Gophers wrestling: Iowa lives up to No. 1 billing in rout

Friday’s dual against Iowa was always going to be a teep climb for the Gophers.

Presumptive favorites to win the NCAA tournament at U.S. Bank Stadium last season before its cancellation due to COVID, the No. 1-ranked Hawkeyes entered the night on a 19-dual win streak in the Big Ten with no sign of slowing down.

In its first trip to Minneapolis since the tournament’s cancelation, Iowa showed it remains the nation’s top dog, dismantling Minnesota 35-4 at Maturi Pavilion.

Minnesota (2-2) hasn’t beaten Iowa (2-0) since 2014.

“I have a lot of respect for their program. They’ve got some great wrestlers,” Minnesota coach Brandon Eggum said.

In nearly every match, the Gophers found themselves in an early hole they couldn’t climb out of. Still, Eggum thought that in nearly every match the Gophers put together strong third periods, a sign of progress.

“Yeah the score is tough, but I knew it coming in here… it’s the small battles,” he said.

Minnesota’s only win came in a matchup that likely could’ve decided the heavyweight title at last year’s NCAA Championships with top-ranked Gable Steveson of Minnesota and No. 3 Tony Cassioppi.

Steveson led from the outset, scoring a pair of takedowns in the opening moments. He added four more takedowns in the final period for a 14-6 major decision.

Steveson is 3-0 against Cassioppi with Friday’s match the most dominant win of the three.

“I think a big gap has been made,” Steveson said of the seemingly growing margin between him and the rest of his competition. “I’d like to continue growing that gap and just push myself to be the best person I can on and off the mat.”

The result further cemented Steveson as the top collegiate heavyweight and arguably the best heavyweight at all levels in the United States.

In December, Steveson beat the country’s top-ranked heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski, 4-1. But Steveson isn’t jumping to declare himself top dog.

“I don’t like to think that way,” he said. “I like to think of myself as number two and go out there and reprove my number one ranking each and every week… and keep dominating everyone they put in front of me.”

While Steveson shined, the rest of the night was a struggle for the Gophers.

Iowa’s lineup featured no wrestler outside the top-seven in their respective weight class while Minnesota boasted just three in top-10 according to Trackwrestling’s rankings.

In the opening match of the night, Hawkeyes 125-pounder Spencer Lee – a two-time NCAA champ and the 2020 winner of the Hodge Trophy as the nation's top college wrestler – made quick work of No. 9 Patrick McKee with a pin in the first period.

Minnesota’s only other match with a higher-ranked wrestler came at 157 pounds with No. 6 Brayton Lee facing No. 7 Kaleb Young.

Lee and Young went back and forth in the most even match of the night. Tied at three entering sudden death, Young grabbed an extra point with an escape.

Lee had a chance to tie with an escape of his own but couldn’t make it out of Young’s grasp.

“I thought he deserved to win,” Eggum said.

The score was 35-0 before Steveson’s victory in the final match of the night.


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