Wrestling Mailbag: Final Iowa-Iowa State thoughts, stall calls, film study, Max Murin, Spencer Lee

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  • Terry Brands
    American Olympic wrestler

Had a few final thoughts on Sunday’s tremendous Cy-Hawk dual, because that atmosphere inside Hilton Coliseum was electric.

The stands were mostly full. The official attendance was 9,272, but there were easily 10,000 people in that building, all tuned into every single move in every single match. Coaches chirped at each other. The benches yelled at each other. It was awesome.

The fans, obviously, shared words, and not very kind ones, either. Just check my Twitter mentions. The online banter can be annoying sometimes, to be honest, but the action on the mat demanded strong reactions from both sides, so I get it.

But this is what rivalries should look like — rowdy, fun, hostile, but not overly hostile. I could do without the post-dual extracurriculars, which were dumb. But the intensity and energy of the dual and everything else around it was spectacular. One dad brought his two young boys, and as they left, his kids were already asking about returning.

This was Cy-Hawk wrestling at its best. This sport is more exciting when both teams are good. (Same goes for Iowa State-Northern Iowa.) Iowa’s won 17 in a row in the series, but they still want to blank the Cyclones every year. Iowa State wants to continue to “hit the bully back,” to use Kevin Dresser’s words.

Iowa's Kaleb Young wrestles Iowa State's David Carr at 157, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.
Iowa's Kaleb Young wrestles Iowa State's David Carr at 157, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.

Emotions, intensity run high in Iowa wrestling's 22-11 Cy-Hawk victory

This inevitably leads to a conversation about sportsmanship, and setting examples for younger athletes and coaches and the like. I couldn’t hear what all the wrestlers and coaches were saying to each other from press row at Hilton Coliseum, but I doubt they would say those same things to Grandma during the holiday season.

(Or maybe they will. Every family dynamic is different.)

Outside the post-dual shoving mess and Terry Brands running to the Iowa State bench after the heavyweight match, I didn’t think the energy boiled over on Sunday night. Both benches probably yelled cuss words. Both benches probably flipped each other off. I tend to give a little more leeway in a heated rivalry dual. Makes it fun.

For example, I thought Austin DeSanto’s guest appearance on the ESPN+ broadcast was pretty funny, and Kyven Gadson played it off really well — “DeSanto, you want the mic, buddy?” That’s gold. (Side note: Kyven is quietly becoming a talented wrestling broadcaster.)

There is an element of wrestling that’s entertainment. Most coaches will tell you that. If you want to put butts in seats, you have to make it an enjoyable experience. The energy surrounding the dual was excellent, and so was the action on the mat — four matches were decided by two points or less, another by three, and another by four.

This year’s dual was as intense and rowdy as I’ve seen this matchup during my time at the Register, and I hope we see more of that moving forward.

Instant Reaction: Iowa wrestling defeats Iowa State

Now, then. On to the wrestling mailbag. From James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits”: New goals don’t deliver new results. New lifestyles do. Lifestyle is a process, not an outcome. Your energy should go into building better habits, not chasing better results.

Please give me a follow on Twitter and I’ll keep you up to date on all things wrestling in Iowa. Don't forget to tune into the Register's wrestling podcast, In the Room, each week. You can find the latest episodes below.

Thanks for your help here, and for reading.

Stall calls in the Cy-Hawk wrestling dual

You and me both, Jeff.

I made note of this in the game story, but the officials handed out 18 total stall calls on Sunday — 12 on Iowa State, six on Iowa. For reference, the Cyclones were called for stalling just five times in their first two duals (Iowa is better than both California Baptist and Army, but still). The Hawkeyes were hit for stalling once in their first two duals.

I don't mind a lot of stall calls if the action (or lack thereof) warrants a lot of stall calls. I'm not sure the action on Sunday warranted 18 stall calls, which leads to Jeff's point about the inconsistency from the officials.

I can only speak for me, but all I ask from the officials is consistency. If you're going to be quick to call stalling, for example, be quick to call stalling in all 10 matches. He was not consistent on Sunday. There are numerous examples.

