ST. LOUIS — University of Iowa wrestlers Spencer Lee, Jaydin Eierman and Michael Kemerer advanced to the finals of the 2021 NCAA Championships following semifinal wins Friday night at the Enterprise Center.
The Hawkeyes lead the team race with 109 points and have seven All-Americans competing Saturday. In addition to its three finalists, Austin DeSanto, Kaleb Young, Jacob Warner and Tony Cassioppi will compete in Saturday morning’s medal rounds.
Iowa head coach Tom Brands said, “We have a lot more wrestling to go and that’s where our priority is. These guys want to get ready to wrestle tough matches and that’s what they do best. That’s where I am at and that’s my message.”
Iowa’s trio of top-seeded finalists rolled through their competition and into the championship match. Lee, Eierman and Kemerer outscored their opponents a combined 142-29, scoring bonus points in 10 of 12 wins.
Lee is making his third straight appearance in the finals. He won the 125-pound title in 2018 and 2019. Eierman and Kemerer are both four-time All-Americans, but first-time NCAA finalists.
Lee said he feels “fantastic” heading into the finals, and noted the difference between this year and previous seasons was the noise level, “I’m used to hearing loud Iowa fans.” He will wrestle No. 3 Brandon Courtney from Arizona State for a chance to become a three-time NCAA Champion. Only six wrestlers in program history have won three national titles.
Eierman will get a rematch of his 2021 Big Ten title match when he faces No. 2 Nick Lee of Penn State in the 141-pound finals. Eierman defeated Lee 6-5 at the conference championships March 7. He advanced to the national finals with his second straight fall, this time pinning N.C. State’s Tariq Wilson in two minutes, 59 seconds.
“This is the reason I came to Iowa. I knew they could help me take my level of wrestling to the next level,” Eierman said. “It’s working on the basics and it worked out that match. I got my legs back and put him to his back and do what I do best.”
Kemerer is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since wrestling as a sophomore in 2018. He placed fourth that year and third as a freshman in 2017. He scored bonus points in his first three matches of the tournament, and handled No. 12 Bernie Truax of Cal-Poly, 8-1, in the 174-pound semis.
“It’s good to get into the finals. I’m ready to go,” said Kemerer. “This is something I have dreamt and thought about for a long time. These are awesome days of my life right now. I am putting on this singlet and going out and competing and cherishing every moment of it. I’m excited to do it again tomorrow.”
Like Eierman, Kemerer will get a rematch from the Big Ten finals, where he was a 7-2 winner over his NCAA finals opponent, Carter Starocci of Penn State.
DeSanto and Cassioppi both dropped semifinal matches and were bounced to the backside of the bracket. They compete in the consolation semifinals Saturday at 133 and 285, respectively.
Jacob Warner won a pair of matches in the wrestle-backs to secure All-America honors and advance to the consolation semifinals. Kaleb Young won in the blood round to earn All-America honors, but fell in the consolation semifinals and will wrestle for seventh place Saturday.
Max Murin and Alex Marinelli saw their tournaments end in the Round of 12. Murin lost 2-1 in the first tiebreak period at 149, his second overtime loss of the tournament, and Marinelli medically forfeited at 165.
The Hawkeyes lead Penn State by 14.5 points in the team race. Oklahoma State is in third with 86.5 points Arizona State and Michigan round out the top five with 67 and 58.5 points, respectively.
The NCAA Championships continue Saturday at 10 a.m. (CT). ESPN2 and ESPN3 are providing television and online coverage of the medal rounds. The finals begin at 6 p.m. on ESPN. The finals begin with the 133-pound championship match and end with the 125-pound championship match.