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Iowa Hawkeye wrestlers second, Iowa State, UNI in top 15 after Day One of NCAA Wrestling

TULSA, Okla. — The first day of the NCAA Wrestling Championships is always a lot to take in.

All 330 qualifiers wrestle twice (and sometimes more, if you start in the pigtails). The team race begins to take shape, but hasn't fully crystallized yet. Upsets are littered throughout the first session, but brackets usually stabilize by session two (except for 125 pounds, where two 20-something seeds reached the quarters).

Team trophies aren’t won on Day One at the NCAA Championships, but they can be lost. Thursday is more about setting yourself up for the all-important Friday — and all three of Iowa’s Division I programs did that (in different ways, but still).

After Thursday here at the BOK Center, Penn State leads the team race with 26 points. Iowa sits second, with 21.5, followed by Missouri (3rd, 17.5) and Minnesota and NC State (tied for 4th, 16.5).

Iowa State (13th, 12 points) and Northern Iowa (15th, 11) are just outside the top-10.

Here are some takeaways and observations on the Hawkeyes, Cyclones, Panthers and more:

MORE:Match-by-match results from Day One of the NCAA Wrestling Championships

Iowa Hawkeyes wrestled well on Day One at NCAA Wrestling

On the whole, Iowa wrestled pretty well Thursday, as a second-place team positioning would suggest. The Hawkeyes posted a 15-5 overall record with six bonus-point wins, and all 10 qualifiers advanced to Friday. Five reached the quarterfinals:

  • Spencer Lee (125)

  • Real Woods (141)

  • Max Murin (149)

  • Nelson Brands (174)

  • Tony Cassioppi (285)

In addition to the six bonus wins — Lee scored a pin and a technical fall; Woods won his first match by major; Cobe Siebrecht won by major in the wrestlebacks at 157; Cassioppi won back-to-back majors — the Hawkeyes also won some tough matches to position themselves in second and stay within striking distance of Penn State.

Brands provided a couple of highlights, scoring a late takedown in a 6-3 first-round win over NC State’s Alex Faison, then an early takedown that held up in a 3-1 upset win over Ohio State’s Ethan Smith in the quarterfinals. Murin provided a couple of more, winning 6-3 in round one then 3-1 over Stanford’s Jaden Abas to reach the quarters.

In all, Iowa wrestlers went 8-4 in matches decided by four points or less, a trend that’ll have to continue Friday on both the front-side and consolation side of the brackets to give the Hawkeyes the best shot at, one, staying firmly in second place, and two, keep them within earshot of a loaded Penn State squad that went 15-3 on Day One.

It was a good first day overall for Iowa, if only because the Hawkeyes set themselves up to keep pace on Friday.

Iowa's Tony Cassioppi gets ready before his match at 285 pounds during the first session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Thursday, March 16, 2023, at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
Iowa's Tony Cassioppi gets ready before his match at 285 pounds during the first session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Thursday, March 16, 2023, at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

David Carr, Marcus Coleman lead Iowa State at NCAA Wrestling

Iowa State wrestlers finished Thursday with a 10-6 overall record. They started 6-2 in Session 1, then went 4-4 in Session 2. All eight qualifiers advanced to Friday, but only two — David Carr (165) and Marcus Coleman (184) — reached the quarterfinal round.

Carr looked every bit like the title favorite on Thursday, rolling up back-to-back major decisions to reach the quarterfinals. Tougher tests await, as he’ll face Stanford’s Shane Griffith first thing Friday. Coleman opened with a 12-3 major decision, then muscled out a 2-1 overtime win over Iowa’s Abe Assad to join Carr in the quarterfinals.

The only truly disappointing loss for Iowa State came from Paniro Johnson, in a 14-8 second-round decision to Penn State’s Shayne Van Ness. Otherwise, the Cyclones won the matches they were supposed to and lost the matches where they weren't favored — which unfortunately makes the road to a team trophy that much harder.

Iowa State’s path to a top-four team finish will go through the wrestlebacks, which is never easy, but Friday at the NCAA Championships isn’t supposed to be easy. The Cyclones’ team-trophy odds will go as far as the six guys in the wrestlebacks will take them, making Friday’s first session all the more important.

Iowa State's Marcus Coleman has his hand raised after scoring a major decision at 184 pounds during the first session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Thursday, March 16, 2023, at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
Iowa State's Marcus Coleman has his hand raised after scoring a major decision at 184 pounds during the first session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Thursday, March 16, 2023, at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Northern Iowa started hot, then fell flat on Day One at NCAA Wrestling

The Panther Train chugged along through a perfect opening session, as all seven UNI wrestlers won their opening matches, but then the train fell off the tracks a little bit on Thursday night, as only one, Parker Keckeisen (184), reached the quarterfinals.

Northern Iowa sat fourth in the team race after Thursday’s opening session, then slid to 15th by the end of the day, finishing with an 8-6 overall record. Still, all seven Panther wrestlers advanced to Day Two, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for others to join Keckeisen in Friday night’s session, where All-American honors are earned.

Northern Iowa's Parker Keckeisen, top, wrestles West Virginia's Anthony Carman at 184 pounds during the first session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Thursday, March 16, 2023, at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
Northern Iowa's Parker Keckeisen, top, wrestles West Virginia's Anthony Carman at 184 pounds during the first session of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Thursday, March 16, 2023, at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Other NCAA Wrestling notes and observations

  • South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan, from Alburnett, reached the quarterfinals at 197 pounds after notching a pair of high-level wins on Thursday. He notched an 8-1 first-round win over Ohio State’s Gavin Hoffman, a returning All-American, then won 4-0 in round two over Cornell’s Jacob Cardenas, who was on the U23 world team with Sloan last summer. Sloan, the 7-seed, gets Cal Poly’s Bernie Truax, the 2-seed, on Friday.

  • It took all of 30 minutes for the 125-pound bracket to blow up, at least seed-wise, and North Carolina’s Jack Wagner played a role in the madness. The Bettendorf grad, who stopped at both Iowa and Northern Iowa before landing in Chapel Hill upset Oregon State’s Brandon Kaylor, the 7-seed and a returning All-American, with a 3-1 first-round win. Wagner lost his second-round match 5-2 to Arizona State’s Brandon Courtney, which means he’ll have to win three matches on Friday to earn a spot on the podium.

  • Minnesota’s Michael Blockhus, a one-time Northern Iowa wrestler and a three-time Iowa state champion, went 1-1 at 149 on Thursday. Blockhus won 3-2 over Oklahoma State’s Victor Voinovich, then lost 3-1 in sudden victory to Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas in round two. Blockhus gets SIUE’s Caleb Tyus first thing Friday.

  • Cade DeVos, another South Dakota State wrestler who’s originally from Iowa (Southeast Polk), earned a first-round pin at 174 pounds before losing in round two to a red-hot Chris Foca from Cornell. DeVos’ road to the podium now goes through the consolations, and begins Friday with a matchup against Army West Point’s Ben Pasiuk.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa 2nd, Iowa State, UNI in top 15 after Day One of NCAA Wrestling