Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State wrestling's handling of COVID-19 has allowed the team to hit the ground running

Iowa's Kaleb Young wrestles ISU's David Carr in their 157-pound match at a wrestling dual between the Iowa Hawkeys and I
Iowa’s Kaleb Young wrestles ISU’s David Carr in their 157-pound match at a wrestling dual between the Iowa Hawkeys and Iowa State Cyclones at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. Carr won the match. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State wrestler David Carr was highly motivated this offseason after winning the Big 12 championship at 157 pounds and then not being able to get a shot at an NCAA title because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem was, because of the pandemic, he couldn’t train at Iowa State and the coaches couldn’t coach him.

Where does a highly-motivated individual train when everywhere is closed?

“Garages, basements — pretty much anywhere with a mat,” Carr said. “I was able to get on the mat, get a good sweat going and learn.

“It was still really good. I got a chance to train with some of my teammates that were in town. It was good training and a lot of fun.”

Iowa State wrestling has followed the lead of the other Iowa State sports that have competed this season.

Football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball all have done a remarkable job handling COVID-19. None of them have missed a competition due to COVID-19 problems from Iowa State’s side.

Wrestling has followed suit. On Wednesday, during Iowa State wrestling’s media day, head coach Kevin Dresser said they’ve only had one COVID-19 case all year and that was all the way back in August when the athletes were just getting back to campus.

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“Iowa State obviously has done a really good job coaching our student-athletes. It’s a hard age group to corral,” Dresser said. “These 18-to-23-year-olds think they’re invincible, and that’s what makes them really good athletes, too. Our guys have done a really good job of following the instructions once we got back together.”

Wrestlers are known for being disciplined individuals to begin with, but even they had to take it a step further this year.

“This offseason has been like no offseason we’ve had,” Ian Parker said. “The one thing that does remain constant, even in a year like this, is discipline. That’s something you can control. You might not be able to go into the Iowa State wrestling room or be with the coaches or be with the team and receive instruction. But you can control when you go work out and how you’re going to live your lifestyle.”

Parker actually saw not having coaches around as a blessing in disguise for himself.

Because there were no coaches, the senior 141-pounder took over a big leadership role and helped get guys ready.

“I actually enjoyed it, to an extent,” Parker said. “I enjoyed grabbing more guys and leading workouts. A lot of people say that coaching wrestling is the best thing you can do for your own wrestling. I really enjoyed that part of it a lot, actually.”

When it was time for the coaches to take over, and because the athletes did such a good job mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, Iowa State was able to hit the ground running.

“Our best training period probably came from Nov. 30 until Dec. 23,” Dresser said. “We saw a lot of good things during that time. Then we got back together on Dec. 27 and continued to have really good workouts.”

The team having good workouts is something both Parker, Carr and Jarrett Degen have all noticed.

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“I’ve watched these guys in this room progress so much,” Parker said. “I think our potential is really high. I’ve been here longer than our new coaching staff has been here and I can say, ‘This is the best room we’ve had here.’ When I’m taking a break and watching other guys wrestle — across the board — I’ve never seen so many guys wrestling at such a high level.

“Guys are hungry and they’re going after it every day, consistently. It’s really awesome to be a part of.”

Degen said, “The depth in the room is unbelievable. We’ve had tough kids before but the room this year is crazy.”

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