Iowa State wrestling is reaching a halfway point in its season following a weekend dual victory over Oregon State. Up next is a trip to the Virginia Dual’s this weekend, where Iowa State will face Virginia and Arizona State.
A lot of hype surrounded Iowa State wrestling during the offesesaon with the hiring of Kevin Dresser, who took over a program that went 1-12 overall last year.
With every rebuilding process comes different challenges and Dresser wasn’t shy about that when we sat down to discuss year one at the halfway point.
A new era
“Establishing a new and ‘our’ culture is always a challenge when you start somewhere fresh,” said Dresser. “It’s a different mentality. It’s a different way of doing things for your athletes. Getting them to fall into place has been the biggest challenge.”
Iowa State has a total of eight upperclassman on the current roster. As expected, some have brought some old habits with them on the mat, which has led to losses.
“Obviously the guys that have been the least challenging have been the true freshmen, the first year guys because they didn’t have any expectations and everybody else had expectations and that’s where the challenge has been,” Dresser said.
With challenges comes a reward. With only one win under his belt, Cyclone Nation has been consistently supportive so far in Dresser’s first few duals to start the season.
Dresser named the support from fans and the administration the most rewarding area so far during his tenure at Iowa State.
“It’s very obvious especially after winning a match finally that they’re dying for a product and they’re dying to get up and scream and yell and cheer and go crazy,” Dresser said. “That’s exciting.”
Dresser grew up in Iowa and can still recall what Iowa State was like when he was a kid and when he competed in the state. The biggest difference he can make is the crowd size from then to now.
“In the 70’s and 80’s this place was buzzing and I know we can get back to that,” said Dresser.
Dresser’s attempt at a culture change began in the offseason with open outdoor practices, the curtain removal, post-dual socials and a growing social media presence. Dresser especially takes pride in efforts to keep the community involved.
“Everybody’s pretty patient right now because they know what we inherited,” Dresser said. “They’re probably not going to be as patient next year or the following years but we aren’t either and I hope our guys aren’t either. It’s definitely an energized fan base.”
Trust the ‘wrestling’ process
“We were blessed to come in this year,” said Dresser. “It’s going to be fun to watch Iowa State progress in everything and hopefully we’re right along with it.”
Instead of having specific numbers in mind or specific placings in sight, the hope is just to make progress.
“That’s kind of a boring answer but it is, it’s progress right now,” said Dresser. “Seeing guys finish matches better and seeing guys compete better. If you don’t focus on just winning and losing I think you’re better.”
Dresser said the most realistic goal they have right now is getting as many guys as they can to the NCAA Tournament, ideally six or seven guys.
“We want to finish strong and what does strong mean? We have a bunch of guys capable of making it to the NCAA Tournament,” said Dresser. “Now if you look at what we’ve done so far, that’s really a stretch.”
Dresser’s biggest commitment is kicking the bad habits that keep landing them with loses and giving the crowd what they want.
“When you win, more people show up,” Dresser said. “The more we win, the more fun it’s going to be.”