VISSER: Preseason hype for Iowa State wrestling is real, now can the Cyclones turn the hype into reality

Photo Courtesy of Jacqueline Cordova / Cyclone Fanatic

When Iowa State wrestling coach Kevin Dresser took over the program after the 2016-17 season, Hilton Coliseum was divided by an imposing black curtain that sectioned off roughly a third of the available seats and loomed over the wrestling mat. 

That was the first thing to go. 

In the 2016-17 season, the year before Dresser arrived in Ames, Iowa State’s average attendance was 3,280, which ranked sixth in the nation behind Rutgers according to Mat Talk Online. The first year under Dresser, and with the curtain gone, Iowa State averaged 3,361 and was still ranked sixth in attendance, this time behind Fresno State. 

Removing the curtain and opening up the seating wasn’t going to magically make people appear in the seats. Fans needed a reason to show up. Iowa State had to be good. 

Season-by-season, Dresser improved the product on the mat and the fans started showing up. Last year, Iowa State averaged 5,287 fans, which ranked third behind Iowa and Penn State. 

This year, Iowa State announced it is expanding its reserved seating for wrestling due to high demand. According to the release, Iowa State has seen a 33-percent increase of season ticket sales. 

The high demand correlates to the high expectations for Iowa State wrestling this season and an impressive home slate of duals in Hilton.  

Intermat has all 10 Cyclones ranked — led by senior national champion, four-time Big 12 Champions and three-time All American David Carr, who is wrestling in his final season. The only time he wasn’t an All American was when the NCAA Championships wasn’t wrestled due to the pandemic, but he still earned NWCA All American honors, so I guess he’s a four-time All American, too.

Carr has been the face of Iowa State wrestling since his redshirt freshman season. The outgoing and personable Carr embraced being “the guy” and has done more than his part to make sure people show up in the stands. 

Add in the entertaining wrestling styles of Yonger Bastida, Casey Swiderski, Paniro Johnson and others and you have a recipe for putting fans in seats. 

When Iowa State wrestled on the road last season, opposing fans wanted to see the Cyclones, too. Iowa State was the top draw in five of the six road dual meets they wrestled in. Iowa, UNI, Missouri, West Virginia and Pitt all had their biggest home crowds of the season when the Cyclones came to town. The only time Iowa State wasn’t the top draw was when it traveled to Utah Valley and drew 1,172, which trailed only the Utah Valley-Northern Colorado rivalry dual, which drew 1,194. Only Iowa was a bigger draw in opposing arenas last season — the Hawkeyes were the top draw in six of their road dual meets. 

That was last year, though. Now, Dresser has added Cody Chittum, the No. 1 ranked high school recruit, to the mix. Chittum is expected to start at 157 for the Cyclones. For reference, Carr was the No. 2 ranked recruit in his class. That doesn’t mean Chittum will have Carr’s success, but the potential is there, and maybe more. Dresser also added 184-pounder Will Feldkamp, a transfer from Clarion, who finished seventh at last year’s NCAA Championships. Feldkamp’s only two losses last season were to Iowa State’s Marcus Coleman and Penn State’s Aaron Brooks. 

So yes, Iowa State graduated All American Marcus Coleman and heavyweight-staple Sam Schuyler. But it has replaced them with a couple of All Americans in Feldkamp and Bastida and Chittum was the cherry on top. 

Add in Iowa State’s incredible home schedule and it’s easy to see why there’s a 33-percent increase in season ticket sales. Iowa State hosts Davidson, Iowa, Utah Valley, Pitt, West Virginia, UNI and Missouri. 

Iowa-Iowa State should be a sellout. The question will be what does the makeup of the crowd look like. In recent years, it’s been 60-40 Iowa fans in Hilton, or maybe 50-50 if we’re being generous. Will this be the year Iowa State fans retake Hilton? It should be. 

UNI and Missouri also have the potential to pack Hilton with 14,365 fans. Iowa State and UNI fans sold out the McLeod Center with 5,754 in attendance. If Iowa State has the season it’s expected to, fans will show up for these end-of-season February duals. UNI is an in-state rivalry and Missouri will be the last time Carr, the centerpiece of Iowa State wrestling’s revival, wrestles in Hilton and fans should turn out to send him off properly for all he’s done. 

The hype surrounding Iowa State wrestling has been earned and it’s real. Now all that’s left to do is roll out the mats and get the season started to see if the hype and possibilities turn into reality. 


Ben Visser