AMES – Iowa State’s and Oregon State’s wrestling programs are comparable in more than one way.
Each program has more than 1,000 dual wins – Iowa State was the first program to reach the milestone, Oregon State was the third – each program fell on hard times recently, not living up to program expectations, and each is in the middle of a rebuild trying to regain its once-dominant form.
Oh, and each is coached by former Iowa teammates and national champions. Jim Zalesky leads Oregon State and Keven Dresser leads Iowa State.
Sunday, these programs met in Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State won the dual 24-16 – Kevin Dresser’s first win as head coach.
“It’s hopefully one of many, but it’s an historic date in terms of that,” Dresser said. “It’s not Coach Dresser’s win – it’s the team’s win, it’s the program’s win, it’s the fans’ win – it’s everything.
“I think the message is always progress and I felt like we made some progress at some weights today – and there’s probably some weights we didn’t make some progress. Overall, we made some progress and it is nice to win so we need to enjoy this a little bit and then we have a chance to go compete in four or five dual meets on Friday and Saturday, which is what we need right now. We need matches.”
Zalesky had the impossible task of taking over at Iowa when legendary coach Dan Gable stepped down. Zalesky, a Cedar Rapids native and three-time Iowa state wrestling champion, had early success as the Iowa coach, winning three national titles in his first three seasons. But by the end in 2006, he was placing outside the top five, so he was replaced.
As the head coach at Oregon State, Zalesky led the Beavers to back-to-back top-10 finishes in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Sunday was his first time back in Iowa to compete in five seasons, when they beat Iowa State 27-12.
“We kind of dropped off,” Zalesky said. “We’re trying to get back there and build, build, build back up. We’re not there yet, but you have to come out here and wrestle in the Midwest and see where you’re at. We liked the way we matched up here, we just lost a couple of close ones that they one and that’s the difference.”
Iowa State had previously found a way to lose those close matches earlier this season. On Sunday, the Cyclones found a way to prevail.
Chase Straw (149) won 5-3 in overtime over Hunter Willits and Dane Pestano (184) secured a takedown with 30 seconds left in the match to win 4-3 over Seth McLeod.
“In my mind, those scores should have been a little bit larger, we should’ve widened those gaps,” redshirt freshman Kanen Storr (141) said. “But to show our guys that just because matches are close, doesn’t mean we have to lose them. I think that’s just a big part of our mental game. We get down or the score is close and we broke down a little bit. We’re building our confidence and our mental strength and I think those are really good examples for the rest of the guys.”
The next step is to secure bonus points. Storr, Jarrett Degen (149) and Danny Bush (174) all did that for the Cyclones. Storr had a 9-1 major decision, Degen had a 17-2 tech fall and Bush and a fall in 5:17.
“Obviously a guy like Kanen Storr, when he feels good, likes to put points up,” Dresser said. “Degen, he’s a guy that feels like if he can beat the heck out of you, he’s going to beat the heck out of you. He’s a guy that’s always looking for the tech fall or the fall. Bush is quirky and sometimes he can look really bad and sometimes he can look really good. He’s a pinner, and he showed he’s a pinner today. That’s what we have to do.
“We have to have that bonus-point mentality. That’s not going to come to the whole team this year, but that’s got to come individually.”
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