Hawkeyes build lead, send 5 wrestlers to national semifinals


ST. LOUIS — Spencer Lee and four of his Iowa teammates reached the semifinals of the NCAA wrestling championships Friday, and the Hawkeyes continued tor push for their first team title since 2010.

Lee, going for a third straight national title, faced his toughest test of the season in the quarterfinals. He led ninth-seeded Devin Schroder of Purdue 3-2 after the second period before scoring a quick seven points in the third for a 10-2 major decision and his 33rd straight victory.

The 2020 Hodge Trophy winner as the nation’s outstanding wrestler was to face Central Michigan’s fourth-seeded Drew Hildebrandt in the semifinals. Lee won by technical fall in their only previous meeting in 2019.

Two other top-seeded Iowa wrestlers advanced through the quarters. Jaydin Eierman won by fall at 141 and Michael Kemerer by major decision at 174. Also moving on were fourth-seeded Austin DeSanto at 133 and fifth-seeded heavyweight Tony Cassioppi.

The five semifinalists were Iowa’s most since 2010, and the Hawks have four othersstill competing. Four of Iowa’s five wins in the championship round included bonus points. The Hawkeyes have scored bonus points in 16 of 25 tournament wins.

The Hawkeyes’ biggest disappointment of the day was top-seeded Alex Marinelli’s 3-1 overtime loss to Stanford’s eight-seeded Shane Griffith at 165. Griffith was the only wrestler remaining in the championship bracket for Stanford, which is dropping its program after this season.

Iowa had 73.5 points entering the semifinals. Penn State, which has won four straight team titles and eight of the last nine, had 57.5 points and Oklahoma State had 52.

The Nittany Lions had four semifinalists: No. 1 Aaron Brooks (184), No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young (133), No. 2 Nick Lee (141) and No. 3 Carter Starocci (174).

Oklahoma State’s unbeaten Daton Fix, who last month came off a one-year suspension after testing positive for a banned substance, reached the semifinals with his second straight pin, this one over No. 8 Chris Cannon of Northwestern in 5:10.

Minnesota heavyweight Gabe Steveson ran his unbeaten streak to 32 matches with a 9-4 decision over Penn State’s ninth-seeded Greg Kerkvliet. It was Steveson’s closest match of the season.

Two double-digit seeds made it to the semifinals. No. 26 Jake Woodley of Oklahoma took out No. 15 Michael Beard of Penn State 8-3, his third straight decision of the meet.

“I definitely believed I could be here. It’s pretty crazy I am,” Woodley said. “I was disappointed with my seed and I liked my draw. I knew I could beat these guys.”

Cal Poly’s Bernie Truax, No. 12 at 174, posted a 4-2 decision against No. 4 Mikey Labriola of Nebraska.

“I’m extremely happy to be wrestling,” Truax said. “I’m trying to have fun out there, and that was fun.”

Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis, who won his school’s first individual title in 2019, withdrew Friday because of a left shoulder injury. He was in obvious pain as he toughed out a 3-2 second-round win over Navy’s Tanner Skidgel on Thursday.

Lewis initially was injured in a dual a month ago and needed a wild card to get into the national tournament after missing the ACC tournament for medical reasons.

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