Hard Work Earns Benton A Scholarship

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AMES, Iowa – Iowa State football begins its fall camp in less than three weeks, and senior defensive end Spencer Benton will feel different as he enters his final preseason preparation by accomplishing two major goals in the last three months.

First, Benton earned his degree in accounting and finance in May. He achieved his second goal when Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell told him last week he has been officially placed on scholarship for his final season.

There were no video cameras around to commemorate the event. The news Benton had been waiting to hear came in a private team meeting after another grueling summer workout.

For the humble and unassuming Benton, that is the way he wanted it.

“I just kind of felt a lot of relief more than excitement,” Benton said. “It’s been a long time coming, but I hadn’t even really thought about it too much. My teammates were very supportive and I appreciate Coach Campbell believing in me. I took my parents out to dinner to celebrate, which was a pretty cool moment.”

Campbell never wavered on his decision.

“Spencer has sacrificed so much to help us lay a foundation of success,” Campbell said. “In the last two years, Spencer has stood for everything that we want in our program — on the field and off the field. He’s earned this. I’m just really excited that we had the opportunity to grant him the finality of putting him on scholarship for good. I couldn’t be prouder of him and am really proud to coach him.”

Benton became the “next guy to be put on scholarship” frontrunner with his valuable service as a reserve the last two seasons. He showed incredible promise in 2016 when he recorded 21 tackles, 2.0 TFL and 1.5 sacks. Most of Benton’s production came late in the year, posting 19 of his 21 tackles in the final seven games.

After earning ISU’s Outstanding Walk-On Award (2016), he had 11 tackles and 1.5 TFL to help the Cyclones win their fourth bowl game in school history in 2017.

As an All-American defensive end at Mount Union, Campbell is an expert on the position. He immediately was impressed with Benton when he initially got the job.

“People don’t know the value that he’s added to our defense,” Campbell said. “We talk about playing in big moments. You go back to the Oklahoma game and the snaps he played in there. He showed up when we needed him the most, so I’m really proud of him. He’s been a key factor of why we’ve been able to lay a great foundation here.”

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Benton won Iowa State’s Outstanding Walk-On Player Award in 2016. 

Benton played on 26 snaps from scrimmage on that memorable Saturday in October when Iowa State knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman. He will never forget that game or the final defensive snap.

“I just remember how physical that game was,” Benton said. “It was a fight until the end. Until the very end. I tried to give it my all until the last pass was incomplete. I just remember turning and seeing the ball drop. When the ball hit the ground, it was the best feeling. I looked around — no flags – the game is over.”

Growing up in Van Meter, Iowa, Benton was a three-sport star, excelling in football, baseball and wrestling. Football was his favorite, however, where he was a first-team all-state selection and a participant in the Iowa Shrine Bowl.

Benton had offers to play college football, mainly from NAIA schools. The lure of playing big-time college football was too strong, so he decided to follow in his brother’s footsteps (Marcus) and tryout for the Iowa State football team with no guarantees.

“Early on, I just had NAIA and a couple of D-IIIs talking to me. I didn’t even have a highlight tape or anything,” Benton laughed. “My brother was a walk-on at Iowa State before me, and he kind of convinced me to try-out for the team. I showed up, tried out and luckily I made the team.”

Benton entered college at 6-2 and 225 pounds in 2014, spending his first two seasons watching from the sidelines.

After adding 20 pounds of muscle to his frame, he found his way into the rotation in Campbell’s inaugural season in 2016.

Taking snaps as a reserve, Benton was quickly proving his worth, but the game he remembers most during Campbell’s first year was the victory over Kansas. It was a game where Benton’s performance had a direct outcome in the contest. Recording three tackles, including two solo stops, Benton was all over the field.

Late in the second quarter, Kansas was driving deep into ISU territory with a 14-10 lead. With a 3rd-and-10 at the ISU 23, Benton broke free and sacked Jayhawk QB Carter Stanley for a six-yard loss. Moving the ball back, KU was forced to attempt a longer field goal than anticipated, a 46-yarder that missed wide right.

It was Benton’s first taste of success.

“That was a great moment for me,” Benton recollected. “I actually got two tackles for loss in that game. Basically I was the QB spy on the play and my teammates did all the work and I just had to make the play. Fortunately I did.”

A strong work ethic has always been a part of Benton’s makeup. His father, Mike, is an auto mechanic, and often Benton is in the shop helping Mike fix cars.

