116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State wrestling coach Kevin Dresser sat down at the table and began his flashcard-based presentation.
The sturdy props were emblazoned with an array of emoji — and the one he chose first denoted “crazy.”
That good-natured visual aid barb was aimed at Northern Iowa head coach Doug Schwab.
“This kind of looks like Schwab a little bit,” Dresser said in advance of Friday’s 7 p.m. Big 12 matchup between the No. 5 Cyclones (13-1, 6-0) and 18th-ranked Panthers (8-6, 4-2) at McLeod Center in Cedar Falls.
The jokes kept coming, but didn’t obscure the respect Dresser has for Schwab and his rock-solid program.
UNI drubbed ISU in Dresser’s first two seasons, but the Cyclones have won the past two meetings — a reversal of fortunes that illustrates the massive growth that’s occurred within the program.
“We’re not where we want to be,” said Dresser, whose head coaching career is marked by successful rebuilding efforts. “But we’re making progress.”
ISU finished tied for 45th at the NCAA Championships in Dresser’s first season, but rapidly rose into the top 20 and then the top 15 at the national meet.
This season, the Cyclones feature three wrestlers ranked in the top seven nationally according to InterMat, with David Carr — the defending national champion at 157 pounds — serving as the obvious headliner.
But Dresser and his staff have relied on both highly-touted recruits and lesser-known talents to help return ISU’s program to national prominence.
“Some things didn’t go quite as quickly as we wanted to, but then, you kind of get on a roll,” Dresser said. “And if you look at some of the guys that we’ve got who are doing really well right now, like (No. 18 125-pounder) Kysen Terukina, (he) wasn’t a top-250 kid in the nation. Obviously, (14th-ranked 197-pounder) Yonger (Bastida) was way under the radar. … (Seventh-ranked 184 pounder) Marcus Coleman’s made huge strides, and that says a lot about this staff and the development, and these guys just really buying into what we’re doing.”
Speaking of Coleman, he’ll compete in one of the dual meet’s many bouts to watch against No. 4 Parker Keckeisen, who dealt the Ames native his only loss of the season.
“It’s a rivalry and there’s been a little bit of back and forth this week,” Coleman said. “Coaches hyping (it) up, everybody hyping (it) up, so excitement’s really high and then on top of that, I get a chance to right my wrongs, my only loss of the season, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
So is Dresser, who considers most of Friday’s matches as toss-ups on paper. That wasn’t true his first season when the Panthers pummeled the Cyclones 31-7, but this dual meet is once again a marquee matchup thanks to ISU’s steady and marked improvement — and there’s nothing “crazy” about that.
“I think this is kind of like when you plant those seeds and water them,” said 141-pound All-American Ian Parker, who helped spur the Cyclones’ growth. “You’re starting to see some of that fruit.”