AMES — The Cyclones’ usual starters set the stage for an upset of No. 5 Virginia Tech.
Redshirt junior heavyweight Joe Scanlan sealed the surge — simply by staying off his back.
“He knew what the team needed to win the dual,” ISU wrestling coach Kevin Jackson said of the scrappy Scanlan.
Scanlan lost, 10-3, to the nation’s No. 3 heavyweight, Ty Walz, but after that defeat the Cyclones found themselves celebrating a significant Virginia Duals title.
It’s that type of effort in an on-paper mismatch — with ISU’s top heavyweight, Quean Smith, off the mat because of an allergic reaction — that has the Cyclones feeling strong and energized entering Friday’s dual at Arizona State.
Scanlan, from Johnston, is unlikely to ever beat out Smith for ISU’s top heavyweight spot, but he battled against a national champion level contender until the end.
“It was a gutsy performance by Joe,” said ISU 165-pound wrestler Tanner Weatherman, who earned “Outstanding Wrestler” honors at the prestigious event. “He was disappointed that he lost because no one wants to go out and lose, but to keep it within range against one of the nation’s best was a great way to end the dual.”
It also capped an astonishing and sorely needed reversal. ISU opened the season with a 32-3 loss to the very same Hokies.
Well, maybe not exactly the same. At least two of Tech’s best wrestlers, No. 4 157-pounder Nick Brascetta and No. 4 174-pounder Zach Epperly, missed the dual, but most teams are without key contributors at certain points of the season because of injury and/or illness.
“We didn’t have Gabe Moreno at 149 or Marcus Harrington at 197, who are both starters for us, against the Hokies the first time we faced them,” Weatherman noted. “So for people to discredit our win over a top-five team in Virginia Tech is disrespectful to us.”
Weatherman sees the team success achieved at the Virginia Duals as an outgrowth of team chemistry that developed during break.
“Basically you got 15-20 guys, who are either starters or near starters, for three weeks during break and for those three weeks you are able to build off one another,” Weatherman said.
Weatherman and the rest of the Cyclones (7-2) look to build off that success in Tempe.
The Sun Devils also competed at the Virginia Duals.
Arizona State won its pool, which included defeating a very good Old Dominion team. After advancing, the Sun Devils would go on to lose to Virginia Tech and Chattanooga to finish fourth at the event.
Still, Jackson doesn’t feel the Cyclones will be favored on Friday.
“When looking at the matchups, Arizona State is probably favored in five of the matches against us,” Jackson said.
So call it a toss-up on paper, but as Scanlan showed, grit and tenacity can flip a script quickly.
Iowa State’s common events with Arizona State present a mixed bag when comparing the two squads.
At the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, the Cyclones finished tied for 19th while the Sun Devils finished two spots higher. Then at the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill., Iowa State finished No. 6 and Arizona State finished No. 17.
The two teams also share another common dual opponent in Boise State. The Cyclones defeated the Broncos, while the Sun Devils lost to them.
“If we compete the way we did at the Virginia Duals and even at the Midlands, good things will happen when we take on Arizona State,” Weatherman said.