Men's Sports

Five thoughts heading into the Big 12 Wrestling Championships

Photo Courtesy of Jacqueline Cordova/Cyclone Fanatic

The postseason has officially arrived and the Cyclones are all set to compete in the Big 12 Championships this weekend in Tulsa.

There is a lot on the line for Kevin Dresser and his team as they are in contention to win a team title and earn Iowa State its second four-time Big 12 champion in David Carr.

Here are five thoughts heading into Tulsa.

1 – Iowa State once again cursed with several first-round byes

This is not the first year the Cyclones see themselves get more than a generous amount of first-round byes in the Big 12 Championships which isn’t what you’re hoping to get as a team.

The reason behind this is that it will put Iowa State at a disadvantage in the team race. The first round is where wrestlers will find their highest chances to score bonus points for their teams early which only gives them an advantage in the overall team race. Iowa State has six byes.

The Cyclones’ biggest competition in the team race is Missouri. They were given eight first-round matches. That means you will likely see Missouri lead right off the bat and Iowa State will most likely trail by a good margin as they wrestle their way through the tournament.

Although you can count on guys like David Carr, Marcus Coleman, and Yonger Bastida to have high-scoring matches, Dresser is going to need those lower weights to step up and surprise a few opponents along the way to better their chances at winning a team title.

Here’s a look at first-round matches for the Cyclones:

Corey Cabanban vs. No. 4 Stevo Poulin (UNC)
133: No. 3 Zach Redding received a bye
Casey Swiderski vs. No. 5 Clay Carlson (SDSU)
149: No. 3 Paniro Johnson received a bye
157: No. 7 Jason Kraisser received a bye
165: No. 1 David Carr received a bye

174: Julien Broderson vs. No. 1 Peyton Mocco (MIZ)
184: No. 2 Marcus Coleman received a bye
197: No. 3 Yonger Bastida vs. Tyce Raddon (WYO)
285: No. 2 Sam Schuyler received a bye

Full brackets here

Here is the breakdown for points earned based on how a wrestler finishes at the tournament:

  • 1st (16 points)
  • 2nd (12 points)
  • 3rd (10 points)
  • 4th (9 points)
  • 5th (7 points)
  • 6th (6 points)
  • 7th (4 points)
  • 8th (3 points)

Wrestlers earn one point when winning a match. They are also awarded extra points for bonus point wins. This is where having wrestlers who can earn bonus point wins is crucial. Someone like Carr can not only perform as an individual but can directly impact his team’s chances at a title because he could add an extra two or three team points each match if he’s able to bonus. As we’ve seen during the regular season, he’s very good at that.

Here’s what Dresser had to say about those first-round byes:

2 – How will Corey Cabanban step up for the Cyclones after months of recovering from an injury?

A big hit to the lineup for the team was having Kysen Terukina get injured when he competed in the All-Star Classic in November. He had the potential to be an All-American and unfortunately, his injury was bad enough that he had to end his season and have surgery.

Corey Cabanban stepped up in his absence but, unfortunately, also suffered an injury during the Penn State match in December.

Cabanban is back, however, to compete in Tulsa. He showed great potential when taking the starting spot before his injury. He even became one of the few wrestlers who can say they’ve taken down No. 1 Spencer Lee of Iowa. But, after so many weeks of being sidelined, it makes me a bit nervous to see him make a comeback at this point in the season. He is diving head first from no action to a full grueling two days of back-to-back wrestling.

This is what athletes train for and this is what they’re built for. But, regardless, Cabanban has had no live action in over two months. The most we’ve heard he’s had was the wrestle-off between the 125-pounders to solidify Cabanban was the best man up.

Something working in his favor is he is one of the lucky ones with a first-round match. He’ll face off against No. 4 Stevo Poulin from Northern Colorado. If he can get passed Poulin then I don’t see why he couldn’t find himself in the semifinals against No. 1 Killian Cardinale from West Virginia if he really is feeling 100 percent again.

