ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–Tony Cassioppi has done a lot of big things in wrestling at Hononegah High School and these past few years at Iowa. This year as a redshirt senior for the Hawkeyes he has been on fire.
Cassioppi has racked up win after win after win in the heavyweight division. He is 16-0 with ten falls. Many of those coming in the first period of his matches. He has defeated four nationally ranked opponents.
“He has five dual meets that go down to heavyweight, and he’s won them all,” said Iowa head wrestling coach and former Olympic champion Tom Brands. “He’s got incredible resolve, and he’s got a good, even mind, and he’s a great heavyweight.”
Sunday at Wisconsin in front of a Wisconsin record crowd of more than 5,000 fans, Cassioppi saved the day for the Hawkeyes. They trailed the Badgers in the team score 18-15 going into Cassioppi’s final match against the 11th ranked heavyweight Trent Hillger. Cassioppi won it 4-1, and Iowa won the team dual on a criteria tiebreaker.
Cassioppi told me the pressure packed match didn’t affect him. “For me it really doesn’t change anything. I’m going to go out there and wrestle my match no different. It doesn’t really matter. I’d like the dual to be 54-0 when I step on the mat, but it’s just how it happens sometimes I guess.”
“We’ve got a pretty good doggone heavyweight who’s got ice, ice water in his veins,” said Brands.
Before last season Cassioppi reshaped his body losing fat and adding muscle, sculpting himself to elevate his performance. This season, he says he has been focused on getting better in every wrestling position possible.
Cassioppi isn’t getting caught up in what he’s achieved so far this season.
“I’m wrestling good. I’ve just got to keep it going. I’m not really looking back. I’m looking forward.”
Cassioppi is currently the third ranked heavyweight in the nation. Just ahead are a big match this Friday at Penn State where he’ll face the number two ranked wrestler in the nation Greg Kerkvliet, and soon after that he’ll have a match against Michigan and its number one ranked heavyweight Mason Parris. Then comes the Big Ten Championships in early March also at Michigan. Last year Cassioppi finished second in the Big Ten. His sophomore year he was third.
What would it mean to him to individually to win a Big Ten title?
“It would be awesome! Obviously, that’s the goal to win everything.
Cassioppi says there is nothing better than being an Iowa Hawkeye with the excellent coaching staff there and the unmatched fan support.
“There’s nowhere better to be a great wrestler than at Iowa. There’s just nowhere else where I could have become who I am today.”
Despite being a senior, Cassioppi still has one more year of eligibility left because of the COVID year. He tells me he will use it and return to Iowa next season.