Photo courtesy of Iowa State athletics communications.
AMES — Markus Simmons is ready to go at 133-pounds.
“I’m glad I get another chance to go out there and prove to myself, to the fans and everyone else that I should be there in that spot wrestling,” said Simmons. “It’s a great opportunity for myself.”
Simmons is slotted to get two starts this weekend for the Cyclones, on Friday night vs. Fresno State and on Saturday at UNI.
Kevin Dresser’s staff has not been shy in expressing its concerns with Simmons’ inconsistent performances and struggles with weight leading up to this moment.
“My weight has been a problem in the past,” said Simmons. “I’m trying to stay on it and my coaches are helping me and just like Coach Dresser said. ‘Buy all in’ and listen to what they’re saying. They’re not going to steer me in the wrong path.”
Assistant coach Derek St. John has been the guy helping Simmons shape-up.
“Markus is a guy who has a ton of potential,” said Dresser. “He’s a guy that Derek St. John is going to take under his wing and Derek St. John has a tough wing.”
St. John has a remarkable collegiate resume. He is one of the most decorated Iowa Hawkeyes of all-time with an overall record of 106-17. That success followed him into coaching, something that only fueled the decision for St. John work closer with Simmons.
“If Markus Simmons follows Derek St. John to a T, he’s going to be a guy who’s really, really solid by the end of the year,” said Dresser.
A normal day for these two features work in the wrestling room in the mornings, cardio, weight lifting and strategy sessions.
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach St. John. Not only from my weight but to wrestling,” said Simmons. “Single legs, finishing and I’ve been told I’m too straight forward. He’s working with me on how to move the wrestlers and how to get better angles and shots.”
St. John explains it as taking more than just focusing on strategy to help Simmons truly thrive. What happens beyond the mat is the key.
“We’re just trying to get the whole package,” St. John said. “You can’t just be a great wrestler, you have to be able to do the academics, the social life, the weight cut and all that together.”
St. John and Simmons are complete opposites as people. From where they grew up to the type of music they listen to but something just clicked when working together. It’s been a challenge, but the most enjoyable thing for St. John has been about building a strong relationship.
Building trust is a process and St. John is learning to trust that when Simmons leaves for the day, he will do what he says he will and be able to execute it. St. John acknowledges Simmons, too, has to learn to trust him.
“What that guy lacks is not athletic ability,” said Dresser. “He just lacks discipline and I’m not throwing him under the bus, he knows it. He’s going to find out just what discipline is and that’s not in a mean way.”
The coaches have been persistent in explaining that at the end of the day there really is only so much they can do on their end before the wrestlers start meeting them halfway in their efforts.
The season is coming to an end and there are very few duals left for Simmons to leave a mark.
“I have an unbelievable belief in his ability,” said St. John. “I truly believe he could be an NCAA national champ. Now, does that mean this year or next year? I can’t tell you that. That’s up to him to decide.”