Iowa State Cyclones Casey Swiderski goes for a takedown of Iowa Hawkeyes Victor Voinovich during their 149-pound wrestling at Hilton Coliseum on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar / USA TODAY NETWORK
AMES — When the searing pain hit, Casey Swiderski needed to make a decision.
Would the promising Iowa State 149-pounder’s latest injury set him adrift in a momentarily mat-less wilderness, or would it steel his resolve to return bigger, stronger and better?
“I take it as a test this year,” said Swiderski, who aims to stay hot on the mat when the No. 5 Cyclones face No. 17 West Virginia at 7 p.m. Friday on senior night at Hilton Coliseum. “(Last year), I started hot. I got injured and I let my weight get out of control. My cardio got out of there and I didn’t come back good. I struggled — and it was actually the same day that I got injured last year. The same exact day. I was like, ‘I’m not letting that happen again.’”
Swiderski, ranked eighth in his weight class by FloWrestling, missed a big chunk of last season because of a shoulder injury. This season, a banged-up knee forced him to sit out a month and a half before returning last weekend to sweep his matches against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Michigan native boasts three top-15 wins this season and an overall mark of 14-2 — and even though he’s just a sophomore, he knows how meaningful senior night is. Especially when one of the wrestlers being celebrated at Hilton is three-time All-American and 2021 NCAA champion David Carr.
“It’s (close to) his last hurrah out there and I bet it’s gonna be electric,” Swiderski said. “He’s gonna make the best of it. It’s what he does. He’s gonna get the crowd involved and it will be a good day for him.”
Carr will be among nine seniors who will be honored on senior night — even though ISU has two more home duals Feb. 2 against Northern Iowa and Feb. 25 against Missouri. The nation’s No. 2-ranked 165-pounder is 5-1 against top-10 foes this season and could push that mark to 6-1 if the Mountaineers’ eighth-ranked Peyton Hall wrestles.
“David, he’s tapped out,” Cyclone head coach Kevin Dresser said. “He’s been at Iowa State six years now, so wow, he’ll go down as one of the all-time greats at Iowa State, and that’s a big statement because there (are) a lot of greats.”
As many as four other ranked matchups could present themselves in Friday’s dual, including at 174, where ISU’s 22nd-ranked MJ Gaitan could face No. 17 Brody Conley.
“(Senior night) is gonna be a lot of fun,” said Gaitan, a redshirt freshman from Temecula, Calif. “I’m sure there will be a lot of fans there and it’s against West Virginia, so David will have a good match, too, so it will be super fun.”
Especially for Swiderski, who could have felt snakebitten when he injured his knee, but instead viewed it as an opportunity to sharpen his skills and keep his strict habits intact.
“I kept my weight in there,” he said. “I stayed disciplined and I came back and I hit the ground running. I think I feel the best I’ve felt in a long time, so I learned a lot.”