Cyclone wrestlers will try to break Hawks’ hold on rivalry

Jeff Stell

The ISU wrestling team hasn’t tasted success in its intrastate rivalry with Iowa in 13 years, but the Cyclones will get another crack at their nemesis Friday night in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes have maintained a strong hold on the rivalry, winning 25 straight duals over the Cyclones dating back to 1987. Last season, the Hawkeyes defeated the top-ranked Cyclones 24-12 in Ames.

“I think we have a good shot every year,” said ISU 165-pounder Joe Heskett. “We’ve put in the preparation and the time, and it comes down to that night and the wrestling match. It’s going to come down to who wins the big matches on the small points of technique.”

“I think we wrestled poorly as a team last year, but last year is over,” he said.

The Cyclones enter Carver Hawkeye Arena ranked third in the nation and sporting a record of 7-0. The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, are coming off a 21-14 defeat at Oklahoma State last weekend but are always tough to beat at home.

Douglas isn’t putting too much stock into the Hawkeye loss and plans on sending a different team on to the mat than in the past. The Hawkeyes are traditionally known for an attacking style, and Douglas is hoping his team can counter with its technique.

“I think what we have to focus on is what we’re doing well right now,” Douglas said. “We can’t think about Iowa or them getting beat by Oklahoma State.

“I think you’ll see a dangerous Cyclone wrestling team. We’re going to do some things different, different as far as our tactics on the mat. Our plan is to control the tie-up and the center of the mat. If we can do that, we’ll win the match.”

The Hawkeyes boast a tremendous group of wrestlers through the first five weight classes. Eric Juergens (133), Doug Schwab (141) and T.J. Williams (157) are all ranked No. 1 in their weight classes and NCAA champions, while Jody Stritmatter (125) and Mike Zadick (149) are returning all-Americans.

Despite their strength in the lower weights, the Hawkeyes are weaker in the upper weights and are struggling with inexperience at 165, 197 and heavyweight.

Countering Iowa’s struggles at the upper weights is a talented, experienced group of Cyclones from 165 to heavyweight. Undefeated two-time NCAA champion Cael Sanderson, as well as two-time all-American Joe Heskett are top-ranked at 184 and 165 respectively.

Zach Thompson is also a two-time all-American at 197 and Mark Knauer qualified for nationals two years ago at heavyweight.

“I think a lot has to do where we start the match,” Douglas said. “We’d like to start the match at 165 because if we start there, our chances improve a great deal. If we start at 125, then we’ll have to overcome some challenges.”

Sanderson said he isn’t worried about when the meet starts and knows that each Cyclone wrestler is prepared for what he has to do for the team to be victorious.

“Everyone has a lot of pressure on them if we’re expecting to beat them [Iowa],” Sanderson said. “We all know what we have to do, regardless of where the meet starts. We still have to do the same thing, and it’s going to be a tight dual, so hopefully the draw shouldn’t play that big of a role.”

The Cyclones will send freshmen into action at 125 and 141 classes. While the pressure is on the Cyclones big guns to win big, Heskett isn’t counting out his younger teammates.

“I think definitely the team is looking for the upper weights to score bonus points.,” Heskett said. “The younger guys, in some of the lower weights, are going to go out there and do their best. I think we’re in great shape as a team and that’s going to take us a lot further.”

Two ISU wrestlers that have stepped up and started the season with good results are Matt Azevedo at 133 and Perry Parks at 174. Azevedo is 13-0, and Parks is 12-1. Azevedo will take on Juergens who suffered his first loss in over a year in the Oklahoma State dual.

“That match at 133 is a great opportunity for us to evaluate that weight,” Douglas said. