AMES — If you ain’t at least a little injured, you ain’t really trying.
It’s that time of the season for college wrestlers, where major and minor dings to the body ride shotgun with the quest for major decisions, tech falls and pins.
Iowa State’s fourth-ranked 165-pounder Mike Moreno’s a veteran of that full-throttle grind. He’ll wrestle the remainder of the season with an undisclosed lower body injury — a malady he’ll take to the mat against top-ranked Alex Dieringer when the No. 8 Cyclones tangle with No. 7 Oklahoma State at 2 p.m. Sunday in Hilton Coliseum.
“I don’t think anybody competes at 100 percent, especially this late in the season,” said Moreno, a two-time all-American ranked fourth at his weight by InterMat. “I don’t think I’m going to be at 100 percent probably for the rest of the year, but that shouldn’t give any of my opponents hope or anything because I’m used to wrestling like that. I wrestled the entire last half of the season with a torn labrum last year. I wrestled with sprains, tears — it just doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if anything, it just strengthens the other aspect of wrestling and that’s the mental aspect.”
Moreno (16-1/7-0 in duals) and fellow senior and two-time all-American Kyven Gadson (No. 3 at 197, 17-1/7-0) have proven to be sharp in all aspects for the Cyclones, who seek to end a seven-match skid against the Cowboys.
ISU’s last win against Oklahoma State — a tense 20-18 triumph — came in 2010.
“They’ve had a stronghold on the (Big 12) since my first year, basically,” Cyclone coach Kevin Jackson said.
Moreno’s first career scrap with Dieringer shapes up to be one of several swing matches in Sunday’s dual. Others that Cyclone coach Kevin Jackson identified: at 141 (John Meeks or Dante Rodriguez vs. No. 18 Dean Heil); 157 (Luke Goettl vs. Anthony Collica); 184 (No. 17 Lelund Weatherspoon vs. No. 15 Nolan Boyd).
“Boyd’s having a great season and he’s got great leg attacks,” Jackson said. “Sometimes Lelund is susceptible to leaving his legs open.”
There’s history here, too. Weatherspoon lost, 11-9, in sudden victory to Boyd in last season’s dual, but came back to pull off an NCAA Championships bid-sealing win, 4-3, at the Big 12 meet.
“Looking back at it now and both big 12s and the regular season loss, I’m still mad about it,” said Weatherspoon, who is 12-2 this season. “I lost. you can’t be happy about it. So I’m still angry about it.”
Jackson said Weatherspoon will have to get to his offense early to have a chance to knock Boyd off again.
“He’s got to score,” Jackson said. “He’s got to dominate the match from start to finish, from the tie up, to the top to the bottom. He’s got to be a little more solid in all phases.”
The same goes for all of the Cyclones, including No. 6 133-pounder Earl Hall (19-4) and No. 10 174-pounder Tanner Weatherman (17-5).
“We’re confident,” Weatherspoon said. “It’s a big opportunity for us.”
Especially for Moreno, who said being dinged up won’t diminish his proclivity to shoot against Dieringer — last season’s NCAA champ at 157.
“The guys that have the most success are the guys who don’t get too over-anxious to go beat a top guy,” Moreno said. “You’ve just got to stay in good position and bring the fight to him — the hand fight. Don’t get overzealous or anything. Just try to wrestle the smartest match you can, because he stays in great position. He’s a big strong kid and he’ll make you pay for those mistakes.”