Wrestlers prepare for Big 12 Championships

Zac Reicks

The ISU wrestling team enters postseason competition this weekend as they travel to Norman, Okla. to compete in the Big 12 Wrestling Championships on March 9.

Fresh off of a two-week break, the Cyclone grapplers are eager to hit the mats and make their final push towards qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

Head coach Bobby Douglas has been keeping the team focused on just that, the NCAA’s.

“Overall we’ve had very good training the past two weeks,” Douglas said.

“This is the most intense competition we will have faced all season. Everyone is fighting for a spot in the national tournament.”

With Iowa State entering the stretch run of their season, emotions are running high among the wrestlers.

Months of making weight, grueling training and miles of running all come to a head this weekend as the Cyclones hope to qualify as many wrestlers as possible in order to make a run at the national championships in Albany, N.Y.

“I’m really looking forward to the conference meet and nationals,” 197-pounder Cael Sanderson said. “This is the part of the year we’ve worked our whole lives for, and it’s good to actually get there. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Cyclones finished the 2001 Big 12 Championships in third place behind Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, and hope to move up in the standings this season.

Sanderson is attempting to win his fourth conference championship, and his first at 197 pounds, while trying to maintain his unblemished four-year career mark.

Another Cyclone returning to defend his conference championship is senior Joe Heskett.

Heskett has one chance to get his elusive national title, and the whole process begins this weekend.

“He’ll just need to wrestle how he does during the season, and he’s going to be fine,” Sanderson said.

Sophomore Zach Roberson returns from a third-place finish at 141 last year and is someone Douglas is looking to qualify once again for the national tournament.

Down a weight at 133, Roberson is hoping to improve his national ranking (8th) against top flite competition.

“Some guys will step up and peak at this time and some guys will not,” Roberson said. “I think all our guys are peaking at the right time so we will be alright.”

Other Cyclone wrestlers to keep an eye on include fourth-ranked 141-pounder Aaron Holker and fifth-ranked 149-pounder Billy Maldonado.

The rest of the ISU wrestlers will be competing against the best with the hopes of qualifying for the national tournament.

“If we have a good tournament, we can get six guys through,” Douglas said.

“If it is a great tournament, we can get seven or eight. Any time you have all five teams in your conference ranked in the top 12, your going to have a highly competitive tournament.”