AMES — Championship season is finally here.
Iowa State is one of eight schools in the nation that is taking nine or more wrestlers to the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Pittsburgh, Penn. this week.
“I think taking nine is a good number,” head coach Kevin Dresser said.
After an impressive overall second place finish at the Big 12 Championships, the Cyclones are seeing some payout to the rebuild of Iowa State.
So what is to come for the Cardinal and Gold this weekend in the most important moment of the entire season?
A weight by weight breakdown:
125 pounds: No. 19 Alex Mackall v. No. 14 Sean Fausz (NCST)
His first round match was originally supposed to be against Central Michigan’s Drew Hildebrant. It has now turned into a contest against Fausz, who ended his season 11-2. It’s a tough match-up for ISU with Fausz, a redshirt senior, being on his fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament. Fausz also had a second place finish at the ACC Championships this season.
The tough thing is if Mackall comes out alive against Fausz, his second round matchup would likely be against Iowa’s Spencer Lee, who is a heavy favorite to win the weight class. Lee beat Mackall 13-4 earlier in the season.
133: No. 13 Austin Gomez v. No. 20 Brandon Paetzell (Lehigh)
In his first round matchup, Gomez will be taking Paetzell, who had an overall finish of 15-11. In the 2017-18 season, Paetzell decided to defer eligibility and wrestled unattached. What makes this placement in the bracket interesting is if Gomez makes it out of the first round he will most likely be facing Mickey Phillipi (Pitt). Phillipi is the only guy to give Dayton Fix his one loss in his 30-1 overall record. Fix is a heavy favorite to make it to the finals.
141: No. 17 Ian Parker v. No. 16 Chad Red (Nebraska)
In his first match, Parker will face off against Nebraska’s Red. The sophomore for the Huskers finished the regular season 18-11. Red finished runner-up at the Big 10 Championships and is on his second trip to the NCAA Tournament. Parker is looking at a tough first round but not an impossible one. If he makes it out of the first round, Parker will likely face even tougher opponent, the No. 1 seed and defending NCAA champion: Yianni Diakomaihalis.
149: No. 8 Jarrett Degen v. No. 25 Russell Rohlfing (CSU-Barker)
Degen was ISU’s lone qualifier last year so this won’t be his first time at the tournament. Excitement is heavy as Degen is able to compete alongside majority of his team this season.
This won’t be the first time Degen and Rohling meet, an advantage for Degen. Degen will have an interesting first match as he faces a guy who is similar in a tall, lanky build. Degen’s maturity is key in finding success this weekend as he discusses what things he needs to focus on to become an All-American and hopefully finish at the podium.
157: No. 23 Chase Straw v. No. 10 Steve Bleise (Minnesota)
In his first matchup, the Big 12 Champion will go up against the Gopher’s Bleise, who finished the season 18-7. The redshirt senior made it to the semifinals at the Big 10 Championships, ultimately finishing sixth.
With one allocation for the Big 12, Straw had zero room for mistakes to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. How can Straw use that to find success moving forward?
“Stay with the routine,” Straw said.
174: No. 21 Marcus Coleman v. No. 12 Matt Finesilver (Duke)
In his first matchup, Coleman will go against Finesilver once again after falling to him 10-2 at the Scuffle. Finesilver got runner-up at the ACC Championships and has a 24-7 record. Finesilver is on his second trip to the NCAA Tournament and Coleman will have to pull an upset to make it out of the first round.
Dresser has been vocal about the redshirt freshman making mistakes he should have known better about. Is the upset impossible? No.
184: No. 1o Sam Colbray v. No. 23 Jackson Hemauer (Fresno State)
Colbray has been on a steady incline all season. With a runner-up finish at Big 12’s, the redshirt sophomore has a winnable first round.
Colbray beat Hemauer 8-7 in a dual match earlier this year.
If he makes it out of that first round, he’s probably looking at a match against NCST’s No. 7 Nick Reenan.
197: No. 6 Willie Miklus v. No. 27 Josh Roetman (Navy)
The phrase, “this isn’t his first rodeo” is definitely fitting for 25-year old senior, Miklus.
Miklus is looking to end his career a national champion and a fourth All-American finish.
When Miklus first transferred, Dresser made it clear they were here to help the redshirt senior achieve that goal.
285: No. 25 Gannon Gremmel v. No. 8 Demetrius Thomas (PITT)
*Update* No. 23 Jake Gunning (BUFF) withdrew yesterday from the tournament. This then led to a redraw of the bracket and Gremmel became the No. 25 seed. This did however change his opponent from Wisconsin’s Trent Hillger to Pittsburgh’s Demetrius Thomas.
Unfortunately for Gremmel, his original opponent was a guy he had wrestled before and beat. Now, his first round is a little tougher. Thomas went 26-4 and was the ACC’s heavyweight champion. Gremmel will need to really step it up in this match otherwise Thomas will out-strengthen him.
Gremmel finished fifth to clinch his way to the tournament. He has been focusing on cutting weight and building muscle this season. The biggest key for Gremmel fighting his way through the bracket is staying strong in his offense.
“I think Gannon’s made progress all year long. We have to work on his strength in the off-season to get him stronger,” Dresser said following the Big 12 Championship. “He came off from shoulder surgery a year ago plus never really got in the weight room the right way. He didn’t have enough focus in the weight room to get big and strong in the off-season like we needed him to. So, this year, this off-season will be big for him. It’s hard to get strength after one week. He’s competed really hard and he’s been super coachable. Even in the matches he lost, he was a try hard. I like try hard guys.”