2015 was a quiet recruiting season for the Iowa State Cyclones, who followed their top 12 2014 class with a 20-25 ranked class (depending on which site you prefer) in 2015. Looking ahead to the 2016 recruiting class, you can tell that it is full of obvious hammers, with head coach Kevin Jackson pulling in multiple top 100 recruits from all parts of the nation.
The 2015 class requires a little bit of digging, and to be honest will probably need another year of guys being fully healthy and building their resumes to know who to truly watch for in this class, but I believe I have highlighted five of the more interesting names to watch for.
We start with the biggest name coming into the year, Markus Simmons who picked the Cyclone program over home state Oklahoma, and MAC power Missouri. One of the biggest reasons the addition of Simmons was so key in 2015 was the fact that Iowa State would be graduating Earl Hall and at the time there wasn’t a true replacement for Hall.
By the looks of things now, that scenario has been altered. For starters it appears one of the top 2014 recruits, Nathan Boston, can no longer make the cut to 125, meaning 133 is now his lowest weight-class as well. We did see Boston wrestle at 141 down the stretch for Iowa State, but whether Boston wants to try and stick at that weight or if he wants to try and cut down to replace Hall is unconfirmed.
But there is a lot to like about Simmons.
Starting off his career, Simmons opened with a 15-5 start picking up a few wins over wrestlers from Division I programs, and some of his bigger wins being a fall over Grand View’s Godwin Cutler, and a 14-11 win over NAIA national champion Jacob Colon. One of the big test for true freshman is the Midlands Championships, but unfortunately Simmons didn’t make the trip out to Evanston this season, which prevented him from facing some of the upper tier talent that would provide an accurate gauge at what to expect.
What we know for sure is that Iowa State will need to find someone to step in the lineup at 133-pounds, and if that wrestler happens to be Boston then the 141 weight would have an opening there. One thing that sticks out in all of Simmons match results this past year was his ability to score points, as he scored at least eight points in half of his matches.
The second biggest name from the 2015 class is former Missouri prep standout, Colston DiBlasi. Hailing from Park Hill, at one point in time DiBlasi was a wrestler in the top 100 recruiting rankings, but after going from 152 to the 170-pound weight-class he dropped out.
The good news is that national rankings aren’t everything, as DiBlasi completed a pretty solid 2015-16 campaign, finishing 15-5 on the season. A large majority of DiBlasi’s matches came against the Division I field, and he was also part of the true freshmen group that attended the Midlands going 2-2 at the tournament. Late in the season we saw DiBlasi bump to 174-pounds taking just one loss to Iowa’s Mitch Bowman, but he also notched a solid 6-3 win over Timmy Miklus of Missouri, a wrestler who spot started for the Tigers this season.
Heading into the 2016-17 season DiBlasi will become one of the strongest candidates from this recruiting class to make the lineup as a freshman, with senior Tanner Weatherman vacating the 165-pound spot in the lineup. DiBlasi is big enough to handle the spot physically, but he may face competition from Chase Straw (we’ll get to him in a moment), or either of last year’s 157 starters Logan Breitenbach or Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer.
This past season saw some great results for Chase Straw who comes from unranked recruit to potential lineup contender as we head into next season. After wrestling a pair of tournaments at 157, Straw made the decision to go up to 165 and might have had even better results. An 11-3 major of Isaiah Patton (UNI), a 4-3 decision over Skyler St. John (Iowa), and a 2-2 performance at the National Collegiate Open is well above expectations. He finished the year with a 15-7 record, and only one of those losses was to a non-Division I opponent (though that wrestler was Tanner Werner, a NAIA All-American this season).
As mentioned above, the Cyclones graduate 165-pound star Tanner Weatherman, and struggled to find a clear favorite between Logan Brietenbach and Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer at 157 this season, which maybe opens the door for Straw.
If not next season, Straw should very much be in the picture down the line.
After the first three we are starting to dig deep into the class to find wrestlers that displayed potential, but don’t have the complete resume to know what you are getting. With that said, I was impressed with what I saw out of Hank Swalla this season, despite the limited action he saw.
A late start to the season, Swalla got just one tournament in January losing to teammate DiBlasi and Ellsworth’s Jordan Gundrum. Swalla then headed out to the National Collegiate Open where he got a fifth place finish, going 4-2 on the weekend (his win in the fifth place match was by medical forfeit).
A big reason for Swalla’s mention on this list was his 7-6 win over teammate Luke Entzel, who came in with some solid credentials out of Montana in last year’s class. While it’s unfortunate we didn’t see more of Swalla this season, fans should keep an eye on his progress as he accumulates more time on the mat.
We finish out with former California prep Anthony Wesley, who wasn’t a widely talked about true freshman for the Cyclones. Wesley’s buzz came early in the season when he defeated one top 100 recruit, Vince Turk of Iowa. The win over Turk is definitely encouraging, but nine of the 12 losses were by fall or technical fall. Adjustments will need to be made, and hopefully with 141 an “open competition” (i.e. we just don’t know who will be at that weight yet) going forward Wesley will be able to be in contention for the spot next fall.
I opened the floor to you guys to get a feel for which Iowa State true freshman you were most excited for and the results were surprising. With nearly 400 votes cast, it was a surprise to see Chase Straw not only win the poll, but he did so by six points, bringing in 41% of the total vote.
We also received a private message about Straw, “Chase Straw is a great competitor and just a tough kid. He always wants to wrestle top level competition. I am very excited to see Chase compete.”