116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES - Tanner Weatherman had company when he would train during the summer.
Earl Hall Jr. has experienced a little more competition during workouts. Both are reasons Iowa State Coach Kevin Jackson is excited for the upcoming season.
The Cyclones will look to rebound from last year's 14th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, attempting to crack the top-10 at the end of the season for the first time since 2010. Iowa State was 11-2 overall in duals.
'Our preseason has gone really well,” Jackson said. 'I think we're ahead of schedule right now.
'Everybody looks good in practice. Everybody's skill level is high. Conditioning looked real good. We'll find out exactly where we're at Nov. 7 at Virginia Tech.”
More than half the 42 wrestlers on the Cyclones roster are red-shirt sophomores or younger. Jackson said many of them and the returning starters remained in Ames to train over the summer, working to improve. Weatherman said he lifted about four times a week and ran a couple more. He estimated about 30 teammates were in the practice room or weight rooms on any given day. Weatherman said he thought it was a big increase from previous years.
'These guys have a lot of motivation, a lot of work ethic,” Weatherman said. 'They are ready to get after it. You can tell.
'There are a bunch of workers. A bunch of guys who want to get in here and grind it out.”
This year's team has five wrestlers with national tournament experience, Some new faces are expected to step in and make a contribution this season. Nobody in the room is content with playing the role of backup. Hall sees that fire, racing teammates to be the first to win sprints.
'It shows that everybody wants to be the guy,” Hall said. 'This year, everybody wants to be the man. These guys are working hard and I love it, honestly.”
Hall said this is the hardest working team he has been on at Iowa State. The wrestling room has a different feel, attempting to reclaim the program's storied tradition.
'I don't know what it is but you can definitely tell there is a higher energy,” Weatherman said. 'We're getting in there. We're getting after it. We're putting in the work.”
Jackson said last year was a let down after a strong regular season, and the goal isn't to hover around the top-10 level. The best finish has been 11th since placing third in Jackson's first season as head coach. He said the team could have been a top-five team had the wrestlers competed to their national seeds.
'We just didn't have the national championship that we expected to have (and) that we were capable of having,” Jackson said. 'I know where we're at and I know our guys know what we're capable of doing and are very disappointed that that didn't happen.”
Hall felt the sting of failing to reach the podium last season at 133, following an eighth-place finish at 125 in 2014. Despite 27 wins, a Southern Scuffle title and a conference runner-up performance, he said March is what matters most. He and the Cyclones didn't deliver at the end.
'I did some good things throughout the season but it's another year,” Hall said. 'It's a new me. I just have to compete the whole year. 'I know I've got to dig deeper. I never want to feel that again.”
The Cyclones face a challenge to overcome last year's rough finish. Hall, a two-time national qualifier, Weatherman, a three-time NCAA qualifier, two-time NCAA qualifier and 2014 Big 12 champ Lelund Weatherspoon, national qualifier Dante Rodriguez and two-time NCAA qualifier Gabe Moreno are the top returners. Iowa State graduated national champion Kyven Gadson and two-time All-American Michael Moreno, who were staples in the lineup. Jackson said that Rodriguez will likely red-shirt this season, making way for former Des Moines Roosevelt four-time state champ John Meeks at 141.
Red-shirt freshmen Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer and Logan Breitenbach are top contenders to start at 157. Red-shirt freshman Nathan Boston is expected to compete with Kyle Larson at 125. Former Waterloo West state champion Marcus Harrington will take over Gadson's spot.
'I think we added some pieces,” Jackson said. 'I think the recruits we've had in, our red-shirt freshmen, they have added some depth to our program. Guys are going to have to earn their spot at the majority of the weight classes. We have a nice mix of upper classmen and young guys.”
Weatherman and Weatherspoon will drop a weight this season. Weatherman is moving to 165, while Weatherspoon will be at 174.
'For Lelund, it's really not a problem at all. Lelund is a natural 174-pounder. We pushed him to 184,” Jackson said. 'Tanner was five pounds over (Monday) for an initial scrimmage match, so we got him down to five over. He looked really good and made it pretty easy.”
Weatherman wrestled 171 pounds as a senior at Ballard. Weatherman said the change was brought up in the spring but became final a couple months ago. He has responded well to Jackson's request.
'I hadn't cut any weight for six years now,” Weatherman said. 'It's been awhile.
'It's just a matter of making a conscious decision, doing all the right things, eating the right things and not having the bowl of ice cream when I shouldn't.”
Harrington and Moreno faced legal trouble in the off-season and could miss some time at the start of the year. Jackson said Moreno is recovering from a shoulder injury and will miss the first couple meets. Jackson said Harrington is in good standing with him but there are other variables that impact his status in the lineup.
'He has hoops to jump through to get to where he is going to be a day-to-day performer for us,” Jackson said. 'I'm not at liberty to discuss his situation, but at the same time we do expect him to be our guy. We're unsure when that is going to be, when he's going to be our guy, but I have all the confidence in the world that Marcus is going to continue to do the right things and we are expecting him to hit our lineup. When that is going to be is up in the air.”
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