AMES — Iowa State freshman wrestler Yonger Bastida has only been in Ames for two months — at most.
The Cuban was officially added to the roster on Nov. 30 and has already made a name for himself as a Cyclone.
Bastida, a true freshman, has had no problem disposing of the Division II and Division III wrestlers he’s competed against.
On Sunday, he’ll get his first shot against a Division I opponent as No. 10 Iowa State hosts No. 9 Missouri at 4 p.m. Iowa State was supposed to wrestle No. 11 Arizona State as well, but the Sun Devils had to pull out due to COVID-19 problems. Missouri faces Northern Iowa at 2 p.m.
Bastida will wrestle No. 19 Rocky Elam of Missouri, which will show wrestling fans where Bastida stands.
Iowa State heavyweight Gannon Gremmel already believes he has a good idea of where Bastida is.
Gremmel wrestles Bastida at least once a week in the wrestling room and Gremmel said that if there’s another wrestler better on his feet at 197 pounds, Gremmel hasn’t seen them.
“He’s really tough,” Gremmel said. “He tries to, literally, take me out. He’s been an awesome guy to have in the room.”
As good as Bastida is on his feet, he’s still learning folkstyle wrestling. As a freestyle wrestler, when he was wrestling for his home country of Cuba, he had wins over Kyven Gadson, who won an NCAA championship for the Cyclones in 2015 and has had a successful freestyle career. Bastida also beat Hayden Zillmer, the 2019 senior national champion.
“You see a tremendous amount of athleticism, you see a guy that’s still trying to figure out the rules and you see a guy that’s still trying to figure out the difference between freestyle and folkstyle,” Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser said. “The exciting part is the athleticism is there and he’s really excited to learn and get better.”
Bastida has never had to ride anybody and he’s never had to try and get out from bottom as a freestyle wrestler.
Those are the two areas the coaches are working on most with Bastida.
“It’s going to be a match-by-match, week-by-week thing,” Dresser said. “I think wrestling real matches is probably one of the best learning tools. He and (assistant) coach (Derek) St. John sit down a couple times a week and watch video just to learn, technically, what the rules are, what stalling looks like. He’s been a pretty quick study, especially on top. That’s going to be ever-evolving.
“Looking at what he’s done the first 45 or 50 days since he’s been at Iowa State, it’s incredible to see how far he’s come. He probably had to lose 18 pounds from his natural weight just to get down to 197. And on top of that, he’s studying english hard. He’s still figuring out the difference of training how we do in the U.S. and how they trained in Cuba because that’s very different. It’s kind of like taking a drink from a fire hose.”
Gremmel, one of the better heavyweights in the nation at riding, has been impressed by Bastida’s ability to get out from bottom.
“He’s just so explosive that I think he’ll be just fine on bottom if he stays solid,” Gremmel said. “Then his top game, he’s probably the best guy in the country on his feet right now, so all he needs to do is get one ride and hold someone down for 30 seconds to a minute and he’ll be alright.”
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