturday night in mid-March a strong conference performance will be key to his first run at nationals.

There are no easy paths at 165 pounds. If you need further evidence look no further than how the pre-seeds shook out. Assuming each wrestler competed to their seed Marinelli’s quarterfinals opponent would be Michigan’s Logan Massa, who finished third in the country a year ago. While Massa hasn’t shown to be the same wrestler he was a season ago, when he met with Marinelli earlier this season it was a tight contest, with the Hawkeye coming out on top with a 3-2 decision.

That win would set up a potential rematch with Joseph in the semifinals, who we already mentioned is the returning NCAA champion at this weight. In the regular season meeting Marinelli used a feet-to-back move to overcome a late match deficit to come out on top 9-6. Many are already expecting that type of performance will be difficult for the Hawkeye freshman to replicate, but so far Marinelli has answered the bell on every occasion this season.

Not to sound like a broken record, but given this weight’s depth it truly does feel like reaching to try and preview if Marinelli were to reach the finals against Martinez assuming everyone wrestles to seed. With each wrestler having to go through the meat grinder, there is no telling what this bracket will look like after the first round, let alone come the finals.

Joey Gunther getting the call at 174 for the Hawkeyes


Auto-bids: 7
Pre-seeds: 1. Mark Hall (Penn State), 2. Bo Jordan (Ohio State), 3. Myles Amine (Michigan), 4. Dylan Lydy (Purdue), 5. Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern), 6. Devin Skatzka (Indiana), 7. Joey Gunther (Iowa)

It took a wrestle off to decide it, but Joey Gunther is officially the guy for Iowa at 174 pounds. For most of the season Gunther held the starting spot and it wasn’t until the back half run, and once Marinelli had established himself as healthy at 165, that Kaleb Young started challenging for the starting spot. Receiving a majority of the starts was very beneficial as Gunther was able to earn a pre-seed and keep his conference’s NCAA allocation.The top of this weight is extremely difficult as both Mark Hall and Bo Jordan are returning NCAA finalists and #3 Myles Amine is also a returning All-American.

Coming in as the #7 seed and with just seven auto-bids, Gunther’s margin for error is slim and no wrestler wants to leave their fate up to the wildcard. His projected quarterfinals opponent would be Jordan, who he did not wrestle during the regular season. Instead that start went to Young. Given Jordan’s resume he is a big favorite in the matchup, which will leave Gunther needing to do some work on the backside of the bracket.

There is some potential for Gunther to cause  couple upsets as well this weekend. While he hasn’t faced Dylan Lydy this season, a year ago Gunther defeated the Purdue wrestler by decision, 8-4 when both competed at 165 pounds. Gunther also did not receive the start against Johnny Sebastian and while the Northwestern wrestler defeated Young 9-4, given Gunther’s style the potential for upset is there.

Mitch Bowman is ready to punch his ticket to Cleveland this weekend (Mark Lundy photo)


Auto-bids: 8
Pre-seeds: 1. Bo Nickal (Penn State), 2. Myles Martin (Ohio State), 3. Dom Abounader (Michigan), 4. Emery Parker (Illinois), 5. Nick Gravina (Rutgers), 6. Taylor Venz (Nebraska), 7. Ricky Robertson (Wisconsin), 8. Mitch Bowman (Iowa)

Yet another weight where the conference received eight auto-bids and the Hawkeye comes in seeded as the last wrestler projected to qualify for NCAAs. Grinding his way into the top 20 national rankings, Mitch Bowman will have his work cutout to advance in his first ever postseason.

This weight features two NCAA champions holding the top two seeds. The returning champion at this weight is Bo Nickal, and second seeded Myles Martin was an NCAA champion as a true freshman where he beat Nickal in that finals. Unfortunately for Bowman he will get top seeded Bo Nikcal assuming he reaches his bracket’s quarterfinals. In the regular season meeting, Nickal pinned Bowman in the first period.

