Cyclone Fanatic wrestling reporter Jacqueline Cordova sat down with head coach Kevin Dresser and assistant coach Brent Metcalf to discuss their assessment of the season so far.
Q: What have you been able to see out of Alex Mackall and the way he’s grown to be much more explosive on the mat?
Dresser: I challenge him that he needs to be more ready mentally and be more of a fighter. Mackall is a guy that we need to smack in the face. When he gets a little pissed off he’s a little better so we’re going to have to smack him around a lot.
Metcalf: I think the biggest thing for Mackall is his mind, his attitude and belief in himself and offense. You’ll see moments of it when there’s a close match and all of a sudden he’ll rip it wide open. Ya know, it’s like the minute things start going for him and the moment he starts believing in himself then the real Mackall gets turned on. For me, we’re seeing more of that and earlier in the match when he’s stepping out there and believing he’s the best guy in the country. It translates. Sometimes a guy really does just need to believe in himself and his offense and I think he’s one of those guys.
Q: In what ways has Todd Small embraced being the guy at 133 pounds?
Dresser: Small came in (this year) very disciplined. I had never seen that out of him his first year. He was very diligent about his weight, he got himself in really good shape and won a lot of runs. I could tell he was very serious about making the team. To come in and want to be the 133 pounder — that would’ve been a heck of wrestle-off. He’s had to make some adjustments in D1 wrestling like the speed and aggressiveness of it and just being in guys faces more but he’s super athletic now.
Q: How has Austin Gomez embraced his new role since realizing he was out for the season?
Metcalf: I think from a coaches point of view he’s handled it as best as he could as far as being a good teammate and being apart of the process of getting Small to where he is. Maybe, it gets to the point that it’s just not in the cards this year and realizing and embracing that and asking ‘what role will I fit to help this team?’. I think it might’ve taken him a little bit to find that coaching role but he’s really started to fit where he’s needed. There’s a reason why we bring him on road trips. He’s vital, he’s important and he’s a leader. He’s apart of Small’s process.
Q: What has it been like to have David Carr finally crack the line-up and in what ways has he developed now that he’s actually going live?
Dresser: I think he’s learning that life on the road is hard, making weight a couple of times was a struggle for him in January. He’s learning that folk-style wrestling is a lot different from freestyle wrestling.
David’s a professional and I think what’s unique about David, other than being super good, he’s a super upbeat and positive guy. He’s a really good teammate. He’s goofy. You’ll rarely not see a smile on his face. He brings high energy to the team. That’s something we can always use.
Metcalf: What has happened with him throughout the season is what I had hoped would happen. That he would hit some rough spots and hit some challenges. By hope, I mean that because I know that no matter how talented you are or who you are, pick some of the greatest wrestlers, they needed to go through those rough spots. It’s going to be tough to win a national title. Things are going to go against you like bad calls, you’re not going to feel good or just somethings going to happen. I think we faced that in Vegas. To me, if he was undefeated right now we wouldn’t have done him justice as a coaching staff. We wouldn’t be giving him enough competition and that’s a compliment to him. He’s going to continue to grow and there’s a lot of time left. If he’s believing in himself he can be at the top of the podium come March.
Q: What is it about Chase Straw that is holding him back?
Dresser: I’ll make the same prediction that I made at this time last year — you’re going to see the best Chase Straw in February and March.
Metcalf: I think a lot of it is, this might sound weird, just some guys know how to win and some guys know how to just screw it up and lose. He’s trying his hardest and working his butt off, putting 100 percent effort in but sometimes he just makes a lot of mistakes. Early in the season, he got taken down with a second to go. I think that’s what his “flaw” is if you want to call it that. He’s found ways to lose matches instead of winning them early in the season. But what he showed us last year is that he has the ability to narrow that focus on one thing and one thing only. I hope he can do that this year because he really is wrestling his best and for being up a weight class he’s fit in well. I’d love for him to go on another tear and see where we finish come March. I think it’s all in his head.
Q: What has shifting Marcus Coleman up a weight done for him?
Dresser: Marcus was really struggling to make 174 the first semester to the point he got mono. Coleman is one of our best weight cutters if there’s such a thing but it took a toll on him.
