Photo Courtesy of Jacqueline Cordova / Cyclone Fanatic
Coach Kevin Dresser has spent the last six seasons rebuilding Iowa State wrestling into a Big 12 and national contender.
The Cyclones have improved every season under Dresser and for the last four seasons, David Carr has been the catalyst on the mat for that improvement. Carr has reset the standard for what an Iowa State wrestler should look like. He’s charismatic and personable off the mat — he joined the media scrum at Tuesday’s media day to help us interview Dresser. And on the mat, he’s aggressive and relentless, his technique is impeccable, he’s never out of position and he’s a showman.
Wrestling fans are a passionate bunch to begin with, but Carr seems to have made it his mission to make sure everyone is on their feet by the end of his matches. He wants to put on a show — and he does.
This is Carr’s last season to bring Hilton to its collective feet and Dresser has done his best to ensure he sends his program-changing senior out the right way. Dresser brought in returning All American Will Feldkamp, highly touted transfer Anthony Echemendia and the No. 1 rated recruit in the nation in Cody Chittum.
The new pieces, when combined with the proven returning guys like Kysen Terukina, Zach Redding, Casey Swiderski, Paniro Johnson, Julien Broderson and Yonger Bastida seem to point to this being the best Iowa State team since the late 2000s.
“I think it has a chance to be a really good team. It really does,” Dresser said at Tuesday’s media day. “We have a lot of athletes right now. This team is capable of definitely being a top-5 team. We said that last year and we didn’t get it done. It came down to a game of inches. We were one match away from 7th and two matches away from 5th. Yonger Bastida loses a really controversial overtime match and David Carr gets beat in the finals and all of the sudden, we go from 5th to 11th.
“You have to do a lot of things right at the very end, but this team is definitely capable of being in the hunt.”
The Cyclones had two impact true freshmen on last year’s team in Johnson, who was the Big 12 Champion at 149 pounds and Swiderski, who was one match away from becoming an All American. Ethan Perryman and M.J. Guitan also wrestled in, and won, matches during their true freshman season and both seem to have a bright future in the Cardinal and Gold. Jacob and Evan Frost made leaps from their redshirt year last year to their redshirt freshman year this year. Evan beat Virginia transfer Garrett Grice during last Thursday’s wrestle offs and Jacob Frost beat Redding. As a reminder, Redding was also a match away from becoming an All American last season. Add in Chittum and the Cyclones are loaded with young talent for the next 3-4 years.
“It looks like a good team,” Carr said. “It’s a young team, but young and talented. Last season, we were really close at the Big 12 Tournament — it’d be awesome to get a Big 12 Championships trophy. It’d be awesome to get a team trophy at the NCAA Tournament — getting top-4 is one of our goals as a team.
“We’ve progressed since I’ve gotten here. Every year we’ve moved up in the team standings and last year we were just a few points shy of being top-10 and even higher than that. I think it’s really cool to see how good this team has gotten and we’re continuing to improve.”
Is it now or never for Iowa State to earn a team trophy and finish top-four at the NCAA Championships for the first time since the 2009-10 season?
For Carr it is. The senior has laid out his goals and Dresser seems to have put the pieces in place to make that happen. But what Dresser has built at Iowa State, with Carr’s help, is sustainable beyond this year.
So no, it’s not now or never.
But now is as good of time as any to take the next step and reward Carr for all he’s done.