His hard work has carried over into the classroom, where Benton is one of the football team’s most decorated student-athletes. The two-time First-Team Academic All-Big 12 selection graduated with a 3.8 cumulative GPA and was the recipient of the Dr. Gerald Lage Award, the highest academic honor handed out by the Big 12 Conference. He is also ISU’s representative for the National Football Foundation’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.

“I was very motivated from the beginning,” Benton said about his work in the classroom. “When I first got here, they told me, ‘You can structure your plan over four and a half years.’ I was like ‘No, I’m not doing that.’ Academics has always been important to me.”

2018 Football Spring Grads

Benton (second from left) earned his degree in accounting and finance in 2018. 

The summer is winding down and Benton, who is now 256 pounds, is thrilled to begin the 2018 season as a scholarship athlete in graduate school.

Benton’s approach to the upcoming season won’t change though. He is a member of one of ISU’s deepest and most talented defensive fronts in recent memory and he can feel the excitement in the defensive line room.

“It has been a great thing to be able to go from last year, where we weren’t perceived as being a great unit, to this year,” Benton noted. “We have grown together so much as friends and that’s really translated over to the field. Everyone understands each other and everyone works well together. Coach Rasheed has really done a great job of bringing together that defensive line.”

 

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Shayok Ready To Lead

Marial Shayok has been there. He’s done that.

He’s played in NCAA Tournaments. He’s been on ACC Championship teams at Virginia.

But Shayok never really had to be a leader on those teams. He was second in scoring in his final season with the Cavaliers, but they had upperclassmen that took care of leading.

So what realization did Shayok come to during his redshirt season at Iowa State?

He noted that in addition to shooting jumpers and putting in the work, he also needed to become a leader for the Cyclones.

“I see now how important it is for me to be vocal, to be a leader,” Shayok said. “We’ve got so many new guys and I know that I need to share my experiences. It’s time for me to share the things I’ve learned over the years and give it back to the other guys.”

It’s something that head coach Steve Prohm has challenged Shayok to do.

“He’s put it on me to be a leader on this team, to be as vocal as I can,” Shayok adds. “I need to be a second voice for him so he doesn’t have to say everything. A lot of times now, I say it before he even can. I want to be another coach on the floor for us.”

If there is a consistent message among the people inside the Sukup Basketball Complex, it is how much work Shayok puts into his craft. The Ottawa, Ontario native spent the redshirt season closely alongside fellow sit-out transfer Michael Jacobson, who came to the Cyclones from Nebraska.

“Mike and I spent a lot of time together last year,” Shayok said. “When the team went on the road, it was just us spending a lot of time in the gym. We were working out, playing one-on-one and getting our shots up.”

He’s seen his game improve, both from a physical and mental standpoint.

“I think I’ve improved the consistency with my shot,” Shayok said. “I’m shooting at a really high level right now and my range has expanded. I’ve also improved my decision making. I think that developed from putting in the time and playing the point guard on the scout team. That really improved my feel for the game. I’m just really confident right now in my game.”

And he’s confident in the team he is seeing come together on a daily basis.

“We’ve got a really good chemistry on this team,” Shayok says while lacing up Nikes for another workout. “We hang out pretty much all day, every day. It’s genuine and I think it really is a starting point for what we want to accomplish.

“Now we are going to need to take that chemistry, that energy, and play together as a team. We want to play fast, play hard and be competitive every day. We’ve really got to believe in each other to get where we want to be.” “

Where they want to be is back in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.

“We understand the importance of winning,” Shayok says. “And know that if we win, we can all do great things.”

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Gomez Used Setbacks In 2017-18 To Find Success

Gomez, Austin_JWTT15AMES, Iowa – As Austin Gomez steps onto campus for his second year at Iowa State, many things are different this time around. The Carol Stream, Ill., native earned a spot on the Junior World Team at 61 kg at the beginning of June. Gomez also is in line to hold down the 133-pound spot in the Cyclone lineup this season.

However, it may be the experience and knowledge he gained during his first year that is driving his preparation ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.

“Last year, I came in as a newbie and kind of got my butt whooped a little bit,” Gomez said. “I have a lot more experience this year. I know what to expect. I feel like I’m training harder and smarter. The factor of knowing that I could be the guy this year is playing a big part in training right now.”

Gomez also senses a change in the team’s psyche.

“We’ve got that winning feeling,” Gomez said of his teammates. “We know what it takes to win. If we can replicate what we put out in the practice room out on the mat, we’re going to be a pretty tough team.”

