Reader reflects on national championship, his future


Jon Reader raises his hand after defeating an Oklahoma State opponent during the Big 12 tournament March 5 at Hilton Coliseum.

Darrin Cline

ISD: What’s been going on in your life since winning the tournament?

JR: Since then, I’ve just been relaxing and enjoying it, letting it all sink in. I’m just enjoying life right now, I haven’t really had that chance to just relax and focus on other areas of life. I’ve done a few interviews and stuff here and there, but mostly I’ve just been low key.

ISD: Has winning the national tournament changed your life in any way?

JR: Personally, it has changed me because I know how hard I worked for this and how much it meant to me. It’s been a dream and a goal since I was a little kid, and to achieve it for me was satisfying, and it’s something I’ll always remember and no one can take away from me.

ISD: What was your internal reaction to winning the championship?

JR: As soon as the whistle blew and I looked over at coach Jackson, it was just overwhelming, kind of like a numbness. I don’t ever celebrate like that, but thats something I’ve worked for my entire life, and so it just kind of came pouring right out of me and my body went numb. I looked over at the Cyclone crowd and it was just exciting. It still gives me goosebumps when I talk about it.

ISD: When did you know that you had the match locked up?

JR: I had a solid first period, and it was building on that and looking to score points from there. Once I knew he couldn’t take me down, it was really just looking to score points. When we got to the third period, I knew he couldn’t take me down, and I kind of knew it was over there. Once the whistle blew, I knew it was finally over, and it was just awesome.

ISD: How did you stay composed after a tough, one-point win in the semifinals?

JR: I was disappointed in myself, I knew I was better than him. I think I was a little anxious and excited to wrestle instead of staying relaxed and waiting for my match. I was excited to be in that situation and that played a toll on my match. We just concentrated on getting better in the finals.

ISD: Going back to your recruiting days, why did you choose to wrestle for Iowa State?

JR: My high school coach would have NCAA highlight tapes every year, and it seemed like Iowa State guys were always on it. And I thought I always wanted to wrestle for Iowa State. I saw guys like Joe Heskett, he was a childhood hero of mine. Chris Bono, the Paulson brothers, those kind of guys dominated on a collegiate level, and it made me excited for the next phase.

I had visits lined up with Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Iowa State. I took my first visit to Iowa State and that was it. A lot of it had to do with being able to sign and be under the mentorship of the Paulson brothers right away.

Both of those guys are like my big brothers, and they took me under their wings right away. I think a lot of it is from them. Those guys were the seniors, and they took the time every day to work with me, and I couldn’t be more blessed with coach Jackson being here on campus.

I’ll never forget signing with Iowa State, and being able to put on that Iowa State singlet was phenomenal.

ISD: How has your mentality as a wrestler changed since coming to Iowa State?

JR: I think my mentality was the same. My high school coaches molded guys into athletes that were hard-nosed, that wanted to win and score points, that were just never-satisfied kind of guys. They are amazing coaches that fueled a dream and taught a ‘never say die’ kind of attitude, so it was just great to have those kind of guys as coaches.

We have three national champs out of my high school team now (Reader, Paul Donahoe and Brent Metcalf), and it was great to have guys like that who wanted to win and knew how to win. I think that attitude carried to college, and once here it was more of focusing on smarter training. For me, I’m a little more high strung than most guys, so I learned to stay relaxed.

ISD: How do you feel you have most improved since freshman year?

JR: I would say I bought into the sport. I’ve always been a student of it, but really buying in day in and day out. My nutrition, my sleep habits, everything – just buying into the grind really and staying healthy a whole season.

ISD: What was the hardest part about being a wrestler at this level?

JR: I think the hardest part about being a college athlete, a Division I athlete, is that everyone is in the same boat and how are you going to separate yourself. It’s no longer a hobby, its a lifestyle and a job. Just like any other job, you’re going be a success if you commit yourself fully to it.

To me, succeeding was just selling out in the sport and giving full reins to coaches and letting them drive the ship, and it took me to where I needed to be. 

ISD: What was it like going from the coaching change from Bobby Douglas to Cael Sanderson to Kevin Jackson?

JR: Bobby Douglas was recruiting me and Cael actually took over right as I got in and then coach Jackson after my sophomore year. Personally I look at it as a blessing to be able to work with so many legends of the sport and be a mat rat and pick their brains every day was a blessing in disguise for me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I can’t say enough positive things about coach Jackson. Him coming on campus my junior year, as soon as he stepped on campus, I told him I’m all in and show me what I have to do to win. He pulled the best out of me and I’m forever grateful.

ISD: Do you have any negative feelings about Sanderson leaving to coach Penn State and winning the national title so quickly?

JR: I don’t look at it like that. I think it was an opportunity for me to be surrounded by some of the greatest guys in the sport. For me coming in I had coach Sanderson, Tim Hartung, Chris Bono and now Jackson, Voelker, the Paulson’s and Yero Washington. I had all these guys in the room around me, and to just pick things from all of these guys was a something amazing.

I actually still talk to coach Sanderson. We’re real good friends, and I’m glad he won the title. He’s a great guy, and I have nothing but great things to say about him.

ISD: What is it like to be part of the select fraternity of Iowa State wrestling national champions?

JR: It’s an honor to be a part of that group, and there have been so many great wrestlers coming out of this university, and to be recognized as the 50th one is an amazing feat. It’s something I’ve worked for my whole life and this year staying disciplined and staying focused, just living that lifestyle.

ISD: Have you spoken with any fellow ISU national champions since winning the gold?

JR: I have the blessing of having coaches here who have been in the NCAA finals. Coach Jackson has been in the finals and coach Eric Voelker is a two-time champion, so just being able to hear their stories, it’s a great feeling to have those guys around you.

ISD: Where do you feel you rank among the all-time Iowa State greats?

JR: I don’t really know. I know that I really pride myself on my work ethic. I’ve never been the most technically sound guy, but I’m going to be in your face and beat-you-up type of guy.

You can’t take anything away from the guys who have reached their potential here. I just wanted to stamp my place in history and chase down a childhood dream.

ISD: What do you want to be remembered for as a collegiate athlete?

JR: As an athlete, I just want to be remembered as someone who lived the lifestyle and was just a hard-nosed guy who was loyal to the Iowa State crowd and university.

ISD: Who do you credit for your success as a wrestler?

JR: First and foremost I have to thank my family, they’ve been there for me since day one. My mom and dad, my entire family – I just have a great support staff. My parents didn’t miss one match this entire senior season, and that means everything to me. My family means everything to me.

Second, I have to thank coach Jackson. He’s like a second father to me as well. He’s always looking to bring the best out of me, and I can’t say enough about how he’s taken me from an All-American to an NCAA champion kind of guy.

My practice partners like the Paulson’s. The Cyclone Wrestling Club has enabled them to be in the room with me, and it’s a great situation I have. I could go on and on, but it’s great people around Iowa State and Cyclone nation in general that’s been a blessing. 

ISD: Where are you going from here in your wrestling career?

JR: I am actually staying here and being part of the Cyclone Wrestling Club under coach Jackson. I’ve had other places ask me to come to their schools and universities, but there’s no way I’m leaving coach Jackson and the Cyclone nation. Everything they’ve done for me to help me reach my potential, I want to give back to this university and help these Iowa State athletes reach their potential.

I’m going to wrestle under the Cyclone Wrestling Club and compete internationally and continue to compete at 185 and wrestle freestyle. I went to the world championships last year on the college level, and I just hate losing more than anything. Going to that tournament and not placing on the world level has just fueled me with the dream of achieving something like that.

I love coach Jackson like he’s my dad, and he’s gone up and above for me. I just love being around the guy. Since my collegiate career is over, I’m going to turn the page and set my goals on becoming an Olympic and world champion, and I know under coach Jackson that the sky is the limit.