Sammy Sasso went to Iowa City with one thing on his mind: upsetting the top-ranked man in the country at 149 pounds.
Wrestling Pat Lugo in the penultimate match of the night inside a packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Sasso went the distance and then some, winning a 2-1 decision in the 30-second tiebreaker periods. After trading escape points in regulation and holding off four or five solid Lugo shot attempts, Sasso buckled down and rode the savvy veteran out for the duration of the second round of tiebreakers to seal the victory.
It didn't matter in terms of the team score, as Iowa had already won the meet at that point, but it was a huge win for the redshirt freshman. The Hawkeyes would finish with a final score of 24-10, winning seven of 10 matches including two with bonus points.
Luke Pletcher and Kollin Moore each held serve in their respective matches against Hawkeye replacements, as Iowa head coach Tom Brands opted to hold out his regular combatants rather than seeing them suffer losses against Ohio State's senior captains.
#Iowa coach Tom Brands said Max Murin is "nicked up," might questionable for next week's dual against Penn State.— Cody Goodwin (@codygoodwin) January 25, 2020
Said Jacob Warner not wrestling "was the best thing for him." Warner didn't know until Wilcke walked out tonight, "didn't like it he's a pro. He's fine."
Pletcher earned a major decision, his fourth bonus-point victory in the past five matches. He and Moore improved to 19-0 on the season, and both remain undefeated.
Ohio State had at least one other winnable match of the evening, as Rocky Jordan held freshman phenom Abe Assad to a 3-1 decision. Jordan wrestled a solid match but couldn't get much in the way of offense going; Assad managed the only takedown of the match.
The gap between Jordan and the ninth-ranked Assad did not appear to be a large one, which should give Buckeye backers hope that the youngest Jordan brother could get on the right side of the ledger if these two young guns meet again sometime in March.
Coming Up Short
The match got off to a quick start for the home team, as Iowa won the first three matches of the night. Starting at 165, they reeled off a trio of decisions with No. 2 Alex Marinelli outpacing No. 12 Ethan Smith at '65, No. 3 Michael Kemerer outshooting No. 8 Kaleb Romero at 174, and Jordan coming up a takedown short against Assad.
Moore got the Buckeyes on the board at 197 before one of the funnest matches of the night: newly-ranked Gas Tank Gary Traub versus No. 3 Tony Cassioppi. The Hawkeye heavyweight appeared to have a sizeable mass advantage over the svelte Sycamore High School alumnus, but Traub refused to go down quietly, riding Cassippi for nearly the entire second period and firing off shot attempts literally until the final whistle.
He may not be a blue-chip recruit, but there's little question as to why Ohio State fans love Gas Tank Gary. His last-second takedown attempt was what the "Legend of Gas Tank Gary" is all about: Never give in, never give up.
The two matches that followed were almost the opposite extreme. Hunter Lucas, filling in for the embattled Malik Heinselman at 125 pounds, held off an early pin attempt by two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee, but the match still ended early when Lee's eleventeenth tilt gave him an 18-point advantage.
At 133, Jordan Decatur came out shooting and scored the first takedown of the match off the opening whistle. That seemed to incense former bad boy Austin DeSanto, who went hog wild on Decatur in a match that quickly got out of hand and gave the Hawkeyes a second-consecutive tech fall and put the meet effectively out of reach for the Buckeyes.
Decatur now finds himself on the wrong side of a four-match losing streak, and is now just 5-4 since torching his redshirt earlier this month. Granting that Ohio State doesn't have many appealing options at the lighter weights this season, it's hard to feel terribly positive about the decision to let Decatur take a crack at 133 this year.
Looking at the matches he's dropped, the consistent theme is that he's clearly gassed by the weight cut. He's a big 133, and it's been no secret that the one-hour weigh-in has been a challenge.
On the positive side, his next two matches at Minnesota and at home against Maryland give him a chance to earn a couple of wins before a brutal three-match stretch to close the season against Ridge Lovett at Nebraska, versus Northwestern's Sebastian Rivera, and against Roman Bravo-Young at Penn State.
Elijah Cleary, like Rocky Jordan, looked like he left a W on the mat at 157. In the final match of the night and coming off of Sasso's sensational finish against Lugo, Cleary dropped a 4-1 decision because he couldn't get any offense going against No. 4 Kaleb Young. He did a nice job holding Young off defensively for the most part, but you have to score points to win matches, and like Jordan before him, Cleary simply didn't.
|165||No. 2 Alex Marinelli, decision over No. 12 Ethan Smith (14-10)||0||3|
|174||No. 3 Michael Kemerer, decision over No. 8 Kaleb Romero (7-1)||0||6|
|184||No. 9 Abe Assad, decision over No. 23 Rocky Jordan (3-1)||0||9|
|197||No. 1 Kollin Moore, decision over Cash Wilcke (8-3)||3||9|
No. 3 Tony Cassioppi, decision over No. 23 Gary Traub (9-3)
*Iowa penalized one team point for failure to control the mat area after the match
|125||No. 1 Spencer Lee, victory by TECH FALL over Hunter Lucas (18-0)||3||16|
|133||No. 2 Austin DeSanto, victory by TECH FALL over No. 20 Jordan Decatur (27-12)||3||21|
|141||No. 1 Luke Pletcher, major decision over Carter Happel (14-5)||7||21|
|149||No. 6 Sammy Sasso, decision over No. 1 Pat Lugo (2-1, TB-2)||10||21|
|157||No. 4 Kaleb Young, decision over Elijah Cleary (4-1)||10||24|
In the end, the meet came down pretty much the way we thought it would. Iowa is a special team; clearly the best squad Tom Brands has coached since the program's 2010 NCAA championship season.
Ohio State's top guys have what it takes to stand toe-to-toe against most teams in the country, but the Hawkeyes are locked and stocked from 125 on down the line.
The Buckeyes will swing over to I-35 and head north to Minneapolis, where they'll finish a road-trip weekend Sunday night at Minnesota. The match versus the No. 14 Golden Gophers gets underway at 8:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.