Iowa Wrestling’s Spencer Lee Easily Advances at NCAA Wrestling, Iowa Leads Team Race

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Iowa’s Spencer Lee was his usual dominant self on the opening day of the NCAA wrestling championships, and the Hawkeyes were well-positioned to end a 10-year team championship drought.

The Hawkeyes, who are represented in all 10 weights, had 33.5 points after the first two rounds Thursday and have eight wrestlers in the quarterfinals Friday.

Penn State, which has won four straight national titles and eight of the last nine, was second with 28 points and seven quarterfinalists. Missouri had wrestlers at every weight but only four reached the quarters and the Tigers were third with 23.5 points.

Lee, the unbeaten 125-pounder who’s bidding for a third straight national title, needed only 1:33 to end his opening match against Virginia’s Patrick McCormick, and he won by major decision over West Virginia’s Killian Cardinale.

Lee’s top-seeded teammates — three-time All-American Jaydin Eierman (141), three-time Big Ten champ Alex Marinelli (165) and two-time All-American Michael Kemerer (174) — also moved on with mostly easy victories, though Eierman was challenged by Pittsburgh’s 16th-seeded Cole Matthews in a 5-3 win.

Other Iowa wrestlers in quarters are No. 4 Austin DeSanto (133), No. 5 Jacob Warner (197), No. 5 Tony Cassioppi (285) and No. 12 Max Murin (149).

Iowa’s only losses came in the second round, by No. 5 Kaleb Young (157) and No. 12 Nelson Brands (184).

Penn State’s quarterfinalists are No. 1 Aaron Brooks (184), No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young (133), No. 2 Nick Lee (141), No. 3 Carter Starocci (174), No. 9 Greg Kerkvliet (285), No. 12 Brady Berge (157) and No. 15 Michael Beard (197).

Four high seeds advanced: Oklahoma’s Jake Woodley, No. 26 at 197; Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas, No. 25 at 149; Wyoming’s Jacob Wright, No. 23 at 157; and Stanford’s Real Woods, No. 21 at 141.

Woods, whose school is dropping wrestling after this season, earned a 5-1 overtime decision over two-time Big 12 champ Dom Demas of Oklahoma in the second round.

The upset of the day was at 197, where No. 31 Owen Pentz of North Dakota State pinned No. 2 Eric Schultz of Nebraska in 4:51. Pentz lost his next match 16-8 to Penn State’s Beard.

Pentz is the first North Dakota State true freshman to qualify for nationals. The Bison wrestle in the Big 12, and Pentz got an at-large bid after going 2-2 in the conference tournament.

He’s not a typical freshman, though. He was a member of Fresno State’s first signing class in 2016 and went on a two-year Mormon mission from 2017-19 prior to enrolling. When Fresno State announced in October it was dropping wrestling, Pentz transferred to North Dakota State.

“Surprised I was able to go out there and stay in the fight pull off a pin on a kid that’s ranked,” Pentz said. “It helps me know I can compete with top-level kids in this tournament and makes me excited for the next matches.”