Wrestling team faces year with lots of new faces


Photo: Zunkai Zhao/Iowa State Daily

Coach Kevin Jackson speaks during wrestling media day Tuesday, Oct. 12 at the Lied Recreation Athletic Center.

Jake Calhoun

Last week, coach Kevin Jackson addressed the media for the first time regarding the upcoming wrestling season.

The second-year coach of the ISU wrestling team has a new task ahead of him, inheriting 19 new wrestlers. They range from recruits to walk-ons to transfers, all of whom will make this year a “teachable” year.

“When you have so many new faces in the program, when you have so many new faces trying to reach that next level, it has been a big-time teaching period for all of our athletes,” Jackson said.

Despite all the question marks surrounding it, excitement among the team remains intact.

“This is a great team,” said senior Jon Reader. “I know we’re kind of looked at as the underdogs right now, but I’m just excited to see these guys compete. They’re all young, they’re all hungry.”

Meet canceled

Jackson began his initial address to the media by stating that the team will not be traveling to Champaign, Ill., for its regularly scheduled dual meet against Illinois, due to scheduling conflicts between both teams. The dual meet was originally scheduled for Jan. 14.

Last year, the Fighting Illini came to Hilton Coliseum where they were defeated by the then-second-ranked Cyclones, 33-9. Returning ISU starters Andrew Sorenson (157 pounds) and Reader (165) notched a decision and a major decision in the meet for the cardinal and gold.

Weight changes

Some notable veteran ISU wrestlers will be moving to different weight classes this year, giving the squad a new look this season.

Reader, a two-time All-American at 165 pounds, will be moving up to 174 pounds for his senior campaign.

“Jon Reader has moved up to 174 (pounds),” Jackson said. “He solidified his spot based on his past performances and based on him being the best guy for that position.”

The move up is seen as a good thing by the Davison, Mich., native.

“It’s going to be fun this year not having to really worry about my weight, but just going out and making sure my skills are sharp in competing,” Reader said.

Returning starter Jerome Ward will also be moving up from 184 to 197 pounds this season. Ward, a two-time NCAA qualifier at 184 pounds, defeated numerous top 10 foes last season en route to posting a 19-11 season record before qualifying for the NCAA Tournament as the team’s only at-large bid.

“I planned to move up at this time when I signed, actually,” said Ward, a junior. “I knew I didn’t have many years of 184 left. It was kind of a tough cut for me. I just had to move up to a bigger weight class and whatnot.”

Ward went on to go 1-2 at the NCAA Championships, making his overall record 2-4 at the tournament as a 184-pounder.

Other notable changes include Sorenson’s shift up to 165 from 157 pounds, where he will compete with Chris Spangler, who is moving down from 174 pounds.

Last year, Spangler saw action in two dual meets, but lost to Illinois’ Jordan Blanton and Cornell’s Mack Lewnes, who managed to place fifth and second at 174 pounds at the NCAA Tournament.

Despite a noticeable trend in weight class changes, not all wrestlers will be moving up. Senior Nate Carr Jr. is moving down from 157 to 149 pounds, where he will be contending for the starting spot with Max Mayfield.

Mayfield wrestled under weight at 149 pounds while then-starter Mitch Mueller was being given a rest by Jackson in the team’s dual meet victory against Illinois, where he lost to No. 20 Eric Terrazas by a decision of 4-2.

Happy trails

Former 141-pound starter Dalton Jensen transferred to Nebraska-Kearney at the conclusion of last season.

“I know they recruited him right out of high school,” Jackson said. “Dalton felt like it was the best situation for him to transfer, and we released Dalton to Kearney to do that.”

Jensen was given the nod to start at 141 pounds after All-American Nick Gallick suffered a season-ending deep thigh bruise that required surgery. He went 14-15 as a sophomore, notching six pins, three major decisions and two technical falls.

Jensen went on to earn an automatic bid after placing fourth in the Big 12 Championships to secure the weight class’ final automatic bid for the conference before going 1-2 at the NCAA Championships.

“He’s a great young man, and we enjoyed him being at Iowa State,” Jackson said. “He was a true Cyclone; unfortunately he felt like a transition was the best thing for him, so we’re going to miss him and wish him the best.”

True freshmen

Some true freshmen will be given the opportunity to make an immediate impact on the team upon their arrival.

According to Jackson, three true freshmen are competing for starting spots on the roster as of right now.

Brandon Jones, a three-time state placewinner and 112-pound state champion as a junior at West Des Moines Valley, will be competing with redshirt sophomores Patrick Hunter, a transfer from Iowa Central Community College, and Trevor Dearden for the starting spot at 125 pounds.

Kyven Gadson, a three-time state placewinner who recorded back-to-back undefeated seasons on his way to the 171- and 189-pound state titles his junior and senior year at Waterloo East, will be battling it out for the starting spot at 184 pounds.

Jackson says that Gadson’s resume and physical attributes give him a great chance to make an impact for the program.

“Athletically, he’s the best athlete I have on the team, hands down,” Jackson said of Gadson. “Based on his background with his father being an assistant coach at Iowa State and a graduate of Iowa State, he comes in with a set of base skills that allows him to reach the level of the best guys in the country a lot sooner.”

Gadson is in competition with the wrestler he beat by a major decision of 13-3 to win the 189-pound state title his senior year in Matt Riley, a three-time state placewinner and former standout at Des Moines Roosevelt who took runner-up honors at 189 pounds his junior and senior years, and Cole Shafer, a redshirt freshman from Heber City, Utah.

Despite the opportunities his teammates are getting, Ryak Finch will be redshirted by Jackson, who is wanting to preserve his talent for years to come.

“He’s the future of that weight class at 125, we truly believe that,” Jackson said of Finch. “He’s a special wrestler, a special athlete. I’m pretty confident that we’ll redshirt him unless he goes to Midlands with us and wins, then we might have to pull him out of the redshirt, but right now the plan is for him to redshirt.”