Wrestling: Willie Miklus, former Southeast Polk wrestler and Mizzou All-American, to transfer to Iowa State

Cody Goodwin
The Des Moines Register

The Iowa State wrestling program made another big splash in the transfer market Thursday — one that will immediately fortify the back end of the lineup.

Willie Miklus, a former Southeast Polk wrestler and a three-time All-American at Missouri, informed the Des Moines Register that he will be transferring to Iowa State for his final year of eligibility. He gives the Cyclones a national title threat at 197 pounds for the 2018-19 season.

“I just felt like I needed to be back closer to home,” said Miklus, who grew up in Altoona, just 44 minutes from Ames. “I just felt like being home is the place to be.”

Miklus was a four-time state finalist during his high school career. He wrestled for Ballard, where he reached the finals at 119 and 145 pounds in 2009 and 2010, respectively, then finished his prep career at Southeast Polk, where he won state titles at 171 and 220 pounds in 2011 and 2012. As a senior, he went 47-0 and recorded 368 takedowns, which is still a school record.

As a top-100 recruit, Miklus drew offers from many of Division I’s elite wrestling programs and chose to sign with Missouri. He opted for a year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before joining Brian Smith and the Tigers.

“It was the atmosphere there,” Miklus said. “Everybody was so close. It felt like family. It felt like home. It didn’t remind me of being too far away.

Missouri's Willie Miklus celebrates his 9-5 decision over South Dakota State's Nate Rotert at 197 pounds at the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, March 16, 2018.

“Breaking the news was hard. I love Mizzou. I loved my time competing there. I loved being around the coaches and the team. It’s a phenomenal place. It’s really hard to leave, but I’m excited to be closer to home.”

Miklus found plenty of success at Mizzou, going 79-25 over four years. After redshirting in 2013-14, he earned All-American honors at 184 pounds in both 2015 and 2016. He wrestled just twice at the start of the 2016-17 season before a knee injury ended his junior campaign.

He returned this past season and went 25-6 and earned All-American honors for a third time up at 197 pounds. Ahead of the 2018 NCAA Championships, Miklus received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA since he missed most of both the 2013-14 and 2016-17 seasons with injuries.


It was then that he began to think of transferring. He felt the pull of his family, as his father, Garry, has been battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Iowa State was the closest Division I wrestling program to the Miklus home. He reached out to the Cyclones’ program about a possible transfer.

“He’s been getting a little worse over time, and he’s had it for a couple of years now,” Miklus said. “It’s just to the point where I want to be closer to him, and Iowa State is the closest one to my house.

“It allows me to get home on the weekends, where it would be kind of a chore to do that from Mizzou. I reached out to (Iowa State) and felt like they would have an opening for me — they said they would.”

Miklus is the second transfer to Iowa State in the past couple of months — another former Southeast Polk wrestler, Ethan Andersen, announced that he would also join the Cyclones in May. They will join the room at the same time as the 2018 recruiting class, which includes the likes of David Carr, Joel Shapiro, Francis Duggan and a slew of other Iowa preps.

Mizzou's Willie Miklus wrestles Buffalo's Joe Ariola during their second round NCAA Division I championship bout on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in New York City, New York.

His addition also means Sam Colbray will drop to 184 pounds, allowing Miklus to slide into the starting spot at 197. Adding an All-American to the lineup will make Iowa State a more formidable team in 2018-19, though it remains to be seen just how formidable.

Missouri has finished in the top six of the NCAA Championship team race each year Miklus was in the postseason lineup, including a trophy-winning performance in 2015. He’s now joining a Cyclone team that’s on the up.

He said he also plans to train with the Cyclone Regional Training Center after this year, but wants to make the most of his senior campaign back home.

“I think we’re going to be competitive,” Miklus said. “That’s what I want: I want guys that believe we can do well and believe that we can win. It’s hard to say what type of team we can be this year, but I want guys that are willing to fight and scrap.

“I think that’s something that’s easily doable this year, and I’m excited to be part of it. We start practice on Monday.”

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