Looking Back
When Gomez arrived at Iowa State last summer, he was fresh off of a defeat at the Junior World Team Trials Qualifier. He fell to Minnesota’s Mitch McKee 2-1 in a best-of-three series for the spot at 57 kg.

“There’s some things that need to be fixed,” Gomez said of his thoughts directly following that match. “There’s some technique and some areas that I need to get better at. That’s what coach Zadick really talked to me about right after that match. He said we’re going to fix some things and get it done.”

Gomez credits his high motor and pace for his success in wrestling. After the loss in Lincoln, he was ready to get back on the mat and compete, however, it would be longer than the three-time Illinois state champ would have hoped for.

The plan was to redshirt Gomez during the 2017-18 season, which would allow him to still compete unattached. Early on in the year, Gomez suffered a concussion that would put him out for three months, effectively sidelining him for most of his freshman campaign.

Gomez didn’t let the injury become a set back and continued to grow, even if it wasn’t on the mat.

“It put things into perspective for me if I didn’t have wrestling,” Gomez said of his injury. “I could get injured and my career could be over. I did a lot of reading. I saw it as a blessing that God may have given me that I could come back stronger from this. I think I did. I think the best version of Austin Gomez came out after that.”

As the Cyclones sent a troop of wrestlers to the Willie Myers Open, Gomez was amongst them, finally cleared to compete. In his first match back, Gomez released six months of pent up preparation, and tech-falled Tristan Jenny of UW-La Crosse 20-5 en route to the open title at 133 pounds.

“I was so ready to compete,” Gomez said. “I was itching. I hadn’t wrestled live since I lost that match to Mitchell McKee. So yeah, I was itching pretty bad.”

Gomez closed out his first year with two more open titles at the Duhawk Open and Sioux City Dave Edmonds Open. He compiled an 8-0 record and won five of his matches by technical fall. A small sample size, but solid results.

“It was fun to wrestle and represent Iowa State University,” Gomez said. “I came here to represent Iowa State and put Iowa State back on top. That’s the main reason I came here. It was a lot of fun to put Iowa State under my name.”

Looking Ahead
As a member of the Junior World Team, Gomez will get to continue to rep the Cardinal and Gold on the sport’s biggest stage. Gomez qualified for the Junior World Team in June in Rochester, Minn. He defeated Cornell’s Arujau Vitali 11-8 and then 15-4 to lock down the spot at 61 kg.

Along with getting to represent Team USA in Slovakia in September at the Junior World Championships, Gomez now gets the opportunity to train with the best in the country leading up to the 2018-19 season.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to make this team,” Gomez said. “I made a cadet team in 2013, and I was either second or third every year after that. It was a big monkey off my back that I made the team. I’m not just going there to wrestle at the World Championships, I want to bring home a gold medal for Iowa State University, my family and God.”

“Our training camps are designed so we can wrestle with the senior level guys too. The US is the best country in wrestling right now. With our developmental program, we’re going to have a lot of real good guys that we’re going to get to train with. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

All of this before Gomez ever takes the mat for his first official match as an Iowa State Cyclone.

Although he’s tuned into bringing a gold medal back to Ames, the prospect of the 2018-19 season still crosses Gomez’s mind. The Big 12 alone returns three All Americans at 133 pounds, including national champion Seth Gross. Gomez delights at this challenge.

“That’s what it’s about,” Gomez said. “To be the best guy in the country, you have to beat the best guys in the country. Seth Gross is the top guy at 133 right now, but I don’t think he’s wrestled anybody of my caliber. I’m going to bring it this year, and these guys better be ready.”

Whether it’s been overcoming a tough loss, an injury or dominating the guy in front of him on the mat, Gomez has approached it with a clear mind and a plan of attack. As we roll into the 2018-19 season, it would appear that Gomez has that same laser focus that has served him well thus far.

“I think it’s going to be more of the same,” Gomez said of his preparation. “I get in the room, I shut my mouth and I go out there and learn. What I put out in the wrestling room is going to show in a match, and I think I work pretty hard in the wrestling room.”

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Holden Completes Master’s Degree; Three Others Also Graduate

Four Iowa State men’s basketball players – Merrill Holden, Donovan Jackson, Marial Shayok and Nick Weiler-Babb – will add another line to their resumes this spring and summer. Jackson and Shayok officially graduate this weekend, while Weiler-Babb and Holden take part in commencement ceremonies now and earn their degrees this summer. Along with these four student-athletes, former Cyclone Martin Rancik (1998-2001) also earned his degree from ISU in December.

