By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Michael Kemerer was 13-years-old in 2009 when the top-ranked University of Iowa wrestling team rolled into Pennsylvania and rolled out with a 31-6 victory over Penn State.
After the dual in Rec Hall, Kemerer waited in line with other fans to collect autographs from Hawkeyes Brent Metcalf, Ryan Morningstar, Daniel Dennis, Alex Tsirtsis, Phil Keddy, Chad Beatty, Charlie Falck, and Colby Covington — all winners that day.
“They went out and whooped up on Penn State,” Kemerer said Tuesday during a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “After the dual, there were a bunch of people crowding around the Iowa guys, getting autographs. I felt these guys must be the real deal, then watching them wrestle after that, I was a huge fan. I always followed the program and once I got out here and went on a visit, that was it.”
Kemerer is in his second season as Iowa’s starting 157-pounder. He won a team-best 33 matches as a freshman, placing second in the Big Ten and third in the NCAA. On Saturday, he puts a 22-match winning streak (and his No. 2 national ranking) on the line against defending national champion Penn State.
It is a homecoming for Kemerer, who is from Murrysville, Pennsylvania. He prepped at Franklin Regional High School, where he won a state championship and finished runner-up three times.
“Going back to Pennsylvania is good for family and friends,” he said. “They get a chance to see you wrestle and talk to them after the match. I owe a lot of my success and being out here to the people I have been around growing up. It’s good they can come to the match and see me wrestle.”
Two of Kemerer’s three losses last season were against Penn State junior Jason Nolf, the national champion in 2017. Nolf injured a knee at Rutgers on Jan. 28 and did not compete Feb. 3 against Ohio State. He is listed with senior Bo Phipher and freshman Luke Gardner on the probable lineup.
“You want to go out and wrestle the best opponent every time,” Kemerer said. “As far as my preparation goes, I’m preparing like I am going to wrestle (Nolf). It doesn’t matter who I wrestle, I have to do what I do and whoever is on the mat is going to fight and try to take what I want. Either way I have to be ready to go and get to my stuff.”
Since Kemerer’s last lost to Nolf in the finals of the 2017 Big Ten Championships, he has gone 24-1 with seven falls, six technical falls, and six major decisions. That equals bonus points in 76 percent of his matches this season and at the 2017 NCAA Championships.
“I focus on getting the most out of myself every day,” Kemerer said. “You could say there is a target on my back, but I’m looking forward and not thinking about what’s behind me.”
No. 7 Iowa (11-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten) takes on No. 1 Penn State (12-0, 8-0) on Saturday in the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. An audio broadcast will be on AM 800 KXIC and streamed online at Hawkeye All-Access. The dual will also be streamed on BTN2Go and at FloWrestling.com. The dual will begin at 7:02 p.m. (CT).