IOWA CITY — Austin DeSanto paused and was at a loss for an answer.
The Iowa wrestler struggled to think of his involvement in a wrestling rivalry as notable as the one he will play a role in this weekend.
“I don’t remember,” said DeSanto, a Pennsylvania prep who was a national qualifier at Drexel last season before transferring to Iowa. “Nothing of this magnitude.”
DeSanto will be thrust into the center of the Cy-Hawk Series when third-ranked Iowa hosts Iowa State Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, beginning at 2 p.m. He could be one of up to eight Hawkeyes to get their first taste of the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry.
“I know it’s big,” DeSanto said. “I know it’s deep-rooted. I know it’s going to be a cool environment, so I’m excited to go out there and wrestle.”
DeSanto is ranked 10th by trackwrestling.com, jumping to a 4-0 record with a pin and technical fall. He said he can feel the progress he has made during practice room battles with highly-competitive practice partners. DeSanto raved about the mental gains before the season and has experienced growth in technique as well.
“Leaps and bounds,” DeSanto said. “I work technically every day to try to get better. It’s not just me trying to get mentally better but you have to bring it all together.
“Everything has got to come together — physical, mental and technical.”
Gomez was a top priority for Iowa State Coach Kevin Dresser when he took over for Kevin Jackson, keeping him in Ames when some others decided to transfer after the change. The redshirt freshman from Glenbard North (Ill.) High School is ranked 20th (as high as 14th in other national rankings) with a 4-0 mark.
Gomez is the second straight ranked foe for DeSanto.
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“It’s a pretty good one,” DeSanto said. “I know he’s tough, so it’s going to be fun to go out there and scrap. It’s going to be a pretty cool experience (and) in front of that crowd, too.”
DeSanto is joining the rivalry at one of its low points. Iowa has dominated the series during the Brands era. Brands is 13-0 against Iowa State as Iowa head coach, extending the Hawkeyes' win streak to 14 duals and the all-time advantage to 64-16-2. The Cyclones’ last victory was Dec. 5, 2004 when DeSanto was 6 years old and 141-pounder Max Murin was 5.
The Hawkeyes have held the Dan Gable Traveling Trophy all eight years of its existence.
“It’s definitely something both sides get up for,” Iowa 157-pounder Kaleb Young said. “It’s important. It’s one we circle in red on the calendar and got to get ready for it same as any other one.”
Brands has extended the lopsided nature of the series that started when Gable became head coach in 1976. The Hawkeyes are 59-7-1 against the Cyclones under Gable, Jim Zalesky and Brands. In Brands' 13 victories, Iowa has averaged about a 25-9 margin of victory, which bumps up to 29-7 over the last seven meetings.
Iowa will be short-handed, however, losing Michael Kemerer to season-ending surgery and wrestling last weekend without half of its expected starters. Brands said that might be relied on for a while and that could make things interesting Saturday.
“Hungry team (and) well-coached team,” Brands said of Iowa State. “They have a lot of things going into their favor and we have to be ready.
“I know we have to work on our team and get our team ready. The focus is on seven minutes hard and we have the guys that march to that and when they march to that they are pretty doggone good.”
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