Holden’s path to a master’s degree was a little different.

It was a balancing act.

A fine line between when to shut down the computer and go to sleep and when to push on so that he could someday again be on the big stage at Hilton Coliseum, this time earning his master’s degree rather than playing for the Cyclones.

Holden, who followed his Cyclone career with five months playing in Bahrain, a nation comprising  of more than 30 islands in the Arabian Gulf, would spend his nights working on his online courses and his days playing the game he loves.

He needed to get sleep so he could help his team, but he had a goal and with the encouragement of others back in Ames he was going to reach his goal.

“The deal was when I came here the master’s degree was part of it and I usually finish things that I start,” said Holden. “It was huge having that support system. (Academic coordinator) Natalie (Williams), the coaching staff and some of my friends and family just kept encouraging me to keep going.

“There were times where I just kind of wanted to give it up. Getting a master’s degree is tough; it’s a lot of work. There were nights that I didn’t get any sleep working on projects and then had to go perform on the court for my job the next day. Having Natalie and others by my side motivated me and pushed me.”

The long hours of work and the support of everyone culminated Thursday evening as he crossed the stage during the Spring 2018 Graduate Commencement Ceremony.

Holden will still have to complete his oral dissertation to defend his capstone in July, but the bulk of his work is completed and he celebrated the achievement in advance along with other graduate students because there is no summer commencement.

Holden played for the Cyclones during the 2016-17 season after earning his undergraduate degree from Louisiana Tech. His master’s degree is in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on community development.

For his program, Holden’s final paper examined at the city of Flint, Michigan, and its recent struggles.

“My paper focuses on the ongoing water crisis,” Holden said. “I touch on environmental racism and healthier policies for the Flint community. Much of it comes down to electing better officials with better human capital. Really, it is a deep dive into helping to get Flint going in the right direction.”

So now, Holden is the first person in his family to get a master’s degree. It’s something he never dreamed of growing up, or even a few years ago.

“Never would have thought that I could get a master’s degree,” Holden said while shaking his head. “Where I come from, born in Chicago, Illinois, in a very rough neighborhood. Never. I moved around a lot as a kid. There were times where my family couldn’t support me so I stayed with my grandma. I moved to another city to stay with an uncle.

“Basketball really blessed me with an opportunity to get a master’s degree. It means more than I can even put into words.”

Big 12 Champion. Iowa State University graduate.

Loyal sons forever true!

Marial Shayok, Nick Weiler-Babb, Merrill Holden and Donovan Jackson take part in the graduate luncheon.

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ISU Student-Athletes To Make Soles For Souls Mission Trip To Costa Rica

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AMES, Iowa – Iowa State student-athletes make it a priority to give back to their community in many ways.

Through the efforts of the Office of Student-Athlete Development (OSAD) at Iowa State, it’s not uncommon to see your favorite Cyclone visiting hospitals, reading at elementary schools or assisting at a variety of community service endeavors around central Iowa.

Participating in these outreach programs is a great way for athletes to serve their community and influence others in a positive manner who look up to them as heroes.

For the second year in a row, the OSAD is offering a volunteer mission trip to a foreign country in conjunction with the Soles4Souls program, a nonprofit organization that assists with the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world.

This year’s destination is Costa Rica, and 10 Iowa State student-athletes have volunteered for the trip, May 6-12: Brian Peavy (football), Marcel Spears Jr. (football), Quinn Sonntag (football), Alec McDowell (wrestling), Merin Mundt (soccer), Meaghan Sievers (gymnastics), Jess Schaben (volleyball), Liera Bender (tennis), Emma Ruehle (swimming) and Jessi Storer (swimming).

Student-Athlete Affairs Coordinator at Iowa State Joanna Beaton will chaperone the Cyclone contingent on the trip. She sees first-hand the incredible involvement of Cyclone student-athletes in community outreach programs and this trip is another way for Cyclone Nation to give back.

“Our student-athletes run the Soles4Souls campaign in Ames and this is a wonderful opportunity to see their service work come full circle where they actually fit the children with shoes,” Beaton said. “Some of these kids have never had shoes before and it is an amazing experience to see their faces light up. The children are so appreciative and excited to see our student-athletes, which is really cool.”