At 149 pounds, Max Murin got dinged for stalling twice in the final 30 seconds of the third period. He ultimately won, 3-2, but the only thing that changed, really, was that Ian Parker ramped up his shot output. Murin defended, and wasn't really on the attack at that point in the match, sure, but I thought two quick calls like that was strange.

At 285 pounds, Sam Schuyler lost the match by stalling disqualification — for the uninitiated, if you get called for stalling five times in a match, you just lose. The first stall call came with 1:40 left in the first period. The next four came in the span of 1:43 between the second and third periods:

  • 41 seconds left in the second period

  • 7 seconds left in the second period

  • 1:35 left in the third

  • 58 seconds left in the third

That's a little ridiculous. I get that he really wasn't doing a whole lot while on bottom, and Tony Cassioppi was cruising toward a major decision (he led 9-0 with riding-time secured at the time of the fifth stall call), but four stall calls in less than two minutes? I don't know, man.

Then there's the match at 133, between DeSanto and Ramazan Attasauov, where he handed out two double stall calls, which is something I've never seen before. The first came in the first period, because they kept interlocking fingers. OK, cool. That's the rule. The second one came with six seconds left in the match, because … why, exactly?

Now take all of that and look at the match at 174, where Nelson Brands beat Joel Devine, 3-1 in overtime. There was a lot of hand-fighting in that match, and some shots that were defended, and action-reaction sequences, and then Brands won it on a re-shot in overtime.

But that match featured four total points and zero stall calls, and I'm not saying there should've been stall calls in that match, but it was not unlike the Murin-Parker match at 149, yet Murin was tagged for stalling twice in 30 seconds? Headscratcher.

The calls added to the intensity and energy of the dual as a whole, but the inconsistency bothered me, too.

Iowa's Austin DeSanto wrestles Iowa State's Ramazan Attasauov at 133, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.
Iowa's Austin DeSanto wrestles Iowa State's Ramazan Attasauov at 133, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.

Why film study matters in wrestling

It matters a ton, and this is something that's maybe a little underrated in wrestling, or at least it doesn't get talked about as much as, say, football. But film study matters. Doing your homework on an opponent matters. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

We hear about film work a lot in football, about coaches and players grinding that tape. They watch for tendencies, to see how plays unfold, what schemes other teams use, and more. It offers a different perspective for the coaches and athletes who are normally on the field. They can better understand what works and what doesn't.

It's the same thing in wrestling, and especially with the rise of outfits like FloWrestling and Rokfin and even the Big Ten Network's continual emphasis on wrestling coverage, there's more film out there than ever before. Virtually every college team and a ton of high school programs record every match so they can go back and re-watch it later.

You mentioned the match at 197, but my first thought was actually the match at 157. Iowa coach Tom Brands referenced the importance of film study when talking about Kaleb Young.

Here's what Brands said after Young's 6-2 loss to David Carr:

"Kaleb Young has a lot more to give there. (Northwestern's Ryan) Deakin, on that wrist ride in the Big Ten finals last year, kind of exposed him."

Deakin beat Young, 6-0, in the finals of the Big Ten Championships last March. He scored two takedowns and added 4:09 of riding-time, thanks largely to controlling Young's wrists while they were on the mat. Deakin grabbed Young's hand, usually his right hand or wrist, then drove into Young's right shoulder. It was like Deakin removed the leg of a table then put all of his weight on that specific corner to knock it down.

Clearly that jumped out on film because David Carr did the same thing Sunday. He piled up 1:59 of riding-time. Right after Carr's first takedown, he immediately climbed the body and reached for Young's right wrist. As they inched toward the edge of the mat, Carr switched to the left wrist. He did it again in the third period after another takedown.

When I think of the match at 197, I think of good match strategy — which is also tangentially related to film study.

Remember, Yonger Bastida is from Cuba, and had only wrestled freestyle until he came to Iowa State last year. Freestyle doesn't involve as much mat wrestling as folkstyle, and he struggled with that last season. He nearly beat Rocky Elam, but because he couldn't get out from bottom, he gave up a stall point and riding time and lost 5-4.