3 – Casey Swiderski and Paniro Johnson can make a serious impact on the team race

The two freshmen have been a big storyline this season. They were hyped up by the coaching staff on day one and then they let their wrestling do the talking. They had gritty wins at the beginning of the season that earned them national recognition like Johnsons’ staple win over Austin Gomez who is currently ranked No. 2 in the country.

Unfortunately, the growing pains of being a young wrestler hit and they faced some tough losses toward the end of the season that seemed to knock their confidence a bit.

Assistant coach Brent Metcalf has been vocal that they already have the tools they need to be successful they just need to remember to use them.

That’s the message Metcalf gave Swiderski before he went out and had an impressive win over Illinois which finally broke his losing streak after the winter break.

The bracket draws for both of them, I believe, actually worked out in their favor. There’s no opponent they’ll face that I don’t see a realistic chance for them to beat to wrestle their way to the semifinals. It’s just a matter of mental toughness with these two.

With the disadvantage of the first-round byes, I think Johnson and Swiderski are those key pieces to helping the team try and stay competitive against Missouri. If the two wrestlers we saw at the beginning of the season show up in Tulsa they could make some real noise.

After all, Dresser has said Johnson believes he’s the best in the country and he’s been calling Swiderski a savage since day one. Now is the time to put that on display.

4 – David Carr is in a position to make history for Iowa State

Carr is so consistently good for the Cyclones that he has barely been talked about this season.

With injuries and the early impact of the freshmen, Carr has managed to fly under the radar until the final dual of the season when he faced off against then-No. 1 Keean O’Toole, who he beat in a dominant fashion in what was considered the most anticipated match of the season.

Carr will walk into this weekend as a three-time Big 12 Champion looking to earn his fourth title. If he does that, he will become only the second Cyclone to accomplish that achievement since joining the Big 12. The only Cyclone to achieve that goal is Cael Sanderson.

For Carr, it also means he’ll have surpassed his father.

“I think it’s important. It’s the next thing in front of me. It’s going to be cool. My dad only won two and I’m always trying to one-up him,” Carr said.

If Carr makes it to the championship match we’ll see a round two for him and O’Toole. Something the two athletes have said they look forward to.

5 – Iowa State has a real chance at having several wrestlers in the championship round

If there is a year to feel confident the Cyclones have a real chance at having more than just Carr in the championship round, it’s this one.

Marcus Coleman has been one of the most improved Cyclones of the Dresser era and this is his final season. He finished in third place last year and that was not enough for him.

“I don’t have one yet (a title) so it’s something I’ve been eyeing. It’s a huge goal of mine,” Coleman said.

The championship match is the expectation for Coleman. If he wrestles for anything less than a title I’ll be surprised.

Sam Schuyler has put on quite the campaign this season. He finished 15-2 overall. The bracket draw he received has a pretty solid route to the championship match because he’ll face his biggest foe, No. 3 Zach Elam of Missouri, early in the tournament. This puts him in a good position to get one for Iowa State over Missouri in the team race.

Yonger Bastida earned a first-round match in the tournament. This is a positive not only for the team race with Bastida being a consistent bonus point earner but he does his best the more he’s wrestling. I feel good about his bracket draw as the No. 3 seed because if he handles his business he’ll find himself most likely against Rocky Elam from Missouri in the semifinal match. This has been a tough match for Bastida but not an impossible one. If he’s cleaned up the mistakes we saw at the end of the season there is no reason why he shouldn’t be in the championship match.

That would give Kevin Dresser three Cyclones in championship matches with very real chances at winning.

Jacqueline Cordova


Jacqueline graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She has been fortunate enough to have interned for Cyclone Fanatic for 2 and a half years before being promoted to stay on. She currently wears a lot of hats at Cyclone Fanatic: Social Media Director, Iowa State Wrestling beat reporter, and staff photographer. Jacqueline loves reading and watching trash reality TV shows when she's not watching sports. One of her favorite accomplishments is having interned for the Minnesota Vikings and during Super Bowl LII.