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Iowa takes early lead at the 2021 NCAA Championships, going five for five, including four bonus point victories in Session 1A

by Mike Willis, USA Wrestling

Feature photo of Iowa's Jaydin Eierman locking up a cradle courtesy of John Sachs.

The NCAA DI Wrestling Championships look different this year. The stands are sparsely populated, and while there are individual fans cheering and clapping, the loud roars that usually accompany a big pin or an upset are noticeably duller. The P.A. announcer’s voice booms louder, bouncing off the empty seats and echoes through the arena.

The format is different too. Session one is broken into two separate rounds, with the first five weight classes wrestling first. The mats will be cleaned and sanitized before session 1B starts, and the wrestlers in the next five weight classes begin their tournaments.

Despite the stark differences present in this COVID-19 era NCAA Championship, there is still a lot that is familiar. Primarily the high caliber adrenaline-pumping action unfolding simultaneously across eight mats.

After the opening round matches at 125-157 pounds, the Iowa Hawkeyes hold a slight lead with 10.5 points. Iowa went five for five in the opening round, earning bonus point victories at 125 pounds, 133 pounds, 141 pounds and 157 pounds.

Spencer Lee started his tournament off in dominant fashion, earning a first period technical fall over Virginia’s Patrick McCormick, 17-1. At 133 pounds, Austin DeSanto earned a 19-4 technical fall over Little Rock’s Paul Bianchi. Jaydin Eierman kept the tech falls rolling at 141 pounds with a 20-5 victory over Cayden Rooks of Indiana. At 157 pounds, Kaleb Young scored a 10-2 major decision over Nebraska’s Caleb Licking. The lone Hawkeye not to pick up bonus points was Max Murin at 149 pounds. Murin logged an 8-7 decision over Indiana’s Graham Rooks.

Penn State and North Carolina State, who are in second and third place respectively, each went four for four in their opening round matches. Neither program qualified a wrestler for the tournament at 149 pounds. Of note at 125 pounds, Penn State’s No. 23 Robert Howard upset Ohio State’s No. 10 Malik Heinselman, 6-4, utilizing a reversal and four near fall points in the second period. Heinselman defeated Howard twice this season including at the Big Ten Championships.

The No. 7 seed went down in both the 141 and 157 pound brackets. At 141 pounds, Northwestern’s Colin Valdiviez took out Iowa State’s Ian Parker, 8-5. At 157 pounds, Central Michigan’s Johnny Lovett defeated Missouri’s Jarrett Jacques, 3-2.Northwestern also scored another big upset at 149 pounds where No. 25 Yahya Thomas bested No. 8 Jaden Abas of Stanford, 6-2. Northwestern is currently tied for fourth place and won all five of their first round matches in session 1A.

Session 1B starts at 1 p.m. CST.

NCAA Div. I Championships

At St. Louis, Mo.

Team scores after session 1A (Top 15 Teams)

1. Iowa 10.5
2. Penn State 8.0
3. NC State 7.5
4. Arizona State 6.0
4. Northwestern 6.0
4. Oklahoma State 6.0
4. Virginia Tech 6.0
8. Nebraska 5.0
9. Central Michigan 4.0
9. Minnesota 4.0
9. Missouri 4.0
9. Northern Iowa 4.0
9. Pittsburgh 4.0
9. Purdue 4.0
9. Wisconsin 4.0

Notable Upsets


No. 23 Robert Howard (Penn State) DEC No. 10 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State), 6-4

No. 20 Ryan Sullivan (West Virginia) DEC No. 13 Zach Redding (Iowa State), 4-3 (TB-2)
No. 22 Mario Guillen (Ohio) DEC No. 11 Anthony Madrigal (Oklahoma), 4-2 (SV-2)

No. 21 Real Woods (Stanford) DEC No. 12 Grant Willits (Oregon State), 6-3
No. 20 Brian Courtney (Virginia) DEC No. 13 DJ Lloren (Fresno State), 10-5
No. 26 Colin Valdiviez (Northwestern) DEC No. 7 Ian Parker (Iowa State), 8-5

No. 25 Yahya Thomas (Northwestern) DEC No. 8 Jaden Abas (Stanford), 6-2
No. 20 Joshua Heil (Campbell) DEC No. 13 Mitch Moore (Oklahoma), 2-1
No. 23 Tristan Lara (Northern Iowa) DEC No. 10 Mike Van Brill (Rutgers), 12-7

No. 26 Johnny Lovett (Central Michigan) DEC. No. 7 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri), 3-2
No. 23 Jacob Wright (Wyoming) DEC. No. 10 Justin Thomas (Oklahoma), 5-4 (TB-2)