Men's Sports

The bond driving 2023 Big 12 champions David Carr and Paniro Johnson

March 4, 23: David Carr and Paniro Johnson warm up prior to the championship round at the Big 12 championships in Tulsa. Courtesy of Davis Van Egdom – Iowa State Wrestling

Teammates, roommates, and best friends.

Paniro Johnson and David Carr walked into Tulsa with the same mission: To become 2023 Big 12 champions.

The significance of an individual title meant something different to each wrestler. Carr was looking to notch his fourth straight and Johnson his first.

Before heading to Tulsa, Carr shared he had been encouraging Johnson to share the same goal as him, to not fight for anything less than the title.

“I was telling Paniro, there aren’t a lot of freshman Big 12 champs at Iowa State. I have the list. There are five of them and I think I am the fifth. Four of them are all national champions and one was a three or four-time All-American.” Carr said. “I told him aim high, go win that Big 12 title and go to NCAA nationals”

Johnson took the advice of his friend and did just that.

Paniro Johnson celebrates as he’s named the winner of the 149-pound title match / Jacqueline Cordova – Cyclone Fanatic

The freshman notched wins over Colin Realbuto (UNI) and Mitch Moore (OU) to enter the championship round in a rematch against Brock Mauller (MIZZ). A rematch he had been hoping for after Mauller pinned him in the regular season.

Three takedowns and an explosive toss that earned Johnson a four-point near fall at the buzzer claimed him the title to become Iowa State’s first Big 12 Champion at 149 pounds and the 24th wrestler in Big 12 history to win the title as the No. 3 seed or worse.

Carr was matside cheering him on along the way.

David Carr sits mat-side cheering on his teammates at the Big 12 championships / Jacqueline Cordova – Cyclone Fanatic

“That’s my roommate. I’ve been training with him a lot this year. I have seen so much growth. I’ve been telling ‘Hey, you want to be champion as a freshman. You’re putting yourself in history. You put yourself in a good position at Nationals’. I’m so proud of him. The way he wrestled was phenomenal.”

Johnson plans on continuing to carve his name into the record books and follow in his teammate’s footsteps.

“I’m planning on joining him (Carr) next week as one of the few freshmen to win a national title so get ready for that. This is all part of the plan. I’m not surprised, not even the slightest,” Johnson said after the championship match.

In his debut season at 165 pounds, Carr followed suit as the final match of the night with a rematch against No. 2 Keegan O’Toole (MIZZ).

The 165-pounder pinned O’toole, the defending Big 12 and national champion, in sudden victory, making this only the 14th championship match in Big 12 history to be decided by fall.

Carr also became the second Iowa State wrestler in program history to become a four-time Big 12 Champion and the 11th wrestler in conference history to win four titles in the Big 12.

David Carr becomes the Big 12 champion at 165-pounds after pinning Keegan O’Toole / Jacqueline Cordova – Cyclone Fanatic

Carr continues to credit his confidence and success to his relationship with God, keeping things light and focusing on the impact this has on his team.

“It’s not about me. Not I but through Christ in me. It’s all been a blessing,” Carr said. “I think that’s a good thing for young guys to know, I just don’t put too much pressure on wrestling. It’s just a wrestling match. To me, it’s just a sport. So really, my emphasis is on giving glory to God. I have a lot of fun. I really enjoy tough matches like that. I really enjoy a tough environment.”

Both Cyclones will return to Tulsa for the NCAA Wrestling Championships in two weeks with the same mission: Becoming 2023 national champions.

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.