Wrestling: Straw wins individual crown as Iowa State takes second at Big 12 Championships
This past weekend’s Big 12 Wrestling Championships turned into something of a small celebration of the growth of the Iowa State wrestling program.
After Sunday’s final round, the Cyclones ended up second in the team race, marking their best conference tournament finish since the league expanded ahead of the 2015-16 season. They totaled 114.5 points, finishing only behind Oklahoma State’s 158.
Iowa State’s final scoring output came because all 10 wrestlers finished in the top six at their respective weights, a remarkable showing under second-year coach Kevin Dresser to follow up a 10-win regular season. In that respect, they matched the mighty Cowboys, who are ranked third nationally by Trackwrestling and finished with six champs.
Four Iowa State wrestlers reached the finals, but just one came away victorious. Chase Straw beat Oklahoma’s top-seeded Justin Thomas, 3-2, to win at 157 pounds. The junior scored a takedown in the third to secure the victory, and is the first Cyclone wrestler to win a Big 12 title since Lelund Weatherspoon won at 174 in 2016. That was also the last year that a Cyclone wrestler reached the finals of the Big 12 tournament.
The other three fell short, including two to Oklahoma State counterparts. At 149, Jarrett Degen lost a wild match to Kaden Gfeller, 6-5. Gfeller scored a takedown with 17 seconds left to win. At 197, Willie Miklus, just a day removed from his 100th career collegiate victory, lost to Preston Weigel, 10-0.
Sam Colbray was Iowa State’s fourth finalist, and he lost 4-1 to Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster at 184 pounds. Foster rode Colbray out in the second period for riding time, then added an escape and a takedown in the third to earn his second-straight Big 12 title.
Other Iowa State results: Alex Mackall (125) and Austin Gomez (133) both finished third and Ian Parker (141) took fourth. Marcus Coleman (174) and Gannon Gremmel (285) both ended up fifth while true freshman Logan Schumacher (165) took sixth. Dresser was also named the Big 12 Conference Wrestling Coach of the Year.
It was a wildly impressive team performance in a conference that earned the second-most automatic qualifying spots for the 2019 NCAA Championships, set for March 21-23 in Pittsburgh. The Big 12 was awarded 53 automatic bids by the NCAA, and trailed only the Big Ten, which was awarded 78.
Speaking of …
Nine Cyclone wrestlers earn automatic NCAA bids
Mackall, Gomez, Parker, Degen, Straw, Coleman, Colbray, Miklus and Gremmel all earned automatic bids thanks to their final finishes this weekend. That is the most NCAA qualifiers by an Iowa State team since 2010, when all 10 qualified. Schumacher came just one placement shy of earning an automatic bid at 165.
He is now at the mercy of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee, which will announce the at-large qualifiers on Tuesday. At-large bids are based on head-to-head competition, qualify wins, coaches’ ranking, results against common opponents, RPI, qualifying-event placement and winning percentage.
Schumacher bolstered his case by finishing in the next-best spot behind the automatic qualifiers. He will surely be in the mix, but it is unclear how his odds stack up. He finished the 2018-19 season with a 19-14 record.
Northern Iowa takes third, qualifies six
Northern Iowa finished third with 82 points, holding off Oklahoma during Sunday’s final sessions. The Panthers finished with seven place-winners, including two finalists in Foster and Taylor Lujan (174).
Lujan and Foster both won Big 12 titles a year ago, the first two Big 12 titles in Northern Iowa history. On Sunday, Foster repeated in his win over Colbray, becoming the Panthers' first two-time Big 12 wrestling champion. Lujan wasn’t as successful, falling to Oklahoma State’s Jacobe Smith, 6-4.
Behind them, Bryce Steiert (165) and Josh Alber (141) both finished third to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Steiert fell in Saturday’s semifinals and won twice on Sunday to secure bronze. Alber entered the weekend as the top seed and lost in the opening round, but won four-straight wrestlebacks matches to cap his tournament.
Jay Schwarm (125) and Max Thomsen (149) both earned automatic qualifying bids with a fifth- and seventh-place finish, respectively. Jack Skudlarczyk was the Panthers’ seventh place-winner, taking sixth at 133. He fell short of earning an automatic bid and will have to wait for the wildcard selections.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
2019 Big 12 Wrestling Championships
Iowa State Results
Northern Iowa Results