Weight-by-Weight breakdown of the 2018-19 Iowa State wrestling team
AMES, Ia. — The Iowa State wrestling team is going to look a tad different this season.
We can start here: Of the 10 guys who went to the 2018 Big 12 Championships last March, two left the program entirely, one graduated and two will be usurped by other wrestlers. Only three guys are slated to return at the same weight, and a fourth changed weight.
That means five new faces will join the Cyclones’ starting lineup for the 2018-19 campaign. Many of them bring with them All-American potential, and will be in the lineup for the next few years, meaning a bright future is in store for Iowa State.
“To me, I really value guys that love wrestling,” head coach Kevin Dresser said, “and if you love wrestling, you’re going to improve a lot. I think we have a room full of guys that love wrestling right now.”
The following is an attempt to break down the Cyclones’ 2018-19 starting lineup. We’ll go weight-by-weight and discuss who’s the frontrunner to start, and who else could contend for starting time as the season progresses.
Frontrunner: Alex Mackall, redshirt sophomore
Analysis: Last year, this weight was depleted due to injury and depatures. Now, Mackall leads a weight full of depth. Jakob Allison and Sinjin Briggs both have experience, and Dresser likes both Corey Cabanban and Charlie Klepps, two talented true freshmen.
Frontrunner: Austin Gomez, redshirt freshman
Analysis: Gomez, a Junior men’s freestyle world-teamer, figures to be the guy here. He can contend for a podium finish come March, too. He’s currently the only 133-pounder on the roster.
Frontrunner: Ian Parker, redshirt sophomore
Analysis: Parker has the talent to make some noise at 141 pounds. Dresser has loved Parker’s work ethic from the word go, but mentioned that Ryan Leisure, a redshirt freshman from Clear Lake who went 23-5 last year, will push Parker for the starting spot this season.
“He looks really good right now,” Dresser said of Parker on Tuesday. “He’s one of the guys you see just scoring a lot of points right now. Just really aggressive and is really showing the style that we want out there for us on the weekends.
“I’m really excited to see what he can do this year.”
Frontrunner: Jarrett Degen, redshirt sophomore
Analysis: Degen went 23-11 overall and reached the bloodround at last year’s NCAA Wrestling Championships, and enters this season ranked No. 8 at 149 by Trackwrestling. His funky-yet-aggressive wrestling style makes him a must-watch.
“He’s a great competitor and he loves wrestling,” Dresser said. “He knows who’s out there. He’s excited to go to the first couple of competitions. He’s figured out that three of our first four dates, he’s going to get two top eight guys, and he’s talking about that already.
“That shows you what kind of thoughts he has about where he should be at the end of the year.”
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Frontrunner: Chase Straw, redshirt junior
Analysis: Straw is the guy here until Dresser is 100 percent sure on his decision to redshirt true freshman David Carr. On Thursday, Dresser said he was 98 percent sure Carr would redshirt. Straw went 18-15 last season, came within one victory of the NCAA Championships.
“His actions show that this is important to him,” Dresser said, “and he’s got to learn from last year and make some steps. We don’t need to be in these one-point matches with some of these guys. We need to go out and establish our dominance and take it to some guys.
“I’m challenging him to do that.”
Frontrunner: Brady Jennings, redshirt junior
Analysis: This is perhaps the most intriguing weight in the lineup. Dresser said Jennings will begin the season as the starter, but Skyler St. John will have a say once he fully recovers from a knee injury. Jennings went 14-8 last year while St. John went 18-11.
“You know, both of them made a lot of improvement,” Dresser said. “If you look at it on paper, people that don't know anything about Iowa State wrestling will look at it and say that's our weak weight, but I think those two guys are going to have something to say about that.
“I'm going to challenge them and put that chip on their shoulder so they can show everybody that that's definitely not the case.”
Frontrunner: Marcus Coleman, redshirt freshman
Analysis: Coleman is a wildly talented redshirt freshman who has both explosiveness and mat savviness. The three-time Iowa state champion went 24-2 as a redshirt last season. Behind him will likely be some combination of Mac Southard, DeMichael Franklin and Hank Swalla.
“Marcus is a guy that’s got a lot of talent and a lot of ability,” Dresser said. “We’ve got some buzzwords we’re selling hard to this team right now, and consistency is one of them. I need Marcus to tattoo that on his forehead so he sees it every morning when he gets up.
“If he can be consistent in this room, he can be consistent across the street (at Hilton Coliseum). But the ability is there.”
Frontrunner: Sam Colbray, redshirt sophomore
Analysis: Colbray made strides last year while wrestling at 197, but sputtered at the end of the season. Dresser believes in his talent, but guys like Danny Bush and Alec McDowell might get some varsity matches if Colbray doesn’t produce.
“I see him improving right now,” Dresser said. “I don’t sugarcoat stuff, and there wasn’t a lot of improving weekends last year. There is a ton of ability, but I’m going to just hold steady here and not get too excited.
“But sometimes I get real excited when I see him. There’s no question that dude can wrestle.”
Frontrunner: Willie Miklus, redshirt senior
Analysis: Miklus, a Southeast Polk product and a three-time All-American at Missouri, will likely be a national title contender at 197 this season. That gives the many young guys behind him — Kaden Sauer, Hunter DeJong, among others — a chance to learn from one of the nation’s best.
Frontrunner: Gannon Gremmel, redshirt sophomore
Analysis: Another weight where there could be a two-horse battle. Dresser said Gremmel, a Junior men’s freestyle national champ, is the early leader, but Oklahoma State transfer and former Southeast Polk standout Ethan Andersen has the talent to see some time, too.
“There’s a lot to be decided yet,” Dresser said. “We’re going to really use the Cyclone Open as the first round of our wrestle-offs. I’m a competition guy. If we have to put guys in here, toe-to-toe, later in the year, we’ll do that, but that’s probably not a move I’ll make until later in the year.
“I like to see how guys compete, and they’re going to get to compete in a couple of opens. We potentially have the Cyclone Open, the Lindenwood Open and the UNI Open, so I got all kinds of wrestle-off opportunities here with real refs and real competitive situations.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.