2018-19 Season Preview: Iowa State Cyclones

Photo by Cam Kramer | IAwrestle

As we head into the 2018-19 season, we now know what we can come to expect from a Kevin Dresser led Iowa State squad. It was a team that saw improvements despite the fact that the team’s key contributors were all underclassmen. While this team still has a ways to go before returning to the form of old, the trend is toward the upward projection. A lot of that optimism centers on the young, talented squad that Dresser has assembled. This year’s starting lineup could have as many as seven underclassmen in the starting ten, including two impact wrestlers coming off of redshirt.

With the long game in mind, Dresser opted to redshirt his star freshman Austin Gomez and Marcus Coleman last season, when both likely could have won the starting spot at their respective weights. With that season on the bench behind them, now it is time for these two to don the Cyclone singlet and shoulder some of the weight of carrying this team back to the glory days. The new lineup will also likely be bolstered by transfers at several weights. There is a potential scenario that half of the starting lineup began their career at a different Division I program, and two JUCO wrestlers will also contend for starting time.

125
Starter Alex Mackall (So)
Depth Jakob Allison (Jr)

As we begin our team preview we see the first of the aforementioned “transferee” looking to break into the lineup. After spending a year and a half at Rutgers, Alex Mackall made the decision to find a new home and landed in Ames midseason. This of course made him ineligible for the varsity spot, but he did register 7 wins in 11 matches unattached for the university.

His main competition for the starting spot will be Jakob Allison, who was last year’s starter up until a broken hand ended his season in January. Having the stronger credentials, Mackall will likely be the wrestler that emerges at this weight, but given how little we have seen of him in college judging his upside will be tough.

Its going to vary year-to-year based on conference depth, but in 2018 the Big 12 sent the second most to the NCAA tournament with seven bids. As far as known quantities in conference Oklahoma State will feature either All-American Nick Piccininni or phenom Daton Fix, with the conference opening up after that slot. That makes national qualifier seem like a reasonable goal for Mackall and we will likely know more about his ceiling after the Lindenwood Open in Mid-November.

133
Starter Austin Gomez (RFr)
Depth Todd Small (Jr)

Another weight that will be featuring a new face is 133 pounds where redshirt freshman Austin Gomez will look to take over, though he does come in with some injury history. Last season there was plenty of hype for Gomez, but concussion issues held the star freshman out of competition and practice until the new year. That led to him only getting a few matches at some small college opens late in the season, but the results were all positive.

This summer Gomez got to what he does best and entered USA Wrestling’s freestyle circuit on the Junior level. Gomez delivered winning both the US Open and World Team Trials, which qualified him to compete at the Junior World Championships. Unfortunately injury struck again and Gomez never got that opportunity, but that sacrifice was a forward looking move to make sure he would be ready for the season. At media day Dresser noted that Gomez’s debut is still up in the air, and that when the team opens their season at home with the Cyclone Open, we still may not see the freshman.

Once Gomez is finally able to take the mat many are already penciling in sky as the limit as many expect him to come in right behind SDSU’s Seth Gross (and Fix as well if this is the weight he opts to go).

Another question is what happens with incoming JUCO wrestler Todd Small, who Dresser says will join the team sometime in December. Small was a two-time national champion on the Junior College level and says he wants to compete at 133. That being said if Gomez is good as many believe him to be, Small’s chances at cracking the lineup may come at a different weight.

141
Starter Ian Parker (So)
Depth Ryan Leisure (RFr)

The first wrestler that returns from last year’s postseason lineup is at 141 pounds where Ian Parker is expected to man while being pushed by Ryan Leisure. This season would mark the first time that Parker has been able to compete at a more natural weight. The first year and a half as a Cyclone saw him compete at 133 pounds, but when the opportunity to shift up the lineup opened up in the middle of last season, Parker seized the opportunity.

Parker’s big moment came in his second match at 141 where he defeated two-time NCAA champion Dean Heil (Oklahoma State). The moment marked a point of arrival for Parker, unfortunately a knee injury prevented us from seeing his full potential. Likewise injury forced him to miss the summer freestyle circuit, but like Gomez, Parker was pulled to give him the best opportunity to be in the lineup.

A healthy Parker should be able to qualify for nationals, but of his eight matches at 141 last season, six of them came while dealing with injury, so the upside remains unknown. The Big 12 has a couple of strong names at the top – Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State) and Josh Alber (UNI), but outside of those two the door is open for a new name to emerge at this weight.

The big surprise is having Leisure make his way down to 141 after competing at 149 during his redshirt year.

