NOTEBOOK: ISU wrestling reflects on National Duals, preps for Minnesota

Ryan Young

When the Iowa State wrestling team departed the NWCA National Duals on Monday, things had gone quite a bit differently than it had hoped.

The No. 17 Cyclones went 1-2 on the weekend, and were ultimately sent home from the tournament early.

“It was tough, we definitely didn’t expect to go 1-2,” said ISU coach Kevin Jackson. “We just didn’t have the best weekend, and that happens. But better now than at the NCAA tournament in March.”

Iowa State started out against Kent State in the first round Feb. 16. The Cyclones and the Golden Flash were neck-and-neck through the first nine matches and tied at 16-16 heading into the final match.

In the final bout, heavyweight Quean Smith fell to Mimmo Lytle 3-2, a match that sealed the deal for Kent State.

Both the Cyclones and Golden Flashes split matches 5-5, but yet again bonus points plagued Iowa State.

“Bonus points killed us,” Jackson said. “We’ve been talking about that for a while, but giving them up was really the reason we dropped those duals.”

But the bonus points didn’t just affect Iowa State in that loss. In their third match of the tournament, Iowa State fell to Central Michigan by one point, losing 19-18, and ultimately were eliminated from the tournament.

The Cyclones split matches 5-5 yet again with the Chippewas, but Central Michigan was able to score enough bonus points to send them into the next round.

“I think if we would have won just one more match, in either of those two duals, we would have won the dual,” said senior John Nicholson. “If I would have won my match against Central Michigan, we would have won. I was capable of winning, but I didn’t. We just need to fix the little things.”

Pinning Spree

The loss to Kent State sent the team into the consolation bracket, where they were set to take on Hofstra. The ISU wrestlers didn’t hang their heads long, as they came out in a dominant fashion.

The Cyclones won seven out of the possible 10 matches, and recorded four pins in the dual, something that hasn’t been done by Iowa State since 2010.

“I think there was a little more motivation that time,” said senior Boaz Beard. “I think we looked overall a little sluggish in the first dual, so we had to shake it off and came in hot for the second one.”

Not only did the Cyclones have four pins in the dual, but the pins came consecutively.

All-American Mike Moreno got things started with the first sudden victory period with the score tied 3-3 when he came up with the fall.

Moreno’s victory was the spark his teammates needed, and they took advantage. Tanner Weatherman, Beard, and Kyven Gadson each came up with pins in the next three matches.

“We just got on a roll,” Nicholson said. “It was pretty cool to see. It was like a stamp to show what we’re really capable of. There are so many good things to take away from that.”

Iowa State ended up winning the match 36-9, recovering from their loss in the first round.

Looking forward

Iowa State (9-6 overall, 1-2 Big 12) has just one more home dual left in the 2014 campaign, when they host top-ranked Minnesota Feb. 23.

The Gophers will come to Hilton Coliseum following a championship at the NWCA National Duals, where they beat No. 4 Cornell 24-15 in the finals.

Not only will the Cyclones host their last dual of the year, but they will also be saying goodbye to three seniors. Both Beard and Nicholson, along with Ben Perna, will be wrestling for the last time in their home arena.

“They’ve added quite a bit of depth to our program, and have contributed some great senior leadership,” Jackson said. “They’ve been here from the beginning when we had to start that rebuilding process. Once they graduate, I think that they’ll continue to help our program from the outside.”

And while things might not have always gone according to plan, Beard said he wouldn’t have changed a thing.

“My goals have been way higher than I have performed, but you can’t change that now,” Beard said. “I look back, and I’m happy with my experience here at Iowa State. I’ve had a great coaching staff, and made a lot of friends. I had an overall positive experience; can’t complain about that.”