There’s two Marcus Coleman’s out there: the one guy who goes out there and lets it fly and can go with anyone at 184 and then there’s the shy, timid and scared “I don’t know where the hell he came from” Marcus Coleman. His issues are just between his ears. It’s waking up every morning believing he can do it. South Dakota State was the first time I got on him and I think it made an impact. I really feel like we have some really good performances coming.
Q: In what ways has Joel Shapiro developed since taking the starting spot at 197 pounds?
Dresser: He really has to work to be a 197 pounder. He’s not only given up experience and size but he’s super coach-able. We’re going to see some really good times from Shapiro before he’s done.
Metcalf: You’re talking about a kid that went out there, he’s come up quite a few weight classes from where he was a year ago, and he’s had some really tough guys ahead of him. He’s taken some dumping but gone out and beat a ranked guy. That wasn’t an accident, he didn’t catch that guy. That was his wrestling skills. If he can continue to have that attitude and fight he’s going to be just fine. It’s just sometimes we’re in over our head a little bit. Every day when we come back from a trip he’s ready to go to work and he’s open-minded, open-eyed and open-eared.
Q: How have you seen Gannon Gremmel really separate himself this season?
Metcalf: His biggest asset is that he think he’s awesome. That’s a great thing. I had teammates who were like that. They believed in themselves so much. It’s important to me he continues to have that. I mean that as a compliment. Again, when you’re not feeling the best or circumstances aren’t the best, we have to focus on ourselves and our training and know that no matter how we feel or scenario that you’re still the same badass that you were a week ago in the wrestling room with the swagger and the toughness. We saw that at the Scuffle.
Q: What is it about these guys that they’ve seemed to be really struggling to fix those small details and stay consistent in their training outside of the room?
Metcalf: At the end of the day the way we want it done is going to be a little harder. Whether it’s more work and less food or both which is more food and more work. It’s hard getting a guy to do that. When they know the other side like, ‘Hey if I take this shortcut where I don’t eat for two days or I do this in a really hot room the weight will fall right off.’ It’s one thing to tell them and then telling them and they do it. It’s all a part of the process. They’re all coming along though.
Q: Give the people on the forums what they want and let’s talk about recruiting. What has it been like this season? How do the wins and losses feel?
Dresser: Recruiting has been tough. The good news is that we’ve been in the thick of it with the top kids in the nation. The bad news is that I think we have gotten second with the top kids in the nation.
Some of it is distance. We’ve lost east coast kids and some of it is ‘we’re going to Penn State because they’ve won seven national championships and you haven’t’ or they’re picking Iowa because they’re No. 1 in the nation and their rooms been black and gold since they were two. We’re recruiting against Doug Schwab and Iowa. In the mid 70’s Dan Gable went to Iowa and turned it into a megastar program. Right now, it happens to be that Iowa is as good as it’s ever been. Look at Iowa State, we took over two and a half years ago and we inherited a really tough situation. I don’t think we had one kid in Iowa who was on scholarship. You don’t come in and erase 40 years of history and suddenly every blue-chip kid decides to come to Iowa. We have to grind it out.
My philosophy is if you don’t get a guy then guess what? Let’s go out and find a guy to beat that guy.
Metcalf: For us it’s been about how we’ve been just right there with some of the best guys in the country. It’s frustrating because you’re just so darn close to just feeling like crap to like ‘holy crap we’ve got the best class in the country’. A part of it is realizing it isn’t going to happen overnight. Last year, 16th was good but when you’re talking about the best kids in the country 16th is still too far down as far as the programs they want to be apart of. That’s on us, I don’t make excuses, to get these kids to sell them a dream and continue to grow our program.
Q: What advantages do you feel you have being a coach in Iowa and recruiting in Iowa.
Dresser: It’s wrestling country. When you talk to kids on the east coast and they get a chance to go to a big meet or see pictures they can’t believe how many people were there. Kids love wrestling in front of big crowds. Good wrestlers are show-offs. Show off in front of a live crowd of 11,000 people that’s attractive to some kids. Trust me, any kid who comes in on a recruiting visit I make sure they come to Hilton. It’s either the first or last place they go.
Metcalf: The excitement of wrestling in Iowa is that your fans are here. You have excitement for the sport of wrestling in a way you don’t find anywhere else in the country.