Last year’s Soles4Souls mission to Haiti was an incredible success. Cyclone student-athletes visited four different orphanages sizing and washing feet of children.

ISU senior gymnast Hilary Green estimated she washed 150 feet at each orphanage and did that for approximately 600 kids throughout the trip.

“The people were just amazing, loving and caring,” Green said. “They welcomed us with open arms. We were able to build relationships with those children even though there was a language barrier. We came together and created bonds and relationships that nobody can break.”

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Former Iowa State wrestler Colin Strickland gives a hug on last year’s Soles For Souls mission trip to Haiti.

Spears, an All-Big 12 linebacker, didn’t hesitate to sign up for the trip when asked by Beaton.

“I just felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss,” Spears said. “Joanna showed me the video of the mission trip they had last year. They did such a great job and I felt like I needed to be involved. I am very excited about the trip. I have done a lot of community service here in central Iowa, but to be able to go out of the country to help others in need is going to be life changing for me.”

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How Attention To Details Helped Win The Liberty Bowl

 

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AMES, Iowa – Attention to details. Win in the margins.

You hear these phrases from Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell on a daily basis.

It is not hyperbole. It is a part of Campbell’s core beliefs for building a winning football program.

Iowa State averaged roughly 157 plays a game (offense, defense, special teams) in 2017. Campbell believes close games are won in five to seven plays where one team was superior in the small details.

This was especially true last season, where the Cyclones were in seven games ultimately decided by seven points or less.

The Liberty Bowl vs. Memphis was one of those close games, and there wasn’t a play that epitomized Campbell’s sermons more than what unfolded with 1:47 left in the first quarter with the game knotted at 7-7.

Chances are you didn’t even notice it. In fact, the majority of the Iowa State football staff was unaware of the significance until scouring through the coaches film after the season ended.

When they did stumble upon it, however, it was unanimous that an unassuming play where junior defensive back De’Monte Ruth paid attention to his details was a factor in having the Liberty Bowl trophy reside in Ames.

The Setup

Current Special Teams Coach Joe Houston loves to watch game film, especially when it comes to dissecting his special teams units.

We all know the importance of special teams play, and Houston makes it a priority to single out high-graded plays to show his pupils for positive reinforcement.

After the elation of ISU’s fourth bowl win in school history, Houston was perplexed about a strange scenario he thought he saw on a Memphis field goal attempt late in the first quarter.

He couldn’t wait to dive into the video to see if his mind was playing tricks on him.

“I saw it happen live, but when you don’t have the depth perception on the field, it’s hard to really take it all in on what is going on,” Houston said. “It happened so fast that you don’t really get to appreciate what is happening until you watch it on tape, and as I was watching it on tape, it was exactly what I saw.”

What Houston saw was one of the oldest trick plays in the book. It’s commonly referred to as the “Statue of Liberty” or “Flea-Flicker” of fake field goal attempts, and there was no doubt the fake was on.

It begins with a player moving to his sideline on the opposite side of the field from the opponents sideline hoping to blend in with his teammates. If it’s not picked up, it’s almost a sure six points with the holder throwing a pass to the unguarded receiver.

To the average person, the fake attempt doesn’t sound hard to detect, but as Houston explains, it is.

“It’s hard to pick up, because at field level, the players all kind of blend in,” Houston said. “You would be surprised how often the play works.”

With the ISU coaching personnel at the field level blocked to notice the fake, and little or no time for the coaches in the booth to relay the information, you have to put your trust in the players on the field to make a decision.

They have to know their assignments and understand all of their details.

“Always look outside to in when defending field goal attempts,” Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock tells his players every day.

That’s exactly what Ruth did, and in a split second he switched momentum back to Iowa State’s favor.

The Situation

When you watch the video of Memphis’ first-quarter field goal attempt you will notice a couple of things, but before we analyze the play, let’s put in perspective the game situation.

Iowa State struck first in its opening possession when Kyle Kempt hit Hakeem Butler on a 52-yard TD strike. Despite the early 7-0 deficit for Memphis, the Tigers soon took control of the game, tying the game up at 7-7 on a two-play drive.

ISU went 3-and-out on its third possession and had to punt into the wind, giving the Tigers the ball at midfield.

The Tigers were now on the verge of taking their first lead, as Memphis brought out its field goal unit for what at first appeared to be a routine 38-yard attempt. The Tigers, however, were hoping to make it 14-7 with a designed fake.

Dissecting The Fake

Houston knew something was different right away.

