Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletic Communications
AMES — Trust. Consistency. Toughness.
Those are the three staple words that Kevin Dresser has for his team entering his second season as Iowa State’s head coach.
— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) October 24, 2018
A year ago, Dresser addressed his first media day by emphasizing patience and hard work. There was a long road feel going into the Iowa State wrestling rebuild.
What a year it was … Dresser’s inaugural Iowa State team finished 8-10 – a vast improvement from the group that won only one dual the season before. He fired an assistant coach, several wrestlers left the program and here we are entering year two with a deeper roster full of young talent.
This time around, things feel different.
“I’ll tell you what, we’re real excited right now,” said Dresser. “I think this team can could really be good by the end of the year. I don’t think we’re probably ready to be great yet but I really feel like if we progress we can really make something of ourselves and make some noise by the end of the year.”
A hopeful look at the roster
Last season it was no secret that there was a lot questions and a lot of holes in the line-up. Nobody on staff was positive what to expect and by the end of the season, there were still more questions than answers.
“If you don’t want to rock and roll then stay home with grandma,” was a memorable Dresser quote following a tough 24-14 loss to Wyoming.
It’s commonplace for Dresser to let the world know he isn’t interested in wasting his time on guys who aren’t prepared to give it there all.
“When you’re trying to build something and you’re adding layers in there and when you’ve got guys on board right away and doing the right things right away that helps us as a whole move in the right direction,” said assistant coach Brent Metcalf.
So far, every weight class with the exception of 133-pounds (redshirt freshman Austin Gomez) have at least three men on the depth chart. Three weight classes alone have as many as six. Last season, the most depth a weight class had was four.
Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration of some redshirts like freshman David Carr, who Dresser is 98 percent sure will be redshirting. Then there are others coming off injuries like senior Skyler St. John (bad knee) but still, this is a big improvement in regards to where the team stands today compared to a year ago competitively.
“A 20-year-old David Carr as a freshman will be a lot better than a 19-year-old David Carr as a freshman,” said head coach Kevin Dresser on whether or not to redshirt. #CFTV pic.twitter.com/pbUdNgfjpT
— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) October 23, 2018
“We’ve got some guys that are excited. We’ve got a line-up that I think the Iowa State fan base is going to get excited about,” said Dresser. “You always knew when to go to the bathroom during duals. Hopefully this year, we keep them all in Hilton and where they need to be.”
“We are in such a better place mentally,” said junior Jakob Allison (125) who had his season cut short when breaking his hand last year. “We’re excited.”
It’s hard to hit the mat competitively and find success when it doesn’t begin in your practice room. The difference in mentality this new season is very different.
“It’s kind of night and day different,” said assistant coach Derek St. John. “Last year nobody really knew what to expect and now there’s some guidelines where everybody knows what to expect and where to be, when to be there and what the expectation is when you are there.”
Returning redshirt sophomore Sam Colbray (184) shares he’s very excited for this new season.
“Feeling pretty good, compared to seasons in the past it’s really structured and we have a really good team and coaching staff around us,” said Colbray. “Everybody knows what they need to do; push yourself, push your teammates, hold yourself to a higher standard, everyday when we come in here to compete it’s give everything you have and when we invest it’ll pay out.”
The questions to ask
There is little doubt that Dresser’s program is heading in the right direction.
But will the consistency that didn’t show up last year make an appearance in 2018-19?
Can the coaching staff, Brady Jennings and a healthy Skyler St. John show the competition that 165-pounds isn’t what looks like the weakest weight class on the roster?
“Those two will battle it out when it gets down to the nitty-gritty. You know, both of them have made a lot of improvement,” said Dresser. “People that don’t know anything about Iowa State will look at it and say that’s our weak weight, but I think those two guys are going to have something to say about that. I’m going to challenge them and put that chip on their shoulder so they can show everybody that’s not the case.
If you thought last season’s team was young with a total of 14 redshirt/true freshman, this year’s roster consists of 15 true freshman and 10 redshirt freshman.
This can bring the issue of maturity with some guys coming in to wrestle their first time at this level. There is a lot to prove not just for the new guys but for the team as a whole after falling short more often than not last season.
“I like to see how guys compete, and they’re going to get to compete in a couple of opens, so I got all kinds of wrestle-off opportunities here with real refs and real competitive situations,” said Dresser.
And so the rebuilding process continues.