TULSA, Okla. – Five University of Iowa wrestlers – Spencer Lee (125), Max Murin (149), Nelson Brands (174), Jacob Warner (197) and Tony Cassioppi (285) – capped their 2023 NCAA Championships run during Saturday’s medal rounds at the BOK Center.
All five Hawkeyes finished in the top six at their respective weights at the championships. Cassioppi finished fourth at heavyweight, Brands and Warner were fifth, respectively, and Lee and Murin both placed sixth.
The Hawkeyes have clinched a runner-up team finish as they head into the finals with 82.5 points. Penn State has 127.5 points with one session to go.
Iowa’s sixth All-American –top-seeded Real Woods — will be the ninth of 10 matches in Session VI where he will face second-seeded Andrew Alirez of Northern Colorado in the 141-pound finals.
“That’s the best thing, the match to come,” said head coach Tom Brands. “It’s the best thing to go to and that’s the one match left. Real was in the arena for these matches (this morning), that shows something. Spencer Lee was in the arena for these matches (this morning), that shows something.
“We have one more and it’s for all the marbles.”
Cassioppi went 1-1 during Session V, first winning a 4-0 decision over Missouri’s Zach Elam to advance to the third-place match. He fell to Air Force’s second-seeded Wyatt Hendrickson by fall in 4:16 to place fourth.
The Roscoe, Illinois, native finishes his season with a 25-5 record. He is the 25th four-time All-American in school history.
Nelson Brands also went 1-1, falling 7-2 to Cornell’s fourth-seeded Chris Foca in his first match before ending his season with a 4-2 sudden victory decision over Oklahoma State’s Dustin Plott to finish fifth. The All-America honor is the first of his career.
“I don’t want to toot my own whistle, but motorcycles hurt when you hit the ground and that’s how my season started with a broken collar bone and dealing with Tommy John,” said Nelson Brands. “It feels good to one up some of these guys.
“I learned I could score on anyone (this week) and that I have a lot of work to do on the bottom. I am pretty dang good on top, which I didn’t think I was. I felt good on top this tournament.”
Warner capped his Iowa career with a fifth-place finish. He opened the session with a 3-1 loss to Mizzou’s third-seeded Rocky Elam before defeating Rider’s fourth-seeded Ethan Laird, 7-3, in the fifth-place match.
“It feels like I went out on a good note,” said Warner. “I got taken down right out of the bat and fought back and had a dominating win in my eyes. I am happy with it and am happy I can go out with a win for my team.
“This year has been hard since the finals last year, a lot of self-doubt. If anyone says their mind is perfect and is impenetrable, they’re lying. I went through a lot this year, had a lot of deep talks with myself and my coaches. I came here to win a national title; I truly believe I could have won a national title, it just didn’t happen. I have been a contender every year and when you don’t win a national title, that’s all you can ask for.”
The Washington, Illinois, native finishes his career with a 97-28 record. He is the third five-time All-American in program history.
“He is a guy that wears his emotions on his sleeves, and he is high and that’s a good thing,” said Tom Brands. “To leave here feeling like that, he has a lot of pride. Winning (that last) match was huge for him and to him. Good for him.”
After working his way onto the podium on Friday, Murin dropped a pair of matches on Saturday to finish sixth. He fell 4-3 to Arizona State’s Kyle Parco in the consolation semifinals before falling by a 12-3 major decision against Virginia Tech’s Caleb Henson to finish sixth.
“It’s not the way I wanted it to end,” said Murin. “I have given my all and left it all out there. I got All-American, which I was striving for, but I wanted to be a national champ and I didn’t get it. I feel grateful right now for my coaches and teammates, they’ve been by my side the whole time.
“I wasn’t going to come back for my sixth year, but my teammates showed a lot of love and had my back when I didn’t have my own.”
Murin finished his Hawkeye career as a two-time All-American with a 78-30 career record.
“He earned this one,” said Tom Brands. He’s a two-time All-American. He stayed the course. He’s not where he wants to be on the podium, but there is satisfaction because you battled and had to overcome a lot.”
Lee finished sixth in his final NCAA Championships after medically forfeiting out of the tournament. The Pennsylvania native finished his Hawkeye career as a three-time national champion and a five-time All-American. He finishes his collegiate career with a 98-6 career record.
“They are all six-year guys and are all journeymen,” said Tom Brands of Lee, Murin and Warner. “They’re loyal. That’s the biggest characteristic that comes to mind that is positive is their loyalty to themselves, their path, drive and what they’re after and their loyalty to each other, the team.”
CONSOLATION SEMIFINAL RESULTS
125 – #10 Brandon Courtney (ASU) wins by medical forfeit #1 Spencer Lee (UI)
149 – #3 Kyle Parco (ASU) dec. #9 Max Murin (UI), 4-3
174 – #4 Chris Foca (COR) dec. #11 Nelson Brands (UI), 7-2
197 – #3 Rocky Elam (MIZZ) dec. #14 Jacob Warner (UI), 3-1
285 – #4 Tony Cassioppi (UI) dec. #10 Zach Elam (MIZZ), 4-0
THIRD PLACE RESULTS
285 – #2 Wyatt Hendrickson (AF) pinned #4 Tony Cassioppi (UI), 4:16
FIFTH PLACE RESULTS
125 – #3 Liam Cronin (NEB) wins by medical forfeit #1 Spencer Lee (UI)
149 – #4 Caleb Henson (VT) major dec. #9 Max Murin (UI), 12-3
174 — #11 Nelson Brands (UI) dec. #5 Dustin Plott (OKST), 4-2 (SV1)
197 – #14 Jacob Warner (UI) dec. #4 Ethan Laird (RIDER), 7-3
Session VI of the NCAA Championships will begin at 6 p.m. (CT). The finals matches will be televised live on ESPN.