He's shown progress in that aspect of his wrestling this season, but against Jacob Warner, who is very good on top, he didn't want to chance losing this match because he couldn't escape. So with it tied 2-2, Bastida chose neutral in the third period, scored another takedown and won 4-3. I thought that was smart and well-executed.

There are some places on the ever-expanding Internet that breaks down wrestling film. One of my favorites is Dan Sweeney — @DPSBreakdowns on Twitter — and I've tried my hand at tweeting out video clips every week, too. I plan to start that this week because Sunday's dual had a ton of great action that I want to look at again.

This is one of my favorite parts of the job, talking Xs and Os with wrestling minds who are far smarter than me. It helps me learn a lot more, about certain sequences, why wrestlers look for certain things, what they attempt to do in a given match situation and more. It's a lot of fun, and helps educate the broader wrestling audience.

There are tons of spaces nowadays that look at football film and even basketball film, and those fans eat that up. There's definitely an available space for people to do the same in wrestling.

Iowa State's Younger Bastida wins at 197, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.
Iowa State's Younger Bastida wins at 197, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.

Assessing Max Murin and Jacob Warner's Cy-Hawk performance

I thought they both looked mostly fine. Both of them obviously showed where their injuries were — Murin on his left arm, Warner on his left leg — and they had opposite results: Murin won, 3-2; Warner lost, 4-3. Obviously you want both guys to be a little more aggressive and offensive, and I think that'll come with more live-action mat time.

Murin wrestled a smart, tactical match. He showed good patience on that first-period takedown and toughness in riding out Parker the rest of that period and in the start of the second. He did well hand-fighting and defending shots and reacting to Parker's advances. I was impressed, but remember, this was Parker's first match of the year, too.

Warner looked a tick slow, to me, but this was also a unique clash of styles. Bastida is quick and has a variety of attacks and is pretty strong with his snaps. Warner likes to use his heavy hands, wants to brawl, can use that to set up angles for his attacks and is generally an underrated scrambler. We saw all of this in that match.

That inside-trip from Bastida in the first period was really nice. He went collar-tie, half-shot, then Warner dug for an underhook and almost immediately, Bastida stepped in and took Warner down for two. He nearly took Warner down again later in the first off a single-leg, but Warner did well defending and scrambling to avoid giving up a takedown.

In the second period, tied 2-2, Warner used head-and-hands defense to block another Bastida shot, which created an angle for Warner to drag behind and cover for what looked like a takedown. He covered behind and Bastida's knee and hand were both on the mat. It was a fast sequence, but it looked like two to me.

The ref didn't call two and held up that call on review. I thought it was a good challenge from Brands because I thought it would get reversed. That would've made it 4-2 Warner midway through the second, and then we're probably talking about a totally different match. But credit Bastida for continuing to wrestle through the situation.

Even with all that said, it was still 2-2 in the third, and Warner had 50 seconds to win it even after Bastida scored a second takedown. But Bastida was the aggressor in that match, out-shooting Warner by a good margin. It says a lot, again, that Bastida chose neutral in the third. That tells me Warner's collar-ties and hand-fighting wore on him.

Both guys will learn from this match moving forward, and both Warner and Murin will get better as the season goes. Not every dual is going to be as intense or rowdy as Sunday's Cy-Hawk. Their growth from here forward will be something small to monitor.

Iowa's Max Murin wrestles Iowa State's Ian Parker at 149, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.
Iowa's Max Murin wrestles Iowa State's Ian Parker at 149, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.

Younger wrestlers are getting matches

It's kind of a case-by-case thing.

For the Hawkeyes, Jesse Ybarra is getting matches because they're still being cautious with Spencer Lee and Drake Ayala is redshirting this season. That leaves either Ybarra or Aaron Cashman, and Ybarra has been the guy.

Cobe Siebrecht is getting matches because Murin was dealing with his elbow thing, but also because there's some depth at 149. There's those two, plus Vince Turk and true freshman Bretli Reyna, who Brands mentioned as a possible option. I believe the Midlands Championships later this month might clear that air. Keyword: might.

