Michael Kemerer makes season debut as Iowa wrestling dominates Minnesota

IOWA CITY – Iowa’s best and most complete wrestling team for the remainder of the 2021-22 wrestling season debuted at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night.

The second-seeded Hawkeyes beat the Minnesota No.9 22-10 in front of another sold-out crowd. Iowa is now 7-0, 1-0 against the Big Ten competition, and will start Sunday afternoon against No.24 Purdue.

The roster that competed on Friday is likely the one that gives the Hawkeyes the best chance at repeating themselves as NCAA team champions in March. It includes a beaten 25-year-old seventh year elder; a real exciting 19 year old freshman; seven All-Americans with room for improvement; and a small margin of error – at least for now.

This is all true, but so is it: The Hawkeyes’ performance against Minnesota, with the exception of a few individuals, was very bland.

“I’m restless right now,” Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “I am restless. We’re getting ready for Purdue.

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Seventh-year senior Michael Kemerer has made his long-awaited debut in the season. Wearing a brace on his left shoulder, he scored three strikeouts in a 9-2 win over Bailee O’Reilly at 174 pounds. The crowd roared as he ran across the mat – his release song for years has been “Who Let The Dogs Out?” by Baha men.

“It was good and I could feel the energy,” Kemerer said. “There’s no place like (Carver). I always try to stay calm, stay in my game, everything, but you can’t help but notice it. It’s an amazing atmosphere.

“It was good to be there and to have this first game. I can’t wait to continue improving with this team.

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Drake Ayala, the real freshman, made his debut with Carver. He has been selected to start at 125 now that Spencer Lee will miss the remainder of the season (his Friday surgery was successful). Pat McKee of Minnesota, a 2021 All-American, spoiled Ayala’s debut, winning 8-6 on a 4-point back-to-back streak in the second period.

“We’re coming back to the center and our hands are on our knees, and we have to be so aware,” Brands said. “You don’t come back to the center with your hands on your knees. This guy blew us up. When you are in the air, scrambling, and unsure of the up or down direction, you will have counts against you.

“He did a good job fighting his back. I’ll give him credit there. He’s just a bit on the flames right now. I am sure we will do very well.

These were the exciting developments. The rest of the duel didn’t exactly feature a ton of energy.

The Hawkeyes have won seven of 10 games but recorded just one bonus point. In his first game at Carver this season, Abe Assad recorded five eliminations in a major 12-4 decision over Sam Skillings at 184 pounds.

Kemerer and Assad combined eight of Iowa’s 21 eliminations on Friday night. Austin DeSanto scored three, but only recorded a 7-5 win over Jake Gliva at 133. Jaydin Eierman, Alex Marinelli and Jacob Warner all scored two apiece, but won 6-2, 6-5 and 6-4 to 141, 165 and 197.

“They’re tightening a lot, for whatever reason, and we have to deal with that,” Brands said, referring to the Gophers (1-2). “I don’t think we handled this very well.

“You have to be more ready. It is energy. We probably weren’t ready enough. I’m sure we’ll do something about it.

The Hawkeyes outscored their Gopher counterparts 65-52 in game points. Much of Minnesota’s offense has come from heavyweight Gable Steveson, 2021 NCAA champion and Olympic gold medalist. He scored seven eliminations in a major 17-7 decision over Tony Cassioppi. (The Carver crowd then gave a standing ovation to Steveson.)

The duel ended on some exciting notes. Max Murin, having evaded various attacks throughout the game, scored a late strike to defeat Iowa native Michael Blockhus 3-1 at 149 pounds. At 157, Brayton Lee scored a late takedown to defeat Kaleb Young 4-3 after Young scored a first-period out and nearly held on to win.

“We got caught with our heels together, and this guy was coming in and he was stuck on us tight,” Brands said of Young’s game. “We dodged the bullets, almost like trying to hang on too much.

“We have to be a little more careful down the stretch when we control it and let it go our way.”

The good news for Iowa is that he doesn’t have to wait long to compete again. Purdue will be in town Sunday afternoon. The Boilermakers beat Nebraska’s No.6 18-15 on Friday night in Lincoln, a performance underscored by a few upsets – from Gerrit Nijenhuis against Mikey Labriola at 174 and Max Lyon against Taylor Venz at 184.

If Brands was agitated by Friday night’s performance, a rehearsal of the performance on Sunday could leave him infuriated. He prefers to see the firepower and talent that this roster has – the kind that will be needed to bring home another gold trophy in two months.

“We have work to do, and we know we have work to do,” Brands said. “It will be a quick turnaround. Either you keep doing what you’re doing, if it was right, and if it wasn’t right, you reverse it.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

# 2 Iowa 22, # 9 Minnesota 10

  • 165: # 1 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. Cael Carlson (MN), 6-5
  • 174: # 2 Michael Kemerer (IA) dec. # 23 Bailee O’Reilly (MN), 9-2
  • 184: # 18 Abe Assad (IA) maj. Dec. Sam Skills (MN), 12-4
  • 197: # 5 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. # 30 Michial Foy (MN), 6-4
  • 285: # 1 Gable Steveson (MN) maj. Dec. # 6 Tony Cassioppi (IA), 17-7
  • 125: # 7 Pat McKee (MN) Dec. Drake Ayala (IA), 8-6
  • 133: # 3 Austin DeSanto (IA) Dec. # 24 Jake Gliva (MN)
  • 141: # 2 Jaydin Eierman (IA) Dec. # 19 Jake Bergeland (MN), 6-2
  • 149: # 12 Max Murin (IA) dec. # 25 Michael Blockhus (MN), 3-1
  • 157: # 4 Brayton Lee (MN) dec. # 12 Kaleb Young (IA), 4-3

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