UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The top-ranked University of Iowa wrestling team won the 2021 Big Ten Championships on Sunday, scoring 159.5 team points and crowning four individual champions.
Alex Marinelli won his third straight 165-pound conference title, and Spencer Lee defended his 125-pound championship. Jaydin Eierman and Michael Kemerer became first-time Big Ten champions, leading Iowa to its second straight and 37th Big Ten Conference title.
The team title is Iowa’s second in as many years and the 37th in program history. The Hawkeyes 35.5 point margin of victory is the largest by a conference champion since the 2010 Hawkeyes won by 37 points.
“We’re going to St. Louis in less than two weeks. That’s really where their heads are. That’s where my head is,” said Iowa head coach Tom Brands. “You talk about performance, let’s do it again. (Someone) mentioned finishing at your seed or performing above your expectations, and that’s what competitors do. Let’s do it in St. Louis.”
Lee surrendered the first takedown of the 125-pound title bout but went on to outscore Purdue’s Devin Schroder, 21-1, over the next four minutes. He led 11-3 by the end of the first period and terminated the match leading 21-3 with 30 seconds left in the second. He outscored his three opponents in the tournament, 44-7, winning twice by technical fall and once by fall.
“This was the qualifier for the next thing and the next thing is the NCAA tournament,” said Lee. “I don’t want you to think I don’t appreciate winning, but this was the next thing and as soon as it’s over you have to get ready for what’s next… NCAA, Olympic Trials. We were in a tight team race. I did my job for the team.”
Eierman traded takedowns with Nick Lee in the first period at 141, but he totaled nearly two minutes of riding time and led 3-2 after the first period. Eierman escaped in the second to extend his lead to 4-2. In the third period, Lee added a takedown and point for stalling, but another Eierman escape and a point for riding time gave him the 6-5 lead.
“This is an unreal feeling,” said Eierman. “Last year I was on the outside looking in. It’s a lot more fun being on the inside. I’m getting a better feel every match. This is a great tournament, a great opponent every match. It is a great preview for nationals.”
Marinelli used a second-period takedown and third-period escape to win the 165-pound title, 3-2, against Ohio State’s Ethan Smith. The Big Ten title is the third for Marinelli. He is one of 26 Hawkeyes in program history to win three conference championships, joining a list of seven four-timers and now 19 three-timers.
“The only thing I can say is that I am thankful to be wrestling with my guys,” said Marinelli. “We have waited a whole year and come full circle. I am thankful to be on the board with the three-time champs and feel very blessed. I have the best teammates and coaches in the world.”
Twice a Big Ten runner-up, Kemerer controlled the 174-pound finals and earned a 7-2 decision against Penn State’s Carter Starocci. Kemerer scored a takedown in the first, added another in the second, and tacked on a pair of back points to earn his first career Big Ten title.
“It feels good to be on top. Knowing how it feels to not be on top makes it feel better,” said Kemerer. “We feel like we’re better every time we get on the mat. Whether it’s a match or a workout, every time on the mat increases our scoring abilities. We need to keep the momentum going.”
Nine Hawkeyes finished fourth or better at the better in the tournament. Austin DeSanto and Kaleb Young placed runner-up at 133 and 157, respectively. Jacob Warner and Tony Cassioppi rebounded from semifinal losses with a pair of wins Saturday to place third. Nelson Brands won four matches over the weekend to place fourth at 184.
The Hawkeyes were 28-8 in the two-day tournament, winning six times by fall, twice by technical fall and two times by major decision.
Lee was named Big Ten Conference Wrestler of the Year for the second straight year. He heads into the NCAA Championships ranked No. 1 in the country with a 7-0 record. He has pinned five of his seven opponents, all in the first period, and won the other two bouts by technical fall. He has outscored his opponents 82-7.
Tom Brands was named Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year for the second straight year and the fifth time in his career. He was won the award more than any other coach in school history. He was previously recognized in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2020 following conference titles. Iowa has six Big Ten championships under Brands (2008, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2020, 2021).
ON TO THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Nine Hawkeyes earned automatic berths to the national tournament in St. Louis on March 18-20. The Big Ten Conference tournament is one of seven NCAA qualifying tournaments across the country. The NCAA will announce the tournament qualifiers Tuesday. Iowa’s Max Murin did not earn an automatic qualifying spot but is eligible for an at-large berth at 149. The entire brackets will be released Wednesday at 5 p.m. (CT) on the NCAA Selection Show at NCAA.com.
• Spencer Lee was named Big Ten Conference Wrestler of the Year. He also won the award in 2020. He is the third Hawkeyes to earn the award more than once (Royce Alger, 1987-1988; Mark Ironside, 1996-1997-1998)
• Tom Brands was named Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year, his fifth career honor (2008, 2009, 2010, 2020, 2021).
• Iowa’s team title is the 37th in program history, best in the Big Ten.
• Iowa’s point total (159.5) is its highest since 1995 (185).
• Iowa’s 35.5 point margin of victory is the largest by a conference champion since the 2010 Hawkeyes won by 37 points.
• Spencer Lee became the 57th multi-Big Ten champion in program history.
• Jaydin Eierman became the 116th Big Ten Champion in program history
• Michael Kemerer became the 117th Big Ten Champion in program history
• Marinelli became the first Hawkeye to win three conference titles since T.J. Williams in 1999-2001. There have been 19 three-time Big Ten champions and seven four-time champions in program history.
125 – #1 Spencer Lee (IA) tech. fall #7 Devin Schroder (PU), 21-3 (4:30)
133 – #1 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) dec. #2 Austin DeSanto (IA), 5-2
141 – #1 Jaydin Eierman (IA) dec. #2 Nick Lee (PSU), 6-5
157 – #1 Ryan Deakin (NU) dec. #2 Kaleb Young (IA), 6-0
165 – #1 Alex Marinelli (IA) dec. #3 Ethan Smith (OSU), 3-2
174 – #1 Michael Kemerer (IA) dec. #3 Carter Starocci (PSU), 7-2
184 – #5 John Poznanski (RUT) dec. #9 Nelson Brands (IA), 3-2
197 – #3 Jacob Warner (IA) dec. #4 Cameron Caffey (MSU), 8-3
285 – #3 Tony Cassioppi (IA) major dec. #7 Greg Kerkvliet (PSU), 9-0
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
1 IOWA 159.5
2 Penn State 124.0
3 Nebraska 105.5
4 Michigan 92.0
5 Minnesota 77.5
6 Purdue 76.0
7 Northwestern 74.0
8 Michigan State 73.5
9 Ohio State 69.5
10 Rutgers 52.0
11 Illinois 32.0
12 Wisconsin 30.5
13 Indiana 22.0
14 Maryland 2.0
BIG TEN WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS INDIVIDUAL AWARDS
Wrestler of the Year: Spencer Lee, IOWA
Freshman of the Year: Carter Starocci, PSU
Coach of the Year: Tom Brands, IOWA
Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships: Gable Steveson, Minnesota
2021 ALL-BIG TEN TEAM
Spencer Lee, IOWA
Jaydin Eierman, IOWA
Alex Marinelli, IOWA
Michael Kemerer, IOWA
Roman Bravo-Young, PSU
Sammy Sasso, OSU
Ryan Deakin, NU
Aaron Brooks, PSU
Myles Amine, MICH
Gable Steveson, MINN