Zach Glazier is getting matches because Warner tweaked his leg at the Luther Open. I believe this spot belongs to Warner, as evidenced on Sunday's decision to let him wrestle. Same idea for Murin at 149. He felt good enough to go, so he did.

We're seeing the same thing for Iowa State. Kysen Terukina wrestled unattached at the Grand View Open, then beat teammate Corey Cabanban there and at the Daktronics Open and is now the guy for the Cyclones. He's still a true freshman, eligibility-wise. Same with Zach Redding, who bumped up to 141 after wrestling 133 last year. Same with Yonger Bastida, who is clearly Iowa State's best option at 197 this season.

There's also Ramazan Attasaouv, who is technically a redshirt freshman eligibility-wise, and Grant Stotts is technically a sophomore. Ramazan is clearly the guy at 133 for Iowa State, and Stotts is in the mix with Isaac Judge and Austin Kraisser to start at 165.

I'm sure we'll see it moving forward. We've seen it in previous years because, again, the presumed starters will battle injuries or illnesses or whatever. I like seeing younger guys compete because it's a chance for them to really see where they're at — which is also why I love that the open tournaments are back this year.

Iowa's Jesse Ybarra wrestles Iowa State's Kysen Terukina at 125, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.
Iowa's Jesse Ybarra wrestles Iowa State's Kysen Terukina at 125, during the CyHawk dual, on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames.

Spencer Lee and the Big Ten and NCAA Wrestling Championships

Here is what Brands said two weeks ago when we asked him about a possible timeline for Spencer Lee:

"You make the best decision for the individual and you consult everybody that has a stake in that decision. That’s as simple as it is. It’s not like we have a date that we’re pointing to and we’re holding our cards tight to our chest. This is something that is day to day, and you’re talking about a guy who’s a pretty good wrestler, so he doesn’t need to be on the mat taxing himself everyday. There’s a different training regimen for him than there is for Drake Ayala. Those are guys at the same weight. Drake Ayala is a true freshman, Spencer Lee is a fifth-year senior. That’s where we’re at with him. He’s having fun. He’s driven. He still has the same ingredients that make him great. I don’t think it’s risky. The medical team says it’s not risky. It’s just a matter of that comfort while being at a high level."

Brands continued: "It comes down to Spencer Lee and what he’s able to do. This is a medical call. This is a coaching call. This is a Spencer Lee call, and Spencer Lee’s family. He has a family that’s very involved, and we also need to consider that.

"Spencer Lee is also his own man, and he’s grown a lot since he’s been here. He’s as ready as our fans are to get on the mat. That’s saying something about his readiness."

I am of the belief that we're getting closer to seeing Spencer Lee on the mat soon. He was in Ames. He weighed in. He looked warm and ready to go if Brands called on him to wrestle. I've seen him wrestle in the room a few times. He looks good.

But this point from Brands sticks with me: "It’s just a matter of that comfort while being at a high level."

Spencer has probably had to adjust his wrestling style some to make up for the fact that he's wrestling with no ACLs. There's a story here I want to write, about what this entire process has been like for him, and it's probably one I won't get to until after the season ends, unfortunately, but it will be one I'll track down at the earliest available opportunity.

One final line from Brands: "Spencer Lee is Spencer Lee. He has a grand total of zero ACLs, and we are patient. We are very patient. He’s a professional. He’s Spencer Lee."

He's saying that about those within the program, but also probably to the fans, too. Be patient. He'll be there. I have no reason, at this present moment, to believe otherwise.

The bids for the NCAA Championship are normally developed through a formula that includes winning percentage against Division I opponents, a wrestler's RPI standing and their coaches’ ranking. Additionally, automatic NCAA bids are awarded to each conference champion. Those bids will be revealed some time in February or March.

I'm not sure Iowa or Lee cares too much about earning a bid for the conference at 125 pounds. They care more about being ready to go in March, and, more importantly, winning in March.

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: Wrestling Mailbag: Iowa-Iowa State, stalling, film study, Spencer Lee

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