116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Kevin Dresser has been around wrestling a long time — he said that during a recent Cyclone Tailgate Tour Stop at the Marriott — and knows what it takes to reach the top.
He wrapped up his fifth season as Iowa State’s coach in March, but before that was an NCAA champion at the University of Iowa in 1986. He was a highly successful high school coach in Virginia who took two different teams to 13 state titles. He coached Virginia Tech to 160 dual wins, three ACC dual titles and two conference tournament championships.
He knows how to win — and he knows you don’t win championships in June.
But he also knows you definitely can lose titles during the “offseason” — if there really is such a thing — if you don’t have belief, buy-in and focus.
For guys like Dresser — and just about every coach on the planet — the next season starts the day after one season ends. For Dresser, it was watching Penn State win another national championship in March.
“You’ve got to know where the bar is,” Dresser said. “Right now, Penn State is the bar.”
Dresser’s 2021-22 team finished a fantastic 15-1 in duals, but fell short in March — placing third in the Big 12 Championships and 17th at the NCAA Championships.
That’s won’t cut it for a guy who “wanted to win the first week” on the job.
Iowa State, however, is trending in the right direction. Dresser knows this, but nothing matters more than the results on the mat.
And that starts before June. That continues today, tomorrow and the next day.
“You’ve got to train to get to that bar,” he said. “We’ve got to have a great summer and we’ve got to understand what the competition is.
“If you don’t know what’s out there, then you don’t have focus. We need to be real focused on what’s out there.”
Iowa State will have three All-Americans in its lineup when the season actually starts in November, including 2021 national champion David Carr.
“It’s been a long time since Iowa State had (multiple) returning All-Americans,” Dresser said.
There are others in the room who fell short last year, but Dresser feels they are on the brink of better days. And there’s a recruiting class that ranks as high as second in the country by those who rank such things.
That class includes junior national champion Casey Swiderski, from Dundee, Mich., one of the top overall recruits in this class. There’s also MJ Gaitan of Temecula Valley, Calif., and Manny Rojas from Bay City, Mich. There’s Connor Euton from Ohio and Ethan Perryman, another Temecula Valley product.
All are ranked among the top 100 recruits in the nation.
“I’m excited, but ask me in four years if they live up to the hype,” Dresser said.
There’s also five Iowa preps, including Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Christian Stanek.
It’s a big class, a “lot of names” from all over the country.
“World wide, baby, world wide,” Dresser said with a laugh.
But, as he mentioned, this all means nothing if Iowa State doesn’t show up on the mat, and not just in duals, but at tournaments in March.
“We’re trending, but we’ve got to continue to trend,” he said.
So training has begun, camp work is just around the corner. It’s time to close the gap with Penn State, with Iowa, with Ohio State.
“We can make a lot of progress this summer, but we have to come in very focused and understand what’s out in front of us,” Dresser said.
Some feel the gap is too big, that teams like Iowa State will never contend for a national championship again.
Don’t tell that to Dresser.
“If I thought we couldn’t win, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I don’t think the gap is that big.
“I’ve been around wrestling a long time and I’ve seen a lot of people who weren’t supposed to win, win. When I signed up, we weren’t supposed to win. But we’re showing people a little bit more each year that we’re ready to be competitive.”
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