149
Starter Jarrett Degen (So)
Depth Tanner Lundgren (RFr)
Redshirting Isaac Judge (Fr)

Another returning face in the Cyclone lineup is Jarrett Degen, who was the only wrestler on last year’s team that made it to the final weekend. Degen transferred into a program that already had a NCAA qualifier slotted for the lineup, but after his first official competition there was little debate on who deserved the spot. Degen made the most of that opportunity and managed to end the season one win shy of All-American honors.

Looking in conference there are several tough names that Degen will need to go through to try and claim the top spot. Boo Lewallen (Oklahoma State) and Max Thomsen (UNI) both return for their junior seasons while Davion Jeffries (Oklahoma) and Dante Rodriguez (Northern Colorado) – the same wrestler Degen won the spot from last season – should prove as tough matchups for Degen.

With Leisure headed down to 141, the Cyclones certainly take a hit depth-wise at 149 with the new backup likely being Tanner Lundgren. Two-time Iowa high school state champion Isaac Judge will redshirt, and could be a name to watch down the road.

157
Starter Chase Straw (Jr)
Depth Austin Stotts (So)
Redshirting David Carr (Fr)

Also returning for the Cyclones is junior Chase Straw, a wrestler who was on the fringe of qualifying for the 2018 postseason. After sucking down to 149 his freshman year, Straw looked much better in his second year once he moved to 157. In the month of January he strung together his best stretch of wrestling going 6-3 which included several big conference wins that will lead to him starting the year ranked #2 in conference. A ranking Straw should have no trouble hanging on to assuming he stays healthy.

The biggest obstacle for Straw to overcome might just be shutting out the noise about teammate David Carr. Given the potential and talent of Carr, it probably won’t be long before the true freshman shows the country he has the tools to compete right away with the best in the country. Dresser seems to be standing by his policy from last year of redshirting his high end talent to give them a chance to maximize their development in the room. As long as Straw is able to ignore that talk and focus on his own wrestling, the Cyclones should have a more than capable starter at this weight.

Looking at this weight in conference, we mentioned Straw begins the season as the preseason #2 behind Oklahoma State’s Andrew Shomers. Appalachian State transfer Laken Cook makes things a bit more interesting now that he joins South Dakota State and Straw split his season series with Oklahoma’s Justin Thomas. The expectation for Straw will be making his first appearance at the national tournament this season.

165
Lineup Skyler St. John (Sr)
Battle Brady Jennings (Jr)
Redshirting Grand Stotts (Fr)

This was an interesting weight for Iowa State to sort out last season, but it ended with Skyler St. John winning a wrestle off over Brady Jennings to earn the postseason nod. St. John ended his season by going 1-2 at the Big 12 tournament and based on how even St. John and Jennings were last year, had Jennings gone we would have likely seen a similar result.

To start the year it sounds as though St. John is coming back from an injury, which means Jennings will have the first chance to show the staff why he deserves the starting spot. To Jennings’ credit he notched probably the team’s biggest win at this weight last year, when he defeated NDSU’s Andrew Fogarty in the teams’ dual.

Whichever wrestler emerges for the Cyclones will have a tough hill to climb, as this looks to be a very strong weight in the conference. It will be led by Oklahoma State’s Joe Smith and UNI’s Bryce Steiert, a pair of top ten wrestlers and the next group featuring Fogarty and Wyoming’s Branson Ashworth.

One wrestler to keep an eye on at this weight is Valley-WDM product Grant Stotts, who will redshirt this season, but could be ready to challenge for this weight’s starting spot by next season.

174
Starter Marcus Coleman (RFr)
Depth Hank Swalla (Jr)
Redshirting Anthony Sherry (Fr)
Redshirting Logan Schumacher (Fr)

Similar to 133 pounds, Cyclone fans will finally get their wish and will see local product Marcus Coleman step onto the mat and officially begin his career. Last season Coleman compiled a 24-2 record, with both of his losses coming to Taylor Lujan of UNI. He came into the program with some expectations as a top 100 recruit and so far he has looked the part, but cracking into the top of the conference will be no small task.

The top of the Big 12 is led by the aforementioned Lujan and Oklahoma State All-American Chandler Rodgers. Behind them is a pair of former NCAA qualifiers Kimball Bastian (Utah Valley) and Lorenzo De La Riva (NDSU). That second group is where Coleman will have the potential to break into and possibly lead depending on the conference’s other big name coming off of redshirt, Oklahmaa’s Anthony Mantanona. At one time Coleman and Mantanona were destined to be teammates, but after committing to Iowa State, Mantanona decided to visit Oklahoma which prompted former coach Kevin Jackson to rescind his scholarship offer.

