Tradition of excellence continues at Iowa State

Darrin Cline

No other sport at Iowa State is as tradition-laden as the wrestling program. Eight national team titles and 50 individual national champions; the winningest dual team in Division I history.

Heading into the 2011-2012 season, the ISU wrestling program is primed to return to prominence.

“Iowa State is rich in wrestling tradition, and Iowa is a wrestling state. Wrestling is Iowa State,” said coach Kevin Jackson.

Jackson will be entering his third year at the helm for the Cyclones. Following a national runner-up finish in 2010, Jackson guided the Cyclones to a 20th-place finish in the 2011 national tournament.

Despite the uncharacteristically low team finish, the ISU program celebrated the victory of Jon Reader. The senior capped off an undefeated season as the national champion at 174 pounds.

Reader may be gone next season, but there is no shortage of stars looking to step up and make a name for themselves. Cole Shafer, 184 pounds; Jerome Ward, 197 pounds; and Kyle Simonson, HWT, also qualified for the national tournament and are looking to improve on stellar seasons.

“We have a very competitive [team] with a lot of talent and potential,” Jackson said. “Our goal is to do what we have done for years and that’s compete for national titles.”

They may be established starters, but they will be pushed by Jackson’s youth movement. Former junior college national champion Matt Gibson will likely be in contention for the heavyweight spot. Gibson split time with Simonson early last fall before being sidelined with a knee injury.

Kyven Gadson — product of Waterloo and a guy that Jackson refers to as a “blue chip recruit” — is also expected to battle for a varsity spot at the upper end of the line up. Gadson redshirted his first year on campus, but gave fans a glimpse of his talent by defeating Nebraska All-American Josh Ihnen at the Cyclone Open.

In Jackson’s eyes, his team has a strong stable of young wrestlers and incoming recruits. Another blue chipper, Ryak Finch, also spent his freshman year as a redshirt, but Jackson has high hopes for Finch and his fellow 2010 recruits.

“We will have a very young team with a lot of good recruits coming in,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of local stars and stars from all across the country, from Iowa and even a kid coming in from Hawaii.”

Jackson said the Cyclone program has 15 commitments for the 2011 class. One of the top prizes is a name well-known across Iowa. Tanner Weatherman — multi-time state champion and younger brother of current Cyclone Trent Weatherman — will make the short trip from Ballard High Scool to the ISU wrestling room.

More than one wrestling family will be well represented on campus next year. Fan favorite, 165-pounder Andrew Sorenson is heading into his senior as his younger brother is entering his freshman campaign.

Big 12 wrestling will also have a new look next season. With Nebraska jumping to the Big Ten, only four schools will have participating teams. Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Missouri will participate in home and away duals next season. Oklahoma State has reclaimed the conference, collecting the last two conference crowns.

With three returning national qualifiers and seven men who regularly saw time in the varsity lineup, many in Cyclone nation believe that the upcoming season is time to see Iowa State atop the national podium.