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Iowa State announced Tuesday that Cyclones head wrestling coach Kevin Jackson will step down at the end of the 2016-17 season.
The move is not a surprise, considering Iowa State Athletics Director Jamie Pollard had made recent comments about getting someone another shot if the program didn't improve the last part of the season. Word of an evaluation after the season seemed to be writing on the wall that the Cyclones would go another direction from Jackson, who coached four NCAA champions (Jake Varner, David Zabriskie, Jon Reader and Kyven Gadson), 14 All-Americans and owns a 68-54 dual record in seven previous seasons.
Now, the question is what direction will it be. About six weeks remains in the season, so this is premature, but the rumor mill has already been running on full steam since those statements began to surface. Here are some possible candidates to consider. Certainly not a complete list. Just some names and many are consumed with the work their current teams have left to do this season.
CURRENT OR PAST HEAD COACHES
Chris Bono: He is in his fifth season at South Dakota State, compiling a 46-37 overall record there and securing a third straight winning season for the Jackrabbits. Bono also coached Chattanooga for three years between stints as a Cyclone assistant. He was an NCAA champion, two-time national finalist and three-time All-American for Iowa State.
Kevin Dresser: Dresser is an Iowa native and a former Hawkeye. He may be content at Virginia Tech. Why shouldn't he be? He has turned the program into a top-five team in Blacksburg, Va. The resources and facilities are better. The cupboard isn't necessarily bare in Ames, but the Cyclones have spent the last six seasons outside of the top 10, where the Hokies have finished each of the last four years. They were fourth last year.
Drew Pariano: Pariano has had success coaching at the NCAA Division I level, leading Northwestern to top-10 finishes in 2012 and 2014. He has had strong individuals. He is familiar with Iowa, serving as head coach at Cornell College (2003-05), helping re-establish the program before heading back to Northwestern as an assistant and taking over for Tim Cysewski. When he was let go from Northwestern in 2015, he said he was looking forward to beginning the next chapter of his coaching and administrative career. He could be chomping at the bit to get back into coaching, and at a big-time program, and ISU fits the bill.
Others: Former Oklahoma and American University Coach Mark Cody. He has Big 12 experience. ... Pat Popolizio has done good things at North Carolina State, which is a top-10 team again. May not even be on his radar if he likes the resources in place in Raleigh, N.C.
Ryan Morningstar/Terry Brands: The Iowa assistants certainly could be considered. Brands may not want to be a head coach again, getting to work with wrestlers as an associate head coach without the headache of media and administration. He would the biggest reasonable splash Pollard could make. If he didn't take the leap in 2009, odds are he wouldn't now. He did coach UTC and has been a national freestyle coach for USA Wrestling in the past.
Morningstar has made two stops — Wisconsin and Iowa — and has certainly shown he can recruit with the best of them. The Hawkeyes have snagged marquee out-of-state recruits, including current 157-pounder Michael Kemerer, freshmen Alex Marinelli and Kaleb Young and future Hawkeyes Spencer Lee, Gavin Teasdale and Jacob Warner. The last time something like this happened, Doug Schwab became UNI's head coach, and that has worked out well for the Panthers.
Mark Perry: The former Hawkeye and current Illinois associate head coach is the heir apparent to Jim Heffernan. The question is how long will he have to wait and if he wants to continue to bide his time. He coached at Penn State, leaving when Cael Sanderson came to town. Perry was a co-head coach and assistant at Cal Poly before returning to the Big Ten. He has a coaching pedigree. Oklahoma State Coach John Smith is his uncle. Imagine how that would add interest to duals between the Cyclones and Cowboys.
Travis/Trent Paulson: Consistency is big. They have been a part of the program. They have worked with the current Cyclones and have a relationship with the current recruits. Maybe one of them could limit the exodus of recruits, like highly-touted recruit Austin Gomez, who planned to ask for his release from his National Letter of Intent signed in November.
Donny Pritzlaff: His name usually gets brought up when positions become open. The current Rutgers associate head coach served as an assistant at Michigan and as Wisconsin's associate head coach earlier in his career. He certainly could be content where he is, but the tradition that ISU owns should be enough to stir up some interest.
Mike Zadick: Another former Hawkeye. He served as an Iowa assistant under Tom Brands and Jim Zalesky. He has been a part Dresser's staff at Virginia Tech. Zadick might want to look for opportunities to venture out on his own. He is in his second season at Tech, serving as a volunteer assistant the first year and getting promoted to assistant in July.
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