“When I first saw it in the game, it just didn’t look right,” Houston remembered. “Everything looked really fast. Normally when your kicker goes out on the field, he takes his time and he’s slow. They all just kind of sprinted out on the field, and I’m like, ‘Man, they’re not even setting this up right.’ It just didn’t feel right.”

The first thing you will see is Ruth leaving the frame when he noticed Memphis had just 10 players lined up. He saw a straggling Tiger near the sideline and immediately reacted.

Houston’s eyes lit up upon viewing the play after the game for the first time. He was right. His mind wasn’t playing tricks on him.

“I was captivated by it when I first saw it,” Houston said. “De’Monte’s ability to revert to his process and cover up the eligible could have been the margin of the victory.”

Houston went on.

“Memphis tried to hide an eligible near their sideline, and because the ball was on their hash, it can be really deceiving to the players, and especially to the coaches,” Houston said. “De’Monte was able to sniff it out.”

Ruth still doesn’t think he did anything special on that play. He was just completing his assignments the coaching staff preached every day in practice.

“We practice field goal block every day, so I know my assignment which is just to set the edge on the end,” Ruth said. “I’m coming from the line and realized they didn’t have an end, so I look out, and there’s a player basically standing on the sideline, so I immediately ran out to guard him because they called the fake on us.”

Once Ruth spoiled the fake, you will see the holder tap his helmet to indicate the ruse was off. You then see Ruth enter the frame along with the Tiger. Memphis will now have to settle for a field goal.

Seconds were wasted and the play clock is now winding down. The Memphis kicker is clearly under a little duress and appears to run through his step-off progression quicker than normal.

“When the kicker ran onto the field, he didn’t take his steps,” Houston noted. “So, you see De’Monte go and cover the eligible, because he knew there was a man short on that side. The holder ends up having to tap his helmet, which was their signal for ‘it’s off,’ and then their kicker was forced to run uncomfortably and retake his steps. I’m not sure what the play clock was, but the seconds were dwindling.”

Memphis gets the kick off in time, but it sails wide right. The game remains tied and momentum shifts back to the Cyclones.

“Coach Heacock always talks about being really fake sound, and it’s really a testament to him that his defense was sharp on that play,” Houston said. “If Memphis would’ve scored a touchdown, it could’ve easily been the difference. There are certain plays in a game that could have a direct correlation with the final result. When you talk about winning in the margins, this is a prime example of winning in the margins, because it ended up being the difference. De’Monte’s attention to detail is probably the most underrated play of the football game.”

Houston found Ruth right away after the kick missed its target. Except for the Memphis team, they might have been the only other people in the stadium who knew what just happened.

“Coach Houston came up and told me, ‘great job,’” Ruth said. “I mean, he’s really the only person that recognized it. It was an exciting game and that play was pretty big.”

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De’Monte Ruth had three tackles and perhaps the biggest play in the Liberty Bowl win over Memphis. 

First Spring Team Meeting

Houston was excited for the initial team meeting to kickoff spring practice. He had uncovered a key play that helped the Cyclones win a bowl a game and he wanted to show evidence in front of the team that attention to details wins football games.

When the video started rolling, it was the first time the majority of the team and staff knew about the heads-up play by Ruth.

Coach Campbell didn’t even know the play happened until weeks after the game when he had time to go over the film.

“It happened so fast in the game we didn’t catch it until we watched in the film and realized what had unfolded,” Campbell said. “I think that’s a credit to where you want to be in a player-led program.  Players recognizing formations and taking great ownership of what is happening on the field. The coaches can’t be out there. I think it’s just a huge representation of the strides we’ve made in this program.”

Campbell is proud of how Ruth has developed in his program.

“Here’s a kid who kind of started slow when we first got here but has become an absolute critical piece to our success over the last year,” Campbell noted. “Things are happening so fast in a football game and you have to have the ability to recognize, react, and recover. De’Monte certainly did all three of those things in that instant and was the difference in the outcome of a game.”

Houston noticed the players’ reaction when he showed the clip for the first time. It was a prime example of what the coaching staff is trying to ingrain.

“As a special teams coordinator, you are constantly trying to find ways to capture the kids’ attention and explain the ‘why’, the power of ‘why.’” Houston said.  “Not just ‘how’ and ‘what’ to do, but ‘why’ it’s important. What De’Monte did in that situation was powerful. It had everyone’s attention. It was kind of eye-opening.”

