AMES — Coach Kevin Dresser has turned Iowa State’s wrestling program around in two years.
The Cyclones went from scoring one team point at the NCAA Championships the year before Dresser arrived, to sending all but one wrestler to the NCAA meet last season.
The impetus of the growth has been 149-pound junior Jarrett Degen.
Degen followed Dresser and his staff from Virginia Tech to Iowa State. Two seasons ago — Dresser’s first — he was the Cyclones’ lone NCAA qualifier. Now, he’s the leader and only returning All American for the No. 12 Cyclones.
“He’s tough as nails,” Dresser said. “He’s a really hard draw anybody — nobody wants to draw Jarrett Degen in any tournament because he’s so dang unorthodox — and he’s turned into a really good leader. He’s kind of a light-hearted guy, but anybody in the room knows that if you get him to drill with, you have to go hard and go the whole time.
“I like the way he’s embraced being a leader. Last year he was more quiet and more behind the scenes. I’ve seen him step up as a junior. It’s still a pretty young team and I see that he wants to take over the next two years and that’s respectable.”
Degen has seen the team improve tremendously under Dresser.
“The guys in the room are tougher than the guys you’re going to be wrestling sometimes,” Degen said. “It’s awesome to have the team climbing up.”
How high can Iowa State climb this season? Dresser doesn’t want to answer that question firmly yet.
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“We want to have a great season by the end of the year,” Dresser said. “Can you put a number on that? No, you can’t put a number on it, but it’s time for Iowa State wrestling to be a top-10 team, and then progress into being a top-five team.”
Austin Gomez on his way down
Iowa State 133-pound wrestler Austin Gomez may have overindulged himself over the summer.
The No. 5 wrestler in the country got all the way up to 165 pounds, saying the most he weighed in at was 170.
But he’s working his way back down.
“He should be down in the next little bit,” Dresser said. “He really likes tacos and he really likes extra cheese on his tacos. We’re just hoping he has that 8-pound baby soon, so he can get one weight class lower.”
For Iowa State’s wrestle-offs, Gomez is competing at 141.
Gomez said he likely won’t be back down until the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, which is Dec. 6, after the Iowa dual.
Up in the air
The only weight class in question for the Cyclones is 197 pounds.
The two competing for the spot are redshirt freshmen Joel Shapiro and Francis Duggan.
“We don’t know how they wrestle yet, and that’s the problem,” Dresser said. “We have to see how they wrestle. We’ve seen good things out of Shapiro and Duggan both. We’re going to throw them out there and turn on the lights and Hilton Coliseum — where it’s just you and one other guy, that’s when we’re really going to find out what they’re made of.
“I know they’re both excited about that, even if they don’t fully know what that means. But one of them is going to figure it out by Nov. 16.”
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