By Ben Crawford, CF Wrestling Blogger
Here’s a look at my Iowa State wrestling All-Decade lineup.
125 – Grant Nakamura – Iowa State has not had an All-American at 125 pounds in the past decade. Nakamura’s career was cut short because of injuries, otherwise I believe he would have been standing on the podium at Nationals. Nakamura had 44 career victories as a Cyclone, was a three-time national tournament qualifier, and was runner-up at the 2004 Midlands Championships. Nakamura also recorded a critical fall against Iowa in 2004, leading the Cyclones to their first victory over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City since 1977.
133 – Zach Roberson – Finished his Cyclone wrestling career with 106 victories, won the Midlands title in 2003, was a three-time All-American, and was the 133 pound national champion as a senior, in 2004. He was also the Iowa State Male Athlete of the Year in 2004.
141 – Nate Gallick – Also finished his Cyclone wrestling career with 106 victories, was a three-time Big 12 champion and three-time All-American – including two NCAA finals appearances, winning the 141-pound national title as a senior, in 2006. Gallick was also selected as the ISU Male Athlete of the Year in 2006.
149 – Billy Maldonado – Maldonado was the only 149-pound All-American for the Cyclones in the past decade, placing sixth as a senior, in 2002.
157 – Trent Paulson – Trent had 116 career wins as a Cyclone, was Midlands champion in 2003, was a three-time All-American, and capped his ISU career with the 157-pound national title as a senior, in 2007. Paulson was selected as the ISU Male Athlete of the Year in 2007.
165 – Joe Heskett – Joe was a freak at 165, having one of the most outstanding careers as a Cyclone wrestler, only to be slightly over-shadowed by fellow teammate Cael Sanderson. Third on the all-time career wins list with 143, three-time Big 12 champion, four-time All-American, including three trips to the finals, before finally winning the 165-pound national title as a senior in 2002.
174 – Nick Passolano – The 174-pound weight class is another weight where the Cyclones are lacking an All-American in the past decade. Passolano wrestled this weight class his freshman and senior years, reaching the NCAA tournament both times. Fans may also remember Passolano for securing the win over Iowa the 2003 dual in Ames, to end the longstanding drought against the Hawks.
184 – Cael Sanderson – You know the story. 159-0. Four-time Big 12 champion. Four-time Midlands champion. Four-time national champion and NCAA Outstanding Wrestler. Three-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner. He won an ESPY, visited the White House, was on the Wheaties box, and Sports Illustrated named his accomplishments the second greatest in college sports history. Oh yeah, he was also named ISU Male Athlete of the Year three times.
197 – Jake Varner – Jake has already had a very impressive ISU wrestling career coming into his senior season. He is nearing the 100 win mark, is a three-time NCAA tournament finalist, and won his first national title at 197-pounds last year. He is the favorite to win a second at this year’s tournament in Omaha. Varner was also the ISU Male Athlete of the Year in 2009.
HWT – David Zabriskie – Dave is coming into his senior campaign also closing in on 100 victories and has been a solid heavyweight for the Cyclones during his career. He is a two-time Big 12 champion and two-time All-American. He is currently ranked fifth in the nation.
Best Dual Performance – Beating Iowa at Hilton in 2003 for the first time in however many years, or winning the National Duals title in 2006. Both would be fitting.
Best Individual Tournament Performance – (outside of Cael Sanderson of course) Aaron Holker’s 2002 NCAA 141 pound championship run. He was seeded 5th in the tournament but was more than a long shot to make the finals, and he ended up winning the title in dominating fashion. Best Tournament Performance – National Tournament in Albany, N.Y. in 2002. Iowa State placed second as a team when the team was only expected to place around fifth, and had three national champions for the first time since the 1987 national championship team.
Outstanding Wrestler of the Decade – Duh.