Iowa State wrestlers focused on Big 12 tournament

Plenty of distractions around program as postseason begins

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AMES — Talk of the future is put on hold the moment practice begins.

The last month has been anything but normal for the Iowa State wrestling program. Former coach Kevin Jackson announced he’d step down at the end of the season, and new coach Kevin Dresser was hired to replace him a few weeks later.

Cyclones assistant Travis Paulson is bridging the gap between the eras — Jackson announced last week he’d stepped away from the program immediately — but he isn’t hoping to be just a placeholder.

There still is something for Iowa State (1-12, 1-6) to chase in the postseason. It starts with the Big 12 Championships in Tulsa, Okla., Saturday and Sunday.

“When you walk into practice, you put on your hard hat and you’re ready to put in some work,” Paulson said. “We’re all heading toward the same thing, just finishing the year as strong as possible.

“Just locking in on what we can control and the guys have done a great job of that.”

Iowa State doesn’t have any wrestler as a top-two seed in the conference tournament, but it does have a couple veterans as three seeds.

Earl Hall at 133 pounds and Lelund Weatherspoon at 174 lead the Cyclones into the postseason — Weatherspoon won a conference title last season and helped the team to a third-place finish. Both were All-Americans a year ago.

With so much transition in the final weeks of his last collegiate season, Hall has tried to take everything in stride. The messages handed down from Paulson and the other assistants has been to stay the course, and Hall has tried to bring that to the rest of the room.

“We can either sulk in it or just move forward from it,” Hall said. “If we dwell on it, then what does that have to say about the rest of our season? If we just go out there and compete like we’re capable of, then we don’t have anything to worry about.

“Everybody is 0-0 from here on out. Whatever you did earlier in the year doesn’t matter, so right now it’s just whatever you do now for the rest of the season.”

Iowa State has a four seed, three five seeds, a six seed, an eight seed and two 10 seeds to round out its lineup. One of those 10 seeds is 149-pounder Gabe Moreno, who has been hampered by shoulder injuries the last two seasons and carries a 6-8 record into the postseason.

The redshirt senior, through his disappointment, sees the tournaments as a way to hit the reset button on his season and the program as a whole.

“I kind of think about it like when you play the old Mortal Kombat,” Moreno said. “Each time you win you go up and face the boss. It’s just like I can’t lose because there are no restarts in this. This is it.”

l Comments: montzdylan@gmail.com

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