AMES — Iowa State wrestler Sam Colbray was a high school wrestling legend.
Colbray hails from Hermiston, Ore., a state that’s not necessarily a wrestling hot bed.
But Colbray has done things few other high schoolers have. He’s won five junior national titles in Fargo, N.D., and appeared in eight junior national finals.
When he won both freestyle and Greco-Roman national titles in 2016, he was named USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week. He was one of two wrestlers to win both styles that year, but Colbray did it in dominant fashion.
He won every freestyle match by technical superiority. He won two of his Greco matches by pin and the other four by technical superiority. He was the No. 1-ranked recruit at his weight according to Intermat.
When Colbray got to Iowa State, big things were expected of him.
Colbray hadn’t lived up to expectations, missing the NCAA Tournament as a redshirt freshman last season. He showed flashes of what he was capable of in duals, pinning Big 12 champion Nate Rotert (South Dakota State) and beating Big 12 finalist Jacob Smith (West Virginia), but he couldn’t seem to put it all together.
Iowa State Coach Kevin Dresser said Colbray — a pre-med major — was too smart for his own good. Colbray would be too worried about how tired he was and how much gas he still had left in the tank, so he’d try to calculate everything rather than just wrestle.
This season, especially recently, Colbray seems to have figured things out.
Over his last four matches, Colbray is averaging 12.5 points per match. He won his most recent match by a 20-4 technical fall.
“My mindset (changed),” Colbray said. “We’ve been training, and I’ve been doing a lot of investing, and it’s time for it to pay out. When I get on the mat, my mindset is, ‘Why work so hard and not tear somebody’s head off?’”
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No. 15 Iowa State (6-1, 3-0 Big 12) hosts Oklahoma (5-3, 1-1) on Friday and travels to Stillwater, Okla., on Sunday to wrestle No. 3 Oklahoma State (9-0, 5-0).
Colbray is ranked No. 16 at 184 pounds by Flowrestling and undefeated in duals and on Sunday, he’ll wrestle No. 10 Jacobe Smith. Smith beat Colbray 6-3 at the Southern Scuffle, Colbray’s most recent loss.
“He beat me in a close match at the Scuffle,” Colbray said. “I feel like I’m prepared, I feel like I’m excited. Anytime two good wrestlers get together, it’s going to be a good match.”
Colbray said he learned from that match that he needs to push the pace against Smith. It’s something he’s been working on with three-time All American Willie Miklus, Iowa State’s 197-pound wrestler.
“He’s really doing some awesome stuff,” Miklus said. “I don’t really like wrestling him anymore. He’s starting to really get into shape and starting to do some really cool things. I watched him at West Virginia and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Colbray put up 12 points in a period. I don’t think I had ever seen him put up four in period before this year. He’s starting to shoot the whole way through, he’s starting to be aggressive, he’s starting to do all the right things.”
Dresser likes what he’s seeing from Colbray as well and he wants his budding star to keep the train rolling.
“The thing we’re trying to continue to get Sam to do, and he’s doing a really good job, is to separate himself when he has chances to separate himself,” Dresser said. “The more guys he goes out and majors, the better. Now, he’s not trying to get through matches like he was last year, he’s trying to blow through matches.
“When he does that, he separates himself, then, all of the sudden, you get to the quaraterfinals or the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament and you’ve blown through everybody to that point and you establish yourself as, not maybe an All-American, but a slam-dunk All-American. That’s the message to Sam.”
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