Why the Kaleb Young-David Carr match exemplifies this year’s Iowa-Iowa State wrestling dual
A few days removed from his Iowa State debut, David Carr stands outside the Harold Nichols Wrestling Room in Ames. A smile begins to form when someone asks about wrestling inside Hilton Coliseum.
“It’s a magical place,” says Carr, a redshirt freshman. “There’s a lot of history, a lot of legacy. Anytime I get a chance to wrestle in front of the fans, I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”
Some two hours away in Iowa City, underneath Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Kaleb Young talks to reporters ahead of the Hawkeyes’ second dual of the 2019-20 season. He knows Sunday’s rivalry contest will be much tougher than Iowa’s season-opener against UT-Chattanooga.
“But we can’t take anybody for granted,” the junior continues. “It’s a higher-level opponent, so if we have to go hard, score fast and score often — (associate head coach Terry Brands) says that all the time — we’ll be good.
“I feel like there’s a little more pep in people’s steps. Guys are getting ready to go and get up for this. That’s good. It’s a big match.”
A big match, indeed.
The annual Cy-Hawk wrestling dual is set for 2 p.m. Sunday in Ames' Hilton Coliseum. Iowa (1-0) has won 15 straight over Iowa State (1-0) and has retained the Dan Gable Traveling Trophy each year since it was first introduced in 2010.
And there may not be a bigger individual matchup than the one at 157 pounds between Carr and Young.
Carr is the wildly talented youngster and the face of the up-and-coming Cyclones. He carries tremendous hype after joining the program as a blue-chip recruit and winning a Junior men’s freestyle world title over the summer. He won his first match in an Iowa State singlet last weekend, an impressive 18-3 technical fall over Bucknell’s Jaden Fisher.
Young is the established veteran, a returning All-American after a semifinal run at last season’s NCAA Championships and a national title threat this year. He is 34-14 all-time in an Iowa singlet, with 16 bonus-point victories. He opened his 2019-20 campaign with a 16-6 major decision over Chattanooga’s George Carpenter.
“When you’re a freshman, you have to earn your keep, so he has a chance to earn his keep,” Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser said this week. "He’s got a quality guy. If you win that match, you climb up the rankings. He just loves that challenge.
“He wants to be in big-time matches. That’s why he came to Iowa State, and this is a big-time match.”
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In many ways, the Carr-Young dynamic exemplifies the same qualities of this season’s Iowa-Iowa State wrestling dual.
Iowa State enters as the scrappy, dangerous underdog hoping to knock off a true national title contender. Dresser said in the preseason that it’s time for the Cyclones to become a top-10 team. They enter Sunday’s dual ranked No. 8 nationally by Trackwrestling.
Iowa, meanwhile, is the known commodity, ranked second with a lineup featuring seven All-Americans. The Hawkeyes will battle Penn State for the national team title this year but have finished in the top four at the NCAA Championships in 11 of the past 13 seasons.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Dresser said. “We don’t get to play the underdog role as much as we used to, but we’re still excited.”
A year ago, Iowa State nearly knocked off the Hawkeyes, narrowly losing a 19-18 barnburner in Carver. The Cyclones won four matches thanks to scoring sequences in the third period or overtime, including two that were decided by a single point on takedowns in the final 10 seconds. Iowa State also benefited from an injury default at 174 pounds.
But the Hawkeyes prevailed, thanks to a pin from Alex Marinelli at 165, a major decision from Spencer Lee at 125 and a gutsy 5-1 decision from heavyweight Sam Stoll, who took the mat on a bum knee. It was the first time the Cy-Hawk dual was decided by a single point.
“You have to wrestle to the very end, and that’s a lesson we’ve talked about,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. "All of us wrestled, and you don’t let up in wrestling matches. It’s you against another guy. You don’t let up. When you let up, you’re vulnerable.
“We just have to finish matches, finish holds, wrestle seven minutes. And if it’s longer than that, you have to be focused for longer than that.”
This year’s dual could be just as intriguing.
On paper, Iowa is likely favored with potential firepower from the likes of Lee, Marinelli and redshirt freshman heavyweight Tony Cassioppi, who began his Hawkeye career with a pin last week. But many matchups on Sunday could easily go either way.
At 149, Iowa State’s Jarrett Degen, ranked No. 6 nationally, is expected to wrestle Iowa’s Pat Lugo, ranked No. 3. The two faced off twice last season, and Degen took both by a combined five points. At 174, Iowa’s second-ranked Michael Kemerer is likely favored, but will get his first true test at his new weight when he faces Iowa State’s 16th-ranked Marcus Coleman.
Additionally, there’s still some mystery as to who Iowa might send out at certain weights. Brands listed three guys who could go at 133 — Austin DeSanto, Paul Glynn and Gavin Teasdale — and another two at 141, in Max Murin and Carter Happel. Whoever wrestles at 133 will likely face Todd Small, and whoever goes at 141 will probably get Ian Parker.
Brands might also send out Nelson Brands again at 184 pounds after his 8-4 win over Chattanooga’s Matthew Waddell, though senior Cash Wilcke also plans to make the trip. Iowa State’s Sam Colbray, who beat Wilcke last year, will be awaiting whoever is chosen.
“We’ve got some really tough guys, and more tough guys than we have weight classes,” Tom Brands said. “Depth is a great problem to have.”
All of these are matches will help decide Sunday’s dual. And both teams are fully aware of what’s at stake.
“They don’t really have any holes,” Parker said. “They have decent guys at every single weight, and top-five guys at most of them. It’s going to be a dogfight in every single match. That’s the mentality we brought last year. We have to be clicking on all cylinders.”
Added Young: “Their coaches want to be the best just as bad as we do. They probably think they’re going to win a national title this year just as much as we do. We have to go in there knowing that. We have to go in there ready to go and compete the way we know how.”
And that includes the 157-pound showdown between Carr and Young, another important swing match.
The two have never wrestled before. Carr said he’s expecting a fight. Young spoke glowingly of Carr’s athleticism and explosiveness. There could be fireworks, in the form of both action and points.
Either way, the crowd is in for a treat, both in that match and for the entire dual. Iowa State sold more than 2,000 season tickets for the 2019-20 campaign, and Iowa fans always travel well.
“I think we have a lot to prove,” Carr said. “I’m excited for that opportunity.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
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