Wrestlers Janssen, Kerr locked in competition, again


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CEDAR FALLS — It was Aaron Janssen's turn Thursday night in Cedar Falls.

Jake Kerr had wrestled at 165 pounds for the Hawkeyes in five of six dual meets before Thursday's matchup with Northern Iowa. Kerr's mixed results included four wins and a 4-1 loss against Iowa State, after which head coach Tom Brands said Kerr needed to "wrestle smarter."

Three weeks into what appears to be a second-straight year of competition between the two, Janssen got a chance to state his case for the starting job against the Panthers. And while the fifth-year senior pulled out a 4-0 victory and earned praise from Brands, he said he didn't feel he stated it strongly enough.

"I wanted it to be better," Janssen said. "Because I needed to be out there scoring more points."

After a scoreless first period, Janssen earned an escape with 1:17 left in the second and then took down Northern Iowa's Brice Wolf. Janssen rode Wolf for the remaining 44 seconds of the period.

First-year Panther head coach Doug Schwab said he was impressed by how well the Hawkeyes wrestled from the top position, and he said his team had struggled from the bottom all season long.

Despite those struggles, Schwab surprised Brands by instructing Wolf to begin the third period from the bottom.

Janssen kept him there for the entire third period, earning a point for riding time and sealing a victory.

"We made him pay for choosing down," Brands said. "I like that. Good job by Janssen."

Janssen, however, wasn't pleased with his third period. The Emmetsburg, Iowa, native said he considered it a missed chance to display his offensive capabilities to a coaching staff he needs to impress.

"I felt like that was a turning point where I could have let him go and taken him down," Janssen said. "That's where I could have broken him to get the major, and I didn't do it. I would've liked to turn the heat up a little bit as far as Kerr and me. Offense is going to help separate me from Kerr."

Attempting to separate from each other isn't new for the pair. They spent last season fighting for the starting spot at 157 pounds. Janssen went 12-4, but Kerr got the nod in the postseason, placing fourth at the Big Ten championship to earn an invitation to NCAAs.

The competition has spilled over into this season, the final year as a Hawkeye for both.

While Kerr has gotten the nod for the majority of the dual meets so far, Janssen has been wrestling well away from the spotlight. Thursday's victory pushed his season record to 10-0, and he won the 165-pound title at the Northern Iowa open last weekend.

While Janssen won his match Thursday, Brands said the battle will likely continue until the Midlands Championship in Evanston, Ill., beginning on Dec. 29.

"It's pretty even," he said. "Janssen's been doing a good job at the open tournaments. Jake Kerr has been doing a good job representing us in dual meets. It was Janssen's turn tonight, but Midlands will settle it."

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