Official practices are underway, preseason rankings are coming out and the buzz surrounding the upcoming collegiate wrestling season continues to rise. With the Cyclones set to open the season Nov. 1, here’s a look at what’s ahead for the Cardinal and Gold.
This season marks Iowa State wrestling head coach Kevin Jackson’s sixth at the helm and the fifth for assistant coach Travis Paulson. Jackson has coached Cyclone wrestlers to three NCAA individual championships, 10 All-America accolades and seven Big 12 individual titles.
The Cyclones added a pair of new faces to the coaching staff over the offseason in Trent Paulson and Angel Escobedo. Each coach on staff competed for the United States World Team, making Iowa State one of, if not only program with four former World Team members. You can read more about the Paulson and Escobedo hirings here.
Iowa State returns the bulk of its starting lineup from a year ago, including three All-Americans, six NCAA qualifiers and two Big 12 Champions.
The Cyclones bring back eight of their 10 starters from a year ago, leaving open weights at 125 and 157. Of those eight starters, Michael Moreno (31), Kyven Gadson (30), Tanner Weatherman (25) and Lelund Weatherspoon (25) each won at least 25 matches last season. All six of the Cyclones’ 2014 NCAA qualifiers return to the lineup in M. Moreno, Gadson, Weatherman, Weatherspoon, Earl Hall and Gabe Moreno.
The only returning starters not listed above are Luke Goettl, a two-time NCAA qualifier, and Quean Smith, who picked up a pair of wins over ranked opponents last season.
In terms of production, the Cyclones return their top six point scorers in M. Moreno, Gadson, Weatherman, Weatherspoon, Goettl and Hall. Five returning wrestlers notched six or more pins in 2013-14, with Gadson and M. Moreno leading the way with 13 bonus-point victories (major decisions, tech-falls and pins).
Gadson and M. Moreno boast two of the NCAA’s best résumés. The Cyclone seniors are two of just nine wrestlers in the nation to win at least 30 matches and earn a spot on the NCAA All-America podium in both of the past two seasons. The duo makes Iowa State one of just five programs nationally to return multiple wrestlers with back-to-back All-America seasons.
Kyle Larson looks to be the guy at 125, coming off of a 2014 campaign that saw him post three top-5 finishes. Larson posted an overall record of 18-8 last season and was 3-2 in dual competition, notching nine bonus-point victories. The West Des Moines native also won two tournaments during his redshirt year.
John Meeks is coming off a redshirt of his own and will take over at 141, bumping G. Moreno to 149 and Goettl up to 157. Meeks went 11-1 last year while wrestling unattached, finishing third at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open and taking home the title at the Kaye Young Open. Meeks scored in double figures in over half of his matches not decided by fall and scored bonus points in five matches, scoring two pins, two major decisions and a tech-fall.
A spot is also up for grabs at 157, where the starter will likely be decided by performance in the opening tournaments of the season. The starting spot may be between Goettl and redshirt-freshmen Blayne Briceno and Daniel Woiwor. Briceno was a three-time Fargo All-American and 2013 Greco national champ at 145. Woiwor, a two-time Minnesota high school state champion, notched two top-five finishes last season while wrestling unattached.
Members of the incoming freshman class have already taken home some big hardware in their prep careers. The class of Marcus Harrington, Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer, Nathan Boston, Logan Breitenbach, Dante Rodriguez and Ryan Schuman have collectively captured six national titles, 15 state titles and earned 10 All-America honors.
The freshman crew will likely all use a redshirt except for Boston, who could work his way into the mix at 125.
Also new to the lineup this year is Dusty Jentz, who transferred to Iowa State this year from Luther College. Jentz was a four-time place-winner at the Wisconsin High School State Championships and was the state champion his senior year at 182 pounds. Jentz has wrestled at 174 and at 165 over the past two seasons.
Following the Cyclones
Be sure to keep up with the Iowa State wrestling team on Twitter and Facebook, and follow the season on Cyclones.com. Also, be sure to check out our schedule to see when and where we compete.