No Anaheim in my future

Jeff Stell

The seasons for the ISU men’s basketball and wrestling teams came to a close this weekend. One was expected while the other was a complete shocker.

These two sports were my main focus all winter. So now, unexpectedly because of our men’s basketball team. I have some free time to get some things off my chest about the recent turn of events.

Before I start, let me congratulate the Cyclone women on making their third straight trip to the Sweet 16. The Cyclones head to Denver with a realistic shot at making the Final Four.

After such a successful season, the meltdown by the Cyclone men in both the Big 12 Conference and NCAA tournaments still baffles me. It also angers me because I was really hoping to make my first trip to L.A.

The Cyclones struggled down the stretch of the season but didn’t play bad enough to show signs of the postseason disaster that was on the horizon.

In both the Baylor and Hampton debacles, the Cyclones started out slow and looked flat and sluggish. ISU head coach Larry Eustachy attributed that to fatigue from the season, but I don’t exactly buy that.

All 65 teams in the tournament play nearly the same amount of games, and I didn’t hear any other losing coaches talking about their team being tired. The Cyclones only played four games over the last three weeks, so it wasn’t like they came into Boise sucking wind.

Kantrail Horton backed me up on that when he was quoted as saying that they might have been a little tired, but just weren’t ready to play.

The funny thing is – Eustachy warned us media members at press conferences that his team wasn’t that good and was overachieving. We all thought it was part of his Dr. Doom act, but it turned out not to be an act at all.

I thought the Baylor loss was a fluke, so imagine the surprise when after five hours on a plane to Boise, including a three-hour delay, I witnessed the Cyclones unwillingly make history and become just the fourth second seed to lose to a 15th seeded team.

Sitting through the Baylor loss was like a punch in a stomach. The Hampton game, well, that was a kick in the groin.

I will give credit to Hampton, they were a talented team who were not intimidated by Iowa State. The Pirates were making their first trip to the Big Dance and the team, pep band and cheerleaders all showed that first-time excitement and energy which easily won over the majority of the 11,362 in attendance.

After the Cyclones early exit, I was wishing I was in Iowa City watching Cael Sanderson romp to his third national title and keep his record unblemished at 119-0.

Sanderson turned out to be the lone bright spot for the Cyclones in Iowa City as the team finished sixth and had only two All-Americans. Joe Heskett did get second but he has been second before and was on a mission to bring home the title.

Sanderson had more trouble dealing with pressure and the media than he did his five opponents. Sanderson has never appeared to be very comfortable with the media but it’s only going to get worse.

If he thought it was bad this year, it’ll be cake compared to next year when he’s going for four titles and an undefeated career record. This has never been done before so it is history in the making, and all the media attention is exactly what collegiate wrestling needs.

Heskett lost for the second straight year in the finals to his nemesis Donny Pritzlaff of Wisconsin. The good news is that Heskett still has a year left, so hopefully this all-around nice guy will bring home the gold.

After the meet, the focus turned to next year. Both Sanderson and Cyclone coaches feel the team will be back in the hunt for the title next year.

The Cyclones lose four seniors in Matt Azevedo, Cole Sanderson, Perry Parks and Zach Thompson. That group has 13 trips to the national tournament between them, so the Cyclones will have some major holes to fill if they want to be in contention for the top spot next year.

Speaking of winning the national title, Iowa did not win it for the first time in seven years, and I couldn’t be more happy. Iowa had a lot of luck on their side in winning the last two titles, and it was great to see Minnesota knock off the Hawks in front of the rabid Hawkeye fans in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

Well, now it’s time to jump on that women’s tennis beat.

Jeff Stell is a senior in journalism and mass communication from Fort Dodge.