Of the rest of the competition that was seeded Bowman took losses to #3 Dom Abounader, #4 Emery Parker, and #5 Nick Gravina, and he did not face either of #6 Taylor Venz or #7 Ricky Robertson. A couple of those loses were fairly close, for instance Bowman lost a takedown match early in the season to, 5-3 to Parker and his losses to Abounader and Gravina were 4-1 and 4-0 respectively.

Also in this bracket is former Western Dubuque standout Max Lyon, who is wrestling as a true freshman for Purdue. To date Lyon has put together a 17-13 record in his first season, but since he comes into the tournament unseeded his path to qualifying for his first NCAA tournament is difficult to gauge.

(Mark Lundy photo)


Auto-bids: 6
Pre-seeds: 1. Kollin Moore (Ohio State), 2. Shakur Rasheed (Penn State), 3. Cash Wilcke (Iowa), 4. Kevin Beazley (Michigan), 5. Hunter Ritter (Wisconsin), 6. Christian Brunner (Purdue)

One of the conference’s weaker weights for NCAA allocations, 197 pounds has been one of the more volatile weights in the country this season. For most of the season it looked as though Kollin Moore would be the favorite to win the Big Ten and NCAA crown, but the Buckeye has since dropped two matches late in the year to open the door on contention for the top seed in Cleveland. Despite all that Moore will still be the favorite to win the title this weekend, but his status as clear favorite no longer remains.

For the Hawkeyes we will see Cash Wilcke come into the weekend the #3 seed and he will look to grab his first auto-bid to the NCAAs. Last year Wilcke needed more than the wildcard to reach the national tournament, earning a bid following the injury to West Virginia’s Jake Smith. This year he comes in sitting behind Moore and Penn State’s Shakur Rasheed, and ahead of Kevin Beazley, despite the Michigan wrestler winning their dual meeting, 6-5. There isn’t much concern for that to change either, as Beazley dropped matches to Wisconsin’s #5 Hunter Ritter, and Nebraska’s #8 Eric Schulz which is holding him back in the pre-seeds.

Those two losses could turn into a bit of a boon for Wilcke, who will be the favorite in his potential quarterfinal matchup with Prudue’s #6 Christian Brunner. A win in the quarters will push Wilcke into the semifinals and since this weight is sending the top six, it will automatically qualify him for NCAAs. Both top seeds will be comfortably favored over Wilcke which means if he does in fact reach the semifinals he will have his work cut out for him. During the two teams’ dual Wilcke wrestled Anthony Cassar, and not Rasheed, so the two have no prior history.

Sam Stoll looking to return to the NCAA championships


Auto-bids: 7
Pre-seeds: 1. Adam Coon (Michigan), 2. Kyle Snyder (Ohio State), 3. Nick Nevills (Penn State), 4. Sam Stoll (Iowa), 5. Youssif Hemida (Maryland), 6. Connan Jennings (Northwestern), 7. Shawn Streck (Indiana)

When the season began most would have assumed being the fourth seed at the Big Ten conference would be an unfortunate spot in the bracket, but thanks to an upset by Michigan’s Adam Coon over Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder, Hawkeye heavyweight Sam Stoll finds himself in actually a stronger position than had he been on Synder’s side of the bracket. While a potential meeting with Coon will be no picnic, it sounds a heck of a lot more agreeable than trying to become the fourth ever wrestler to defeat Snyder in NCAA wrestling.

Assuming seeds hold Stoll is scheduled to meet Maryland’s Youssif Hemida in the quarterfinals in what is sure to be a point of discussion. During the regular season these two teams met at Maryland, but with the dual well in hand Brands opted to rest his heavyweight rather than put him out on the mat against Hemida. Despite all of that the two have met on one other occasion in their careers, Stoll won by major decision, 15-4 at the 2016 Big Ten Championships. If Stoll is able to once again down Hemida he should face Adam Coon, who has gotten the better of him for the most part of their wrestling careers dating back to their high school days. In their only college meeting, Coon narrowly beat Stoll in Carver, 3-2 and with a result that close many Hawkeye faithful will be confident their wrestler can managed the upset.

By Ross Bartachek (@rossbchek)

Lead Editor of IA Wrestle