Coleman should be in the position to qualify for the national tournament at the end of the year and perhaps win some matches. He might not be ready to achieve All-American status in his freshman season, but Coleman is definitely suited to help this program take a step forward.

Backing Coleman up will be a trio of fellow redshirt freshmen Mac Southard, DeMichael Franklin, and Tucker Morrison. The program also has a pair of talented Iowa preps that will redshirt Anthony Sherry and Logan Schumacher, the former being a top 100 recruit.

184
Lineup Danny Bush (Sr)
Battle Sammy Colbray (So)
Redshirting Tyler Buesgens (Fr)
Redshirting Joel Shapiro (Fr)

This weight got a whole lot more interesting this summer once we learned that Missouri All-American Willie Miklus would be joining the program. With the former Southeast Polk standout destined to come in and take over the 197-pound spot, it prompted last year’s starter Sammy Colbray to make the decision to cut down to 184 pounds. Likewise with Coleman coming off of redshirt at 174, it made sense for Danny Bush to bump back to 184 where he was a JUCO All-American. The result is now the Cyclones will have a pair of solid wrestlers looking to replace former NCAA qualifier Dane Pestano.

In addition to those two, Hank Swalla will serve as an additional challenger for this weight in the lineup after being Bush’s backup last season. Colbray is the perceived front runner of the group, but it will be interesting to see who emerges.

The Big 12 has a pair of former All-Americans at this weight with Oklahoma State’s Jacobe Smith the top dog followed by UNI’s Drew Foster. Oklahoma’s Kayne MacCallum and SDSU’s Martin Mueller make for a strong #3 and #4, which could be where we see Colbray slot into the conference pecking order.

The name to watch on redshirt is another Valley-WDM product, Joel Shapiro. Dresser jumped on Shapiro early and was rewarded with a wrestler who was ranked #1 at his individual weight by the end of the year. Shapiro came into his own a little bit later in his high school career, but has the makings of being a really good college wrestler.

197
Starter Willie Miklus (Sr)
Depth Kaden Sauer (RFr)
Redshirting Hunter DeJong (Fr)

Now we get to the aforementioned Miklus, who was obviously the biggest addition this offseason. After earning All-American honors in three seasons at Missouri Miklus will look to close out his career in Ames and possibly give Dresser his first Cyclone All-American. At preseason media day, Dresser commented that Miklus has already come in and took on a leadership role on the team, despite being on campus for just a short while. That’s a good thing for a team as young as Iowa State is, to have a veteran like Miklus who has so much experience on the college level, and he can also lead by example.

To this point Iowa State’s other weights are loaded with young wrestlers that have so far shown a lot of promise, but are lacking in experience and consistency. The Big 12 has no shortage of quality wrestlers – UNI’s Jacob Holschlag and Oklahoma State’s Preston Weigel, but Miklus is very capable of winning his conference and then challenging for one of the top spots in the country.

For depth Iowa State has junior Joe Teague, who has made several spot starts in his career, and redshirt freshman Kaden Sauer to backup Miklus. On redshirt will be Hunter DeJong a promising wrestler from Sibley-Ocheyedan.

285
Lineup Gannon Gremmel (So)
Battle Ethan Anderson (So)
Redshirting Francis Duggan (Fr)

We end our preview with a trio of heavyweights that have a similar story to many other weights, very promising wrestlers from the high school level ready to make an impact on the college scene. Judging from the media day interviews right now the in-house leader is Gannon Gremmel, who was the backup behind Marcus Harrington last season, over Oklahoma State transfer Ethan Andersen.

Gremmel compiled a 19-8 record last season and he could face an early season test at the Cyclone Open if he squares off with conference foe Carter Isley of UNI. Both wrestlers have a long history dating back to their high school days, but Gremmel has gotten the better of the Panther on the last couple occasions.

Likewise Andersen and Gremmel were also have history dating back to high school and he will be looking to take over the spot after making the move closer to home. He managed a 15-5 record in a shortened season while at Oklahoma State, but many are hoping that former Southeast Polk standout can recapture the success that made him a top 100 recruit in high school. At the very least Andersen’s presence will push Gremmel to remain sharp.

The last name to mention is true freshman Francis Duggan, who was a former Pennsylvania standout that competed his senior season at Iowa City West. There is no denying that Duggan has plenty of talent, but with both Gremmel and Andersen looking like quality options there should be no need for Dresser to rush Duggan into the lineup early on. Getting a year’s worth of development in the room will be a big benefit for Duggan, who will definitely challenge for starting time next season.

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