 

 

 

 

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Barquin Arozamena Has Raised The Bar

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Story written by Iowa State Athletics Communications Student Assistant Jack Bluhm

At the age of 14, Celia Barquin Arozamena is competing in the biggest golf tournament of her life, the national championship for golfers 14 and under in her home country of Spain. The tournament is playing host to all of the best young female golfers in Spain and is THE tournament to win. This tournament means everything to Barquin Arozamena. Not only does this tournament prove that by winning she is the best teenage amateur golfer in the entire country, but this tournament provides the winner access to a scholarship to one of Spain’s premier boarding schools, IES Ortega y Gassest.

On the final day of competition, Barquin Arozamena has dominated the field and holds a five-stroke lead. All of her training, carried out relentlessly day in and day out for seven years, is finally going to pay off. The trophy is within reach and Barquin Arozamena knows it, but there is still more golf to play.

During the final round, another golfer comes out of nowhere and shoots a blistering round of five-under par, catching up to Barquin Arozamena. Barquin Arozamena is stunned as now she is in a sudden death playoff for the national championship. Walking back to the playoff hole, Barquin Arozamena knows this is her moment. This is her time to prove what she has and that she is Spain’s best teenage golfer.

The two competitors match each other on their drives as they are placed perfectly in the fairway on the par-four, playoff hole. Now comes the approach shot. Barquin Arozamena watches as her competitor lines up and takes her swing. The ball and the club make perfect contact and her competitor’s shot ends up rolling three feet away from the hole.

Pressure is on.

Barquin Arozamena grabs her club, settles in, takes a deep breath and lets it rip. Her ball lands on the green, only her ball is 40 feet away from the hole. Nerves are now starting to kick in for Barquin Arozamena as the national championship she so desperately sought seems miles away instead of 40 feet. With her opponent just having a tap-in and Barquin Arozamena staring down a 40 footer, the odds are not looking good. But these are moments champions live for. The crowd goes silent as Barquin Arozamena, with her trusty putter in hand, walks up to her ball. She takes her time and measures up her putt. As she stands over her ball Barquin Arozamena takes a last look at the hole and in one smooth motion, mimicking a pendulum, she sends her ball rolling. Not one sound is made as the ball rolls across the green — until it hits the bottom of the cup.

Spectators’ jaws drop, as they can’t believe what they just saw. Barquin Arozamena, doing her best Tiger Woods impression, celebrates with a huge fist pump and a celebratory yell. The national championship is hers; all she needed was her opponent to miss. The only thing Barquin Arozamena can do now is watch as her opponent settles in for her three-foot putt to force another playoff.

She misses the putt.

In matter of minutes, Barquin Arozamena went from losing her lead in the national championship to being crowned the best golfer in Spain at the age of 14. This win was only the beginning of what was yet to come for Barquin Arozamena.

Now 21, Barquin Arozamena is a senior at Iowa State University looking forward to her final spring season. During her collegiate career, Barquin Arozamena has become one of the best golfers in the programs history. “Celia is probably the best player, ranking wise, we’ve ever recruited, so the expectations were already set pretty high for her,” head coach Christine Martens said. Barquin Arozamena has more than lived up to those expectations as her name is marked all over the school record books:

— Second in career stroke average with an impressive 73.41

— Seventh in top-10 finishes with 13

— Owns three of the top eight single season stroke average marks

— Only one of four players in school history to be named All-Big 12 First-Team multiple times.

“I want to be the player who played good, did good in school and was a good leader for the team,” she said. “That’s my biggest focus for this year. Everyone has always been like, ‘Celia, you have to do this. Celia, you have to do that,’ and now I want to be the one that is in charge of the other players and take more of a leadership role.”

Being that senior leader has been vital to her team as Barquin Arozamena is one of only three seniors. This has been something that both her coaches and teammates have taken note of.

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Barquin Arozamena poses with her Big 12 All-Tournament Medal after tying for ninth at the 2017 Big 12 Championship.

“When she started here it was kind of like, this is about me and this is what I’m focusing on,” Martens said. “She’s much more about trying to bring others along with her now, which is the cool thing. Now it’s not just about her being good, it’s about her trying to bring everyone with her.”

However, Barquin Arozamena wasn’t always settled in on playing golf at Iowa State. In fact, when Martens first reached out to Barquin Arozamena she said no because the weather in Iowa was too cold for her. It wasn’t until a tournament in France when her mind, along with the influence of her mom, started to change.

