Familiarity with opponents won’t be an issue for a couple of Iowa wrestlers this weekend.
The Hawkeyes’ Alex Marinelli is expected to face a former teammate in an 8 p.m. dual at Illinois today, and on Sunday, Spencer Lee has a chance to avenge a loss in the finals of the Midlands Championships when Iowa wrestles at Northwestern at 2 p.m.
The matches are among highlights of weekend competition for the fourth-ranked Hawkeyes, who are looking to build on an 8-0 record that includes a 3-0 start in the Big Ten.
Marinelli, ranked second and 13-0 on the season, is expected to face Joey Gunther in a 165-pound match at Illinois’ Huff Hall, taking on a transfer who qualified for the NCAA Championships for Iowa the past two seasons.
Lee’s challenge at Northwestern is top-rated Sebastian Rivera, a 17-0 sophomore who handed the second-ranked Hawkeye the only blemish on his 11-1 record by a 7-3 score in the Midlands final.
Both Iowa wrestlers are taking the tests in stride.
Marinelli and Gunther were workout partners in the Iowa wrestling room the past two years.
"There’s no bad blood with me and him," Marinelli said. "He’s a good athlete, a good opponent. It really doesn’t matter who is out there on the mat. I’m going to go at them and wrestle at the level I know I can wrestle."
Gunther compiled a 36-19 record in two seasons of competition at Iowa, wrestling at 165 two years ago before Marinelli’s arrival and moving to 174 last season. The junior currently has a 15-7 record for the Fighting Illini.
Illinois (2-3, 1-2 Big Ten) will test Iowa with a pair of wrestlers currently ranked in the top four nationally.
The Hawkeyes’ 15th-ranked Max Murin at 141 will face fourth-ranked Mike Carr, and Iowa's 13th-ranked Cash Wilcke meets second-ranked Emery Parker at 184.
On Sunday, Lee’s match with Rivera is one of two probable matches featuring wrestlers ranked in the top five.
In addition to the 1 vs. 2 showdown at 125, the Wildcats (3-6, 1-3) will send third-ranked Ryan Deakin to the mat at 157 to face the Hawkeyes’ fifth-ranked Kaleb Young.
That match is also a repeat of the Midlands finals, where Deakin won a 6-2 decision.
Lee plans to draw from what transpired in his 7-3 loss to Rivera last month.
"That match is an example of just not being ready to go against an opponent who was ready," Lee said. "He’s a guy who is always going to wrestle a good, hard match against me. That’s how he wrestles."
Lee has a 2-1 career record against Rivera, who joins Lee in having three wins against top-15 opponents this season.
Coach Tom Brands doesn’t expect the challenges presented by familiar foes to change the approach he wants to see this weekend.
"Our concerns are all about getting ready to wrestle," Brands said. "It’s about getting ready to compete against the next guy you face. Being ready to go, that’s where it starts for all of our guys, no matter who they wrestle."