IOWA CITY — Final exams begin in two weeks at Iowa, but the Iowa wrestling team passed its first test as the nation’s top-ranked team on Sunday.
The Hawkeyes rode the strength of wins by Austin DeSanto at 133 pounds, Alex Marinelli at 165 and Tony Cassioppi at 285 to roll to a 32-3 victory over sixth-ranked Wisconsin in front of crowd of 10,603 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Following a technical fall by Spencer Lee at 125, second-ranked DeSanto came after the Badgers’ top-ranked Seth Gross early and often, following a first-period takedown with two more in the second period on his way to a 6-2 win.
He celebrated by offering a simple salute to the crowd before sprinting off the mat, leaving behind a heaping helping of motivation.
“The way he went out there and stayed on the attack, the way he battled a great competitor like Seth Gross, you feed off of that energy,’’ Marinelli said. “The way he attacked, I wanted to do the same thing. I wanted to keep it going.’’
Iowa did just that in its Big Ten opener, winning nine matches in a dual that ended with 12th-ranked Cassioppi using a first-period takedown to position himself for a 3-2 win over second-ranked Trent Hillger at 285.
Coach Tom Brands said the approach he saw from the Hawkeyes’ redshirt freshman, both before and during the match, spoke volumes.
“It is a big deal,’’ Brands said. “The way he got ready and the way he performed, that said a lot about what our heavyweight is all about.’’
Marinelli did his part at 165.
The second-ranked Hawkeye used the strength of his hips to turn the Wisconsin’s third-ranked Evan Wick and record the deciding takedown with 26 seconds remaining in his 4-2 decision against an opponent he has faced five times in the past three seasons.
“It’s like the coaches always tell us. Start fast, score first and finish strong,’’ Marinelli said. “I wanted to stay on the attack, find a way.’’
Brands liked the way Marinelli competed.
“We have a lot of respect for Evan Wick and the type of wrestler he is and Alex showed what type of competitor he is, too,’’ Brands said.
The win preceded a pin by Michael Kemerer at 174, the only match other than Lee’s dominant opener that resulted in bonus points.
Lee’s work set the tone for DeSanto, who took the advice of assistant coach Terry Brands in the aggressive approach he used against Gross.
“He told me to go out and stay on the attack, be ready for anything, and that’s what I did,’’ DeSanto said. “I just went out and attacked.’’
DeSanto was among nine Hawkeyes who scored first-period takedown as part of a collection of 22 against a Badgers team which recorded just two takedowns in the conference-opening dual.
Tom Brands didn’t shy away from the notion that the Hawkeyes (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) made a statement against Wisconsin, which lost for the first time in seven duals this season.
“You can make a statement on Easter, you can make a statement on Thanksgiving, you can make a statement on Christmas, as long as you keep getting better, you can make a statement at any time of year,’’ the Iowa coach said. “This isn’t March and things don’t change, it’s all about working to keep getting better.’’