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AMES — Kevin Dresser considers himself a builder, and is not shy about taking on challenges.
When he took over the Virginia Tech wrestling program, it was coming off a one-win dual season. Dresser turned the Hokies into a top-five program.
Now, he’ll try to do it again in his home state.
Iowa State announced Dresser as its next coach Monday after his name surfaced as the top candidate during the weekend to replace Kevin Jackson. Dresser, 54, agreed to a seven-year deal worth $2.25 million guaranteed plus incentives with a $300,000 base salary next season — making him one of the highest-paid coaches in wrestling.
Dresser will step away from Virginia Tech effective immediately.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead one of the nation’s most storied and accomplished college wrestling programs at Iowa State,” Dresser said in a release. “Growing up in Iowa, I admired the sellout crowds at Hilton Coliseum and watching championship coaches like Dr. Harold Nichols and Jim Gibbons and countless All-America Cyclones.
“The administrative commitment — both facilities and operating budget — along with a devoted and knowledgeable fan base make Iowa State one of those few programs in the nation that has the foundation to compete for elite national status annually.”
A native of Humboldt, Dresser had a 160-51 dual record in 11 seasons at Virginia Tech and led the Hokies to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships last season — the highest finish ever by an ACC team. But his wrestling roots were in Iowa.
Dresser won two state titles and had a 112-11-1 record in high school before wrestling for legendary coach Dan Gable at the University of Iowa. He was a two-time All-American, two-time Big Ten champion and won the 1986 NCAA title.
Dresser was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletic Association Wrestling Hall of Fame (2009) and the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame (2014).
“Iowa State is one of the blue bloods of our sport and the national wrestling scene is stronger when they’re a part of it,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said in a statement. “I have respect for Kevin Dresser. He’s a former Hawkeye who has achieved success wherever he’s been. We share similar goals, and that’s to capture championships. That’s where my focus is today.”
Following his career as an athlete, Dresser coached at Grundy High School (1988-96) and Christiansburg High School (1996-2006) in Virginia before going to Virginia Tech. He coached 69 state champions and had four teams in the nation’s top 10.
“I believe this hire will be viewed someday as a very historic one for Iowa State wrestling,” Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard said in a statement. “Kevin is joining our team because he wants to restore Iowa State to its historic place — one that includes eight NCAA Championships — on the national wrestling landscape.
“He shares our vision that it has been far too long since we won our last team championship (1987) and fully expects to build our program into a national title contender. We could not be more excited to welcome Kevin, Penny and their children to the Cyclone Family.”
Dresser, who started at Virginia Tech in 2006, also found success on the recruiting trail and put six classes in the top 11 nationally — his 2013 class was No. 2 according to InterMat.
In making his decision to leave Virginia Tech, Dresser pointed to three areas that piqued his interest: family, wrestling tradition and a new challenge.
“I’m looking at a chance to go home,” Dresser told reporters Sunday night after No. 5 Virginia Tech beat No. 6 Nebraska. “My mother lives 20 minutes from (Iowa State), my brother lives 20 minutes from Iowa State. I haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time with my mother the last couple years so that’s a factor in my decision.
“There are very few jobs I would ever consider, but that’s probably one of the two jobs I would consider. I grew up going to Iowa State matches when I was 9 and 10 years old and sat in 14,000 and 15,000 seat arenas, packed, watching wrestling. That intrigues me.”
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