AMES — Iowa State wrestling is sending just one wrestler, Jarrett Degen (149), to the NCAA Championships in Cleveland.
Despite that, the whole team is still practicing like they’re all making the trip.
“We’re all as a team still trying to send the whole team to Cleveland,” Degen said. “That’s what they say the goal is in the future, is to have 10 guys going. We’re going to be practicing like we’re all going to Cleveland.”
Iowa State Coach Kevin Dresser raved about Degen’s work ethic in the room. That, coupled with his love for competition, is why Degen is the only one actually making the trip to Ohio.
“The bigger the stage, the better,” Dresser said. “He likes the limelight. That’s why he is where he is and that’s why he improved so much. I look at him 14 or 15 months ago when he was with us at Virginia Tech, he was a guy that made mistakes, but wrestled really hard all the time. To see his gains from then until now is what is exciting about coaching — to see guys improve. He’s going to go out there and throw it all out there and continue to get smarter like he has all year.
“He likes 16,000 people looking at him. That’s what I like about him.”
Degen’s style has a little funk to it. He doesn’t mind rolling around on the mat with an opponent. The problem is, that can lead to mistakes, like Dresser said.
The thing Degen appreciates is the Iowa State coaching staff works with his style instead of trying to completely change it. Derek St. John, one of Iowa State’s assistant coaches, works with Degen in their private workouts.
Both Degen and St. John are tall wrestlers and St. John is able to relate to Degen and explain what he needs to do to use his height as an advantage.
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“I feel like he helps my style a lot,” Degen said. “He understands being tall. He works with my style, and they all work with my style. They were working with it to improve it. Yeah, we took some funk out of it, but always having that there and working on the basics. Working with my style, that’s something he does really well.”
Degen has an interesting matchup in the first round of the NCAA Championships against No. 13 seed Colton McCrystal of Nebraska. Degen said McCrystal likes to use an over hook, while Degen likes to use an under hook.
That clash in styles could lead to some interesting exchanges.
Dresser said making mistakes is a part of wrestling.
“We all make mistakes as wrestlers, and he’s going to continue to make mistakes,” Dresser said. “His goal, like the rest of ours, is to make less mistakes and more good choices. That’s the exciting part about the NCAA Tournament is to see matchups and situations like he talked about (with McCrystal).”
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