AMES — Iowa State wrestling hasn’t quite arrived yet under Coach Kevin Dresser.
The Cyclones plateaued a bit last season after a dramatic improvement from Dresser’s first year to his second.
Iowa State sent just one wrestler — Jarrett Degen (149) — to the NCAA tournament in 2018 and has qualified nine each of the past two seasons.
Part of the reason for the Cyclones’ plateau last season was all of the injuries.
Austin Gomez (133), who made the Round of 12 as a freshman in 2018, didn’t step on the mat because of a concussion at the beginning of the season. Gomez received a medical hardship waiver and will be a sophomore next season.
Todd Small, who replaced Gomez at 133, was healthy for most of the season but dislocated his kneecap in the last dual. Luckily for Small and Iowa State, there was no long-term structural damage and he was able to wrestle at the Big 12 tournament. It was easy to tell he wasn’t at 100 percent, however.
Jarrett Degen missed much of the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. And even when he came back, Degen’s shoulder didn’t like staying in its socket. There were times during matches where it would pop out and Degen would have to find creative ways to adjust without taking injury time.
David Carr (157), Iowa State’s crown jewel, also missed about two months when he underwent a minor knee surgery in the middle of the season. The No. 3-ranked wrestler in the nation came back as strong as ever and won a Big 12 title.
So what can the Cyclones do to get back on an upward trajectory? Well, they only have Chase Straw (165) graduating and Gomez, Small and Carr should all be good to go. Degen had shoulder surgery before elective surgeries were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, so his shoulder should be ready when the season rolls around.
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The next step is figuring out how Dresser is going to structure the lineup. Realistically, he has two obvious options.
The first is having Small at 133 and Gomez, Ian Parker, Degen and Carr move up a weight to fill the void left by Straw.
In this scenario, Iowa State, in theory, gets its best wrestlers on the mat.
Carr won a Junior World Championship at 74 kg, which is about 163 pounds so he should have no problem bumping up to 165. Gomez was having weight issues before his season-ending concussion so going up to 141 would be beneficial to him.
The potential hangup for Iowa State is bumping up Parker and Degen.
Parker started his career at 133 and has wrestled at 141 the last two seasons, seemingly his ideal weight. The question for Parker is if he’s big enough to fill out to 149.
Degen, on the other hand, is no doubt big enough to move up to 157 at 6-foot-2. But it’s his height that allows his unorthodox style to be as successful as it is at 149. If he moves up to 157, the height differential is less and his opponents will, in general, be stronger.
Bumping everyone up would likely make for a better dual team because there’s more talent on the mat, but the talent might not be at an ideal weight in some cases.
The other option for Dresser is to keep everyone at their current weight and have Gomez and Small wrestle off for the spot at 133 — assuming Gomez can still make 133. Dresser also would have to find someone to wrestle at 165, which shouldn’t be too difficult a task, either.
Logan Schumacher and Zane Mulder saw the mat as true freshmen two seasons ago and had a relative amount of success. Schumacher went 18-14 and placed second at the Lindenwood Open. Five of his 18 victories were by fall.
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Mulder saw less mat time in duals than Schumacher, but still went 17-6 overall and 2-0 in duals. His two dual wins both produced bonus points.
Having everyone stay at their current weight and inserting Schumacher or Mulder and having Gomez and Small wrestle off could make for a better tournament team. Parker and Degen could have a better shot at making a deep run in a tournament because they’re at their ideal weights, Carr will likely advance at either 157 or 165 and, at 133, Iowa State is getting the best of either Gomez or Small.
The rest of the lineup likely will stay the same with Alex Mackall at 125, Sam Colbray at 174, Marcus Coleman at 184, Joel Shapiro at 197 and Gannon Gremmel at heavyweight.
The only other change that could happen is inserting Julien Broderson at either 184 or 197 in place of Shapiro, who had an up-and-down freshman season. If Broderson takes over at 184, Coleman would likely move up to 197.
Broderson had an impressive redshirt campaign, competing in seven open tournaments and compiling a 21-5 record, including an 8-3 win over Iowa’s Abe Assad. Broderson also recorded 13 pins in his 26 matches.
Next season is the one for Iowa State to take the next step and be a no-question top-10 team. Mackall, Small, Parker, Degen, Colbray and Gremmel will all be seniors and they should have enough mat experience to put the pieces together.