Iowa wrestling uses depth to fill big lineup holes

Iowa wrestling proved its depth on Nov. 24 against Purdue, going without five of its usual starters — including three All-Americans — in its first Big Ten win.

Most notably, No. 1 Spencer Lee was missing from the lineup card before wrestlers took the mat against No. 14 Purdue for the noon start. Lee had been slated to face No. 15 Devin Shroder.

Instead, Iowa senior Perez Perez was on the mat for a 4-2 loss that gave Purdue the team lead.

Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands wouldn’t give specifics on why Lee wasn’t dressed or his status, but his goals for the lineup and expectations after facing Purdue were clear.

“You never know what’s going on in that wrestling room,” Brands said. “We’re going to rely on [the backups] for the near-term, that’s the lineup you’re going to see. We’ve got to be making hay with that lineup. You’ve got to give credit to [the backups who are] putting us in position with the 14th-ranked team coming in here.”

Another major question mark in Iowa’s lineup came at 149, with No. 12 Pat Lugo also absent from the lineup.

Carter Happel, up from 141, filled Lugo’s role with a 2-0 decision against an unranked Parker Filius.

Again, Brands didn’t give a reason on why Lugo was on the bench, but his counterpart filled in the gaps.

“Our starting 49-er, Pat Lugo, he’s kind of banged up a little bit right now,” Happel said. “Tom told me a couple of days ago to stay ready at 49, and I’ve been training all week to be ready at 49.”

RELATED: Wrestling dominates No. 14 Purdue

Iowa’s lineup shifts didn’t stop there. All-Americans Michael Kemerer (174) and Sam Stoll (285) are still both waiting to see action this season, and redshirt freshman Jacob Warner (197) has yet to take the mat for his college début.

Warner, however, was the only projected starter missing from action that made the lineup card against Purdue. In his place, Mitch Bowman moved up a weight from 184 and upset No. 11 Christian Brunner to start off the meet for Iowa.

“You do what the head coach asks you because I believe in Tom,” Bowman said. “I think he has my best interest in his mind the entire time, and right now, I’m in support, and that’s my role. I don’t like the role, but that’s the role that I’m in right now, so if you ask me to go 97, I’ll go 97.”

Myles Wilson (174) and Aaron Costello (285) have consistently been filling in for Kemerer and Stoll, respectively.  They both were defeated in their matches on Nov. 24, with Wilson’s loss coming against No. 13 Dylan Lydy.

Iowa has no shortage of ranked wrestlers to step up if the return of Iowa’s four missing ranked starters is delayed. No. 11 Austin DeSanto (133), No. 14 Max Murin (141), and No. 13 Kaleb Young (157) all defeated their ranked Boilermaker opponents. No. 4 Alex Marinelli (165) and No. 12 Cash Wilcke (184) both recorded major decisions against unranked opponents as well.

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