Kevin Dresser on Willie Miklus: 'There's going to be a lot of eyes on him'

Cody Goodwin
The Des Moines Register

Willie Miklus will begin his final postseason this coming weekend when the Iowa State wrestling team travels to the Big 12 Championships, set for Saturday and Sunday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

But the senior 197-pounder may not experience anything as tough as what occurred earlier this week.

Miklus’ father, Garry, passed away on Monday after a years-long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 58 years old. Miklus announced the heartbreaking news in a tweet Monday afternoon.

“I think every Father's goal for their son is to raise them to be a man,” Miklus wrote. “I think that path is filled with bumps and bruises. Laughs and tears. Glad I got to be closer these past months, no regrets. Mission accomplished Dad. R.I.P.”

On Wednesday, Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser told assembled media in Ames that Miklus’ story may capture the attention of the greater wrestling community — if it hasn’t already.

“There’s going to be a lot of eyes on him,” Dresser said. “I think he’s excited to go out and compete and show everybody what he can do.”

Wrestlers and coaches from around the country have expressed condolences and offered prayers and well wishes. Internally, the Iowa State program has enveloped Miklus with support.

Dresser mentioned that Kyven Gadson, a 2015 national champion for Iowa State and current wrestler for the Cyclone Regional Training Center, has helped Miklus. Gadson lost his father, Willie, in March 2013 to cancer.

“I made that comment Monday,” Dresser said. “I said (to the team), 'You know, all of you who have lost your father, raise your hand.' A few of us did. I think Kyven reached out to (Miklus) first. It’s good to have people around who have been through what you’ve been through.

“We can all relate. I lost my dad, and my dad was really sick in the end. It was one of those things where we didn’t want him to have pain and to be happy, and that meant he had to go. I think Willie’s dad was in that situation.”

► Previously:With dad’s ALS battle in mind, Willie Miklus gives his all for Iowa State wrestling team

Miklus enters this weekend as the No. 2 seed at 197 pounds — Oklahoma State’s Preston Weigel is No. 1. A top-seven finish at the Big 12 tournament would guarantee Miklus a trip to the NCAA Championships, where he’s looking to cap his career as a four-time All-American.

Dresser expects Miklus to be at his best — he’s currently ranked No. 6 nationally by Trackwrestling and boasts a 19-2 overall record — despite the anguish of losing his father.

“Willie is going to be Willie this week, I think,” Dresser said. “I know he’s obviously had some tears this week, but I think he’s really in a good place, mentally, right now.

“I kind of see a little bit of a relief, just because he knows his dad is not in pain anymore.”

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Tom Brands on Reese Morgan: 'He's a good dude'

After 19 years as a coach for the Iowa football team, Reese Morgan announced his retirement Wednesday. That struck a chord with the Hawkeye wrestling coaching staff.

Tom Brands opened his weekly press availability in Iowa City by congratulating the 68-year-old Morgan on his career with the Hawkeyes, which included stints as the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach (2000-02), offensive line coach (2003-11) and, most recently, defensive line. With him on staff, Iowa won 151 games.

Brands, who’s in his 13th year as Iowa's wrestling coach, offered his appreciation for Morgan on Wednesday.

► Leistikow:The best Reese Morgan story? All the lives he's impacted as a football coach.

“I don’t speak for football,” Brands said, “but I think football would say the same thing — and they probably have — but what a guy. For me, I have a relationship from afar with him.

“From my perspective, in the little amount of time that we interact with that staff, he’s a good dude. So congratulations to Reese Morgan. We’re going to miss you over here at wrestling.”

Iowa's next Big Ten champ will be No. 200

A quick glance at history reveals Iowa’s longstanding dominance at the Big Ten Championships. While the Hawkeyes haven’t won the conference tournament since 2015, they do own 35 all-time Big Ten tournament titles, which is more than twice as many as the next-closest school (Illinois, with 17).

Even more, 112 Hawkeye wrestlers have won 199 individual conference tournament crowns. That means that if any Hawkeye wins this weekend, it will mark the 200th individual Big Ten title in program history. (Michigan is the next closest school, with 124.)

“Iowa wrestling has a rich history,” Brands said, “and that means we are carrying that tradition forward. Hopefully, we go beyond 200. There’s also a tournament after this that’s important as well. So we keep things in perspective.”

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Iowa's Austin DeSanto gives head coach Tom Brands a high-five before his match at 133 a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Pre-Seeds and NCAA bids

The NCAA released it’s qualifier allocations for the 2019 national tournament last week. Earlier this week, both the Big Ten and the Big 12 released their pre-seeds for their tournaments this coming weekend.

Things look (mostly) promising for all three in-state schools.

Here’s what Iowa’s pre-seeds look like for this weekend’s Big Ten tournament, along with the number of NCAA bids at each weight:

  • 125: Spencer Lee, 2-seed (9 bids)
  • 133: Austin DeSanto, 2-seed (8)
  • 141: Max Murin, 7-seed (9)
  • 149: Pat Lugo, 3-seed (6)
  • 157: Kaleb Young, 5-seed (9)
  • 165: Alex Marinelli, 2-seed (9)
  • 174: Mitch Bowman, 10-seed (8)
  • 184: Cash Wilcke, 5-seed (8)
  • 197: Jacob Warner, 3-seed (5)
  • 285: Sam Stoll, 8-seed (7)

If seeds hold this weekend, eight Iowa wrestlers will advance to the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh, set for March 21-23. The two who need to wrestle above their seeds are Bowman, who needs a top-8 finish, and Stoll, who needs a top-7 finish.

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Here’s how it looks in the Big 12, for both Iowa State and Northern Iowa:

  • 125: UNI’s Jay Schwarm, 3-seed; ISU’s Alex Mackall, 5-seed (5 bids)
  • 133: ISU’s Austin Gomez, 2-seed (5)
  • 141: UNI’s Josh Alber, 1-seed; ISU’s Ian Parker, 2-seed (6)
  • 149: UNI’s Max Thomsen, 2-seed; ISU’s Jarrett Degen, 3-seed (7)
  • 157: ISU’s Chase Straw, 3-seed (1)
  • 165: UNI’s Bryce Steiert, 4-seed (6)
  • 174: UNI’s Taylor Lujan, 3-seed; ISU’s Marcus Coleman, 4-seed (5)
  • 184: ISU’s Sam Colbray, 1-seed; UNI’s Drew Foster, 2-seed (5)
  • 197: ISU’s Willie Miklus, 2-seed (7)
  • 285: ISU’s Gannon Gremmel, 3-seed; UNI’s Carter Isley, 6-seed (6)

So, again, if the seeds hold, Iowa State would send eight wrestlers to the big dance, and Northern Iowa would send seven.

For the Cyclones, Straw needs to finish first at 157 pounds in order to qualify. Additionally, Logan Schumacher needs to finish in the top six at 165 to earn an automatic bid.

For the Panthers, Jack Skudlarczyk needs a top-five finish at 133, Paden Moore needs to win at 157, and Izaak Shedenhelm needs to finish in the top seven at 197 to advance.

All of the seeds are subject to change come Friday, when the seeds and brackets will be finalized. Both tournaments begin Saturday morning.

Then the fun really begins.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.