Big Ten Wrestling Review: Iowa Starts Strong, Ohio State Stumbles

By Rob Dougherty on January 19, 2021 at 11:40 am
Spencer Lee kicked off his Hodge Trophy defending season with a win.
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen

The opening weekend of the Big Ten wrestling season is in the books, and there was some great action at the top of the conference. There were a pair of featured matches this weekend, with No. 1 Iowa taking on No. 7 Nebraska, and an upset occurred in Columbus when Illinois defeated No. 10 Ohio State.

No. 1 Iowa 31, No. 7 Nebraska 6

Iowa enters this season as the favorites to win the NCAA team title, and it started its season off with a bang. They dominated Nebraska, only dropped two matches in the dual. No. 1 Spencer Lee started off his season with a pin of No. 19 Liam Cronin in the first period. However, for the big brain critics, he didn't score a point in the second or third period, and that's obviously a problem for him and the Hawkeyes.

One of the most important wins of the weekend came for Iowa at 184 pounds when No. 17 Nelson Brands beat No. 5 Taylor Venz by a 13-5 major decision. Brands was expected to be an All-American contender this season, and this performance against Venz is going to leapfrog him into the NCAA finalist discussion. Venz has had a very good college career, and for Brands to beat him by such a score is an eyebrow-raiser for sure.

The biggest win for Nebraska came at 197 pounds, where No. 7 Eric Schultz defeated No. 5 Jacob Warner by a 3-2 decision. Still, the Hawkeyes were impressive and wrestled extremely well throughout their lineup.

Ohio State Goes 1-1, but Sammy Sasso Shines 

Ohio State wrestled two matches this weekend, but they dropped a dual to No. 19 Illinois before beating Wisconsin. At 149 pounds, No. 2 Sammy Sasso pinned No. 7 Mike Carr in the first period, and looks ready to contend for a national title. Sasso was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2019-20, and he picked up where he left off last season when he wrapped up Carr in a cradle. He also defeated Drew Scharenbock 12-5. Malik Heinselman was also a standout performer for Ohio State. He went 2-0 over the weekend and picked up a 5-2 win over No. 15 Justin Cardani.

More concerning for the Buckeyes, their new starter at heavyweight, No. 7 Tate Orndorff, struggled in his first weekend in the Big Ten. He lost to unranked Luke Luffman (Illinois) 3-2 and was then pinned by No. 5 Trent Hillger.