Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State wrestling finally has full lineup for Big 12 Championships

Cyclones are healthy entering tournament in Tulsa

Iowa State head coach Kevin Dresser. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa State head coach Kevin Dresser. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State wrestling hasn’t had a full, healthy lineup since the first Friday in December at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

On that Friday, Jarrett Degen (149) injured his shoulder in his first match of the day and Iowa State hasn’t had a healthy lineup since.

David Carr (157) has missed the last five weeks with an injury and Todd Small dislocated his kneecap in Iowa State’s last dual of the season against North Dakota State.

On Saturday and Sunday at the Big 12 Championships in Tulsa, Okla., Iowa State will have its full lineup once again.

“We battled a lot of injuries this year — it was a completely different year than last year,” Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser said. “I like the fact that we’re resilient. We’re going into the Big 12 tournament with a healthy lineup — for the most part — and a full lineup.”

Degen has been battling to keep his shoulder in its socket since the injury.

Dresser has joked that if the wind blows too hard, Degen’s shoulder is at risk of falling out.

Degen has said as long as his arm is still attached, he’ll still wrestle.

“It’s hanging in there,” Degen said dryly of his shoulder. “The brace helps it but you just have to wrestle through it. Whatever happens to it, happens and you can’t take timeout and say, ‘I can’t wrestle.’ If you shake hands, you have to wrestle.”

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His shoulder pops out of place during matches, but he’s found a way to adapt to that when it happens.

“Yeah it hurts when it slips out, but you can get back in,” Degen said. “Either using their body or using the mat — I can usually figure out something to get it back in place.”

Dresser said the injury has made Degen more disciplined.

Degen used to let loose on the mat. Now, he has to stay in better positions.

“We’ve seen him completely throw it all out there and can be all over the place,” Dresser said. “One minute he’s shooting, the next he has a two-on-one, then the next minute he’s in his under-hook. This has forced him to stay in his wheelhouse and he’s found a way to win with it. And that’s what good guys do, they find a way to make those adjustments.”

While Degen has had over two months to figure out how to make his wrestling style work with a defiant shoulder, Small was injured less than two weeks ago.

“It’s not something I’d wish on anybody,” Small said of dislocating his kneecap. “I’d rather be shot than dislocate my knee again, honestly. It’s terrible. It was excruciating pain.”

Somewhat miraculously, Small feels healthier than he has all season. He didn’t tear any tendons when he dislocated it and no tendons got torn as it got relocated by doctors and trainers while he was screaming in pain on the mat at Hilton Coliseum.

“When I went on the mat and his kneecap was one knee over, it was literally sitting out there in space,” Dresser said. “No. 1, you worry about the kid and you calm him down. Then No. 2 you assess the situation and you think, ‘Well, that’s his season. He’s done.’

“He had an individual workout with (assistant) coach (Derek) St. John on Monday and coach St. John said it was one of the best individuals Small had all season. He was able to shoot and score a lot of points. He didn’t see any sign of the injury. Sometimes you get lucky and we got really lucky there.”

Small knows how fortunate he is and he’s ready to make the most of his opportunity in Tulsa.

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“Usually this takes a while to get back from but they popped it back in right away on the mat so that helped a lot,” Small said. “I’ve had a number of mat workouts with it and it’s been feeling good. I’m ready.”

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