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Iowa State wrestling guided by return of three All-Americans

Earl Hall (133), Lelund Weatherspoon (174), Pat Downey (184) aim to reach new heights

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AMES — Expectations for Division I programs are the same all across the country: win national championships.

Iowa State wrestling coach Kevin Jackson already likes what he sees in his room as far as guys that could be standing on top of the field this spring.

“(Our three All-Americans) have to be better than they were last year and they’ll have to continue to improve throughout the year,” Jackson said Tuesday at media day, “but I think having those three All-Americans leading the team is strong.

“I think the guys are going to connect to the energy and effort that those guys bring to the mat every single match. If they follow suit I think we’re going to be a pretty good team.”

The Cyclones have five projected seniors in the starting lineup, including All-Americans Earl Hall at 133 pounds and Lelund Weatherspoon at 174, but will rely heavily on their third All-American from a year ago, junior Pat Downey at 184.

Downey’s first match came midway through last year against Northern Iowa — he started his career as a Junior World Team member (silver medalist) before going to Nebraska, Iowa Central and eventually Iowa State — but went on a postseason run.

He was unseeded in the Big 12 Championships, but earned a third-place finish — and automatic NCAA qualifying berth — before a fifth-place finish at nationals. Downey’s postseason run makes him that much hungrier for his follow-up season at his natural weight of 184 pounds.

“These things are big not only for confidence, but my expectations,” the 24-year-old said. “Everybody expects to be a national champion or else we’re not working as hard to do it. But those are my expectations. I want to win, dominate, be the best version of me this year and do what I think I’m capable of doing.”

Iowa State brought in the No. 3 2016 recruiting class according to Intermat, but perhaps the biggest addition came by way of somebody who had already been on the team.

Hall was granted another year last spring after it was previously believed he exhausted his eligibility — he spent his first year after high school at the Olympic Training Center. The Homestead, Fla., native will miss the first two duals of the season with the NCAA ruling, but is expected to jump back in the lineup at 133 on Nov. 13.

“After (Coach Jackson) gave me the news, I told him I’m going to do whatever it takes to be a national champ,” Hall said. “Anything you tell me to do, I’ll go do. This year I’m just working on being a better kid and not a man who knows everything. To me it’s just been like starting all over from ground zero and work my way up.”

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