Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser recaps the Cyclones' performance at the 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The Des Moines Register
PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Much has been said and written about the Iowa State wrestling program’s 2018-19 season. The Cyclones crept back into the national conversation. Not as a true contender, but as a team that was working back up from the bottom.
On Saturday afternoon, Kevin Dresser took a big-picture view of his second season as the Cyclones’ head coach. Many times this year, he gave glowing reviews of his wrestlers’ overall effort. He did the same on this day, and was already looking forward.
“If you look at the whole body of work, we made a lot of progress this year,” he said. “We showed a lot of fight this year. That’s what you have to do.”
Ten dual victories, a neck-and-neck competition against Iowa inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a second-place showing at the Big 12 Championships, where nine wrestlers qualified for this week’s NCAA Championships here at PPG Paints Arena.
All nine ultimately advanced to Friday’s action, and that’s where Iowa State came face-to-face with the reality that this season was just one step. The overall team record this week was 20-19. More steps are needed for the Cyclones to climb back into national contention. (The Hawkeyes, who took fourth, recorded 16 wins on the first day, for example.)
“On Friday and Saturday at the NCAA tournament, if you’re not ready to fight, you’re going to be watching pretty quick,” Dresser said. “They fought hard, but they have to get better at wrestling. That’s probably coaching cliche, but we have to get better at wrestling.”
There were highlights this weekend. After two years without an All-American, the Cyclones had two this weekend. A year ago, they scored just three points and tied for 45th. This week, they scored 32 and finished 16th.
Jarrett Degen became Dresser’s first Iowa State All-American, finishing seventh at 149 pounds. Senior Willie Miklus finished sixth at 197 to become a four-time All-American. Two others, Austin Gomez (133) and Sam Colbray (184), were one win away from placing. Everybody won at least one match.
But Dresser wants more, of course. And the future remains bright for Iowa State. Everybody but Miklus returns next season, and the Cyclones will add redshirt freshmen like David Carr, Joel Shapiro and Francis Duggan into the mix. More talented recruits, like Aden Reeves, Julien Broderson and Ryan Anderson will join the program, too.
In that way, this week was a lesson Dresser hopes his team carries with them into the offseason. He hopes they’re hungrier after taking a small bite here.
“Every guy needs to really develop and get better,” Dresser said, “then we’ll find out which guys really want to be out there on Saturday.
“To get out there on Saturday — that’s the goal. But it’s hard. You have to really want it. If you really want it, you’ll go back to work and develop.”
Iowa State's Jarrett Degen took 7th at 149 pounds at the 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The Des Moines Register
Degen caps podium finish by winning Cy-Hawk medal match
On Friday night, Iowa’s Austin DeSanto defeated Iowa State’s Austin Gomez in the bloodround to become an All-American. On Saturday, Iowa State’s Jarrett Degen capped his first All-American season by winning another Cy-Hawk battle.
Degen defeated Iowa’s Pat Lugo, 11-9, to finish seventh at 149 pounds. Degen weathered two early takedowns and bounced back from a 6-2 deficit to tie the match 8-8 entering the third period. A second takedown there helped him secure riding time as well as his second victory over Lugo this season (he beat the Hawkeye 7-4 in the dual in December).
“It feels good,” said Degen, who was Iowa State’s only NCAA qualifier last year and finished one win shy of becoming an All-American. “I wouldn’t say a lot better, but I took seventh instead of finishing in the round of 12, so it feels good.
“It’s just awesome, and then that last match — it’s always awesome beating a Hawkeye.”
UNI secures best NCAA finish under Schwab
Prior to this week, Northern Iowa coach Doug Schwab talked about “doing damage” even though only six Panther wrestlers qualified for the national tournament.
As it turns out, Northern Iowa did enough damage to record its best finish at the national tournament in Schwab’s tenure. The Panthers totaled 40.5 points and tied Lehigh for 13th place.
Two of Northern Iowa’s six qualifiers ended up All-Americans. Drew Foster won a national title. The senior is the first Panther wrestler to do so since Tony Davis won at 149 pounds in 2000.
Bryce Steiert, a Waverly-Shell Rock graduate, navigated the 165-pound bracket to take eighth. The junior reached the quarterfinals, then won once on Friday night to earn his first podium finish. He lost to Iowa’s Alex Marinelli, 9-3, in the seventh-place match Saturday.
“I didn’t really end up where I wanted to,” Steiert said. “But sometimes, you shoot for the stars and kind of land on the moon. We’re going to continue to keep grinding and keep going.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships
1. Penn State, 137.5
2. Ohio State, 96.5
3. Oklahoma State, 84
4. Iowa, 76
5. Michigan, 62.5
14. Northern Iowa, 40.5
16. Iowa State, 32
Final Iowa State Placements
125: Alex Mackall, 2-2
133: Austin Gomez, 3-2
141: Ian Parker, 1-2
149: Jarrett Degen, 7th
157: Chase Straw, 1-2
174: Marcus Coleman, 1-2
184: Sam Colbray, 2-2
197: Willie Miklus, 6th
285: Gannon Gremmel, 1-2
Final Northern Iowa Placements
125: Jay Schwarm, 2-2
141: Josh Alber, 1-2
149: Max Thomsen, 2-2
165: Bryce Steiert, 8th
174: Taylor Lujan, 2-2
184: Drew Foster, 1st