Barquin Arozamena’s mom instantly made a connection with Martens, though she only speaks Spanish. “After talking with her for four or five minutes my mom was like, ‘You’re going to Iowa State. I don’t care where you want to go, I absolutely love this woman. I want you to go there,’” she said. “So you could say that [my parents] forced me, but at the same time I was super excited because I love coach Martens. When I first met her I was 100 percent sure I want to go [to Iowa State].”

Although she was ready for her next adventure to become a Cyclone, the journey to get to Ames was a whirlwind for Barquin Arozamena. Not only was she going to have to deal with the culture shock of moving to a different country, she first had to get there. Classes were already in session for two weeks before Barquin Arozamena was scheduled to arrive on campus; she was in China competing at the Junior Olympics and had lost her passport. Scrambling and not knowing what to do, Barquin Arozamena contacted coach Martens.

“Coach, I lost my passport, so it might be another two weeks,” Barquin Arozamena said.

“What? You’re already two weeks late!” Martens replied.

Luckily though, she did end up finding her passport and made it to Ames a month after classes had officially started. Now the next challenge was getting accustomed to her new way of life as a college student in the United States. Not knowing any English was hard for Barquin Arozamena. On her first day at Iowa State she attempted to go to class but didn’t make it to any because she couldn’t understand her schedule, her phone’s wifi didn’t work and she didn’t posses a campus map. This is where Martens and teammate and current roommate M.J. Kamin came to the rescue.

“When she first got here, she was really funny because she would always just nod because she wouldn’t understand you,” Martens said. “I would tell her something and I would just be like ‘OK you have no idea what I’m talking about’ and sometimes she still gets a glazed look over her face.”

With the help of Kamin, Barquin Arozamena was soon able to learn the ropes of Iowa State and learned to juggle the responsibilities as a student athlete.

“I always thought in the beginning it was funny to have a freshman lead another freshman around,” Barquin Arozamena said. “But she was the only reason I would make it on time to places. She would be like, ‘Remember we have to do this tomorrow, remember we have to go this place, where are you? We’re late for practice,’ so M.J. did absolutely everything for me at the beginning. We were like each others only friends for the first couple of months and we could barely talk to each other.”

Now that she has become fully immersed as a student majoring in civil engineering, the athlete in Barquin Arozamena is looking forward to her last season as a Cyclone. Even though she has enjoyed a decorated career, Barquin Arozamena has never made it to the NCAA national championship, the one tournament she wants the most because she has fallen just short of qualifying twice.

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Barquin Arozamena has earned All-Big 12 recognition in each of her first three seasons as a Cyclone.

“That would be the cherry on top of my golf career here,” she said. “I don’t want to just make it to the NCAAs, I want to win the NCAAs. I just need to have a good week. That’s golf. It doesn’t matter how good someone is, it’s just who has the best week of their life.”

But Barquin Arozamena doesn’t want to make it to nationals alone. She said that she would much rather have the entire team go.

“At the beginning of the year us seniors were telling [the underclassmen] we need to make it this year,” Barquin Arozamena said. “We’ve beaten some of our biggest rivals in tournaments this year so we’re all up on winning Big 12’s or at least be top two or three and making it to nationals.”

With all this focus on making it to nationals and being one of the best players in school history, it may look like golf is the only thing in Barquin Arozamena’s life. That would be wrong.

“I’m always the one making plans for everybody,” Barquin Arozamena said. “Going to games is the most fun thing to do. I go to football and basketball. I go to volleyball. I literally watch everything.”

When she’s not out and about, Barquin Arozamena also loves to sit down with a good book, such as her favorite series “The Hunger Games,” or watch a movie. She described herself as a nerd because her favorite genre of movies are science fiction, and she currently is obsessing over the popular Netflix show, “Stranger Things.”

She also fancies herself as a pretty good cook, with fish dishes and cakes as her specialties. “When I’m with my Spanish friends, I’m always up for making dinner at home,” she said.

As for what comes next for Barquin Arozamena, she is currently figuring that out. Barquin Arozamena will graduate this spring with a degree in civil engineering, but has hopes that golf will be in her future after college. “I would like to turn pro at the same time I finish my last semester [at Iowa State],” she said. “If that doesn’t work out, which it might not, I’ll just graduate and turn pro afterwards. Try golf out for one or two years, see if it works. If it works I guess I’ll just play golf and if it doesn’t, I’m going to need to find a job.”

 

 

 

 

 

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