By Ian Smith, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
The core of the Iowa State wrestling team is a tight-knit unit. They share championship aspirations, an “all-in” attitude and even a house.
Jon Reader, Chris Drouin and Trent Weatherman feed off each other in practice and with each at home. The trio – along with 184-pounder, Jerome Ward – will carry a Cyclones team that hopes to surprise people this season.
“I’ve seen a few of the rankings,” Weatherman said. “I think people are underestimating what kind of skill level we have in here. With Coach (Kevin) Jackson, he can make guys perform. He’s one of the best coaches in the country, if not the best coach in the country, I believe.”
Experts don’t expect much from Iowa State this season, but quite frankly, the Cyclones don’t care what the experts think. Iowa State is ranked No. 28 by W.I.N. Magazine in its preseason poll. As Coach Kevin Jackson said, a program of the Cyclones’ stature doesn’t rebuild.
“I would call it a reloading year,” Jackson said. “We are the kind of program that has expectations to compete for a national championship every year. That hasn’t changed.”
Jon Reader basically has his calendar filled out through March. First, win gold at the FISU World University Championships in Italy at the end of October. When he returns home, the fifth-year senior will turn his attention toward helping Iowa State and claiming a national title.
“I’m on a mission to win a world championship,” Reader said. “That’s my first goal. We don’t get it twisted, we are trying to win a national title (too), but what’s in front of us right now is winning that world championship.”
Reader will drop to 163 pounds for the world championships, but he doesn’t think it will be a problem to regain the weight to wrestle at 174 pounds this season.
Last year, Reader finished 25-6 at 165, but he fell one victory short of his third All-American honor. The Davidson, Mich., native is using the disappointment as motivation.
“It’s hard for me to go back and think about,” Reader said. “I’m excited for this year. That’s behind me now. It’s motivated me. It’s got me more hungry.”
Maybe more valuable than his talents on the mat, Reader is Iowa State’s best leader. Jackson hopes his wrestlers pay attention.
“He leads by example on the mat, off the mat,” the second-year coach said. “He does it verbally and he does in physically in his preparation everyday to be the best that he possibly can be.”
Big expectations for Weatherman
Trent Weatherman is a messy roommate according to Drouin, but the guy is one heck of a wrestler. Last season, the redshirt freshman competed unattached and finished with a record of 24-3.
That’s not a bad start.
“I’m a supreme optimist,” Jackson said. “I think he can beat anybody in the country. I really do. We are going to have to find out. I think his strength, his physical ability, his mentality, and just his winning attitude and the things he’s accomplished in the past tell him how good he is.”
Only 20 years old, Weatherman is wisely looking to fifth-year seniors Reader and Chris Drouin for guidance. His roommates can show him everything from training techniques to lifestyle choices.
“They are obviously really good leaders,” Weatherman said. “They live the right life style on and off the mat. They are good role models for me. I kind of look up to those guys. Whatever those guys are doing, I figure I should be doing.”
Jackson believes the sky is the limit for Weatherman. No one on the Cyclones’ roster can stack up with upper-body skills.
“You can’t really match his physical attributes,” Jackson said. “He has some things a lot of wrestlers can’t do. He has some upper body skills that a lot of guys can’t deal with. He has a strength factor that’s really going to come into affect in his matches.”
Drouin eyes title
Chris Drouin has a single focus – winning a national title. It helps explain his move to Iowa State, where he says the team is centered on wrestling at all times. Without getting into particulars, Drouin said it wasn’t that way at his former school, Arizona State.
“It’s a little more focused on wrestling then the extra particulars of college,” Drouin said “Everybody seems to buy in. Everybody is all-in. That’s different than what I’m used to.”
At Arizona State, Drouin was an All-American, but it wasn’t enough. He wants to be a champion. Thanks to a prior relationship with Jackson, Drouin eyed Iowa State when he decided to transfer. Now, he thinks he can accomplish his ultimate goal.
“This is my last shot,” Drouin said. “This is my last run at the show. I won’t be happy unless I get (the national title). I’m not looking to step on the podium, I already did that and it was nice. But standing on the top is what will ultimately make me happy with my college career.”
If his work ethic is any indication, Drouin could be there at the end of the season. Jackson called him one of the hardest workers on the team.
“He’s been a joy to watch train with our guys,” Jackson said. “I really think he’s going to be in the hunt for a national championship.”
– There are battles at every weight class at Iowa State except for 174, 141 and 157. One competition to watch is at 165-pounds where Chris Spangler – who started at 157 last year – will square off with Andrew Sorenson. The decision on who to go with is simple for Jackson – whoever wins will get the nod.
“Andrew has to be beat Spangler,” Jackson said. “He has to beat Spangler. Chris is not going to concede that spot. They are two very competitive young men.”
– Andrew Long is not with the Iowa State wrestling team. Long was dismissed last offseason and Jackson said he is not close to returning. The sophomore is still training, Jackson said, but that’s only because Iowa State serves as a regional training site and since Long is a student, he can work out.
– Ryak Finch will redshirt this season. Jackson called him the future for the Cyclones at 125.
– Kyven Gadson is going to be a good one for Iowa State. Jackson isn’t sure if he’ll redshirt or not, but Gadson will be a fixture in the lineup for year’s to come.
“This kid is special,” Jackson said. “This Kyven Gadson is going to be something to watch when he puts on a cardinal and gold singlet. Athletically, he’s the best athlete I have on the team, hands down.”
125 – Patrick Hunter (RSo.), or Trevor Dearden (RSo.), or Brandon Jones (Fr.)
133 – Ben Cash (RFr.)
141 – Chris Drouin (RSr.)
149 – Nate Carr, Jr. (RSr.), or Max Mayfield (RSo.)
157 – Trent Weatherman (RFr.)
165 – Andrew Sorenson (RJr.), or Chris Spangler (RSo.)
174 – Jon Reader (RSr.)
184 – Cole Shafer (RFr.), or Kyven Gadson (Fr.), or Matt Riley (Fr.)
197 – Jerome Ward (RJr.), or Phil Hawes (RSo.)
HWT – Kyle Simonson (RJr.), or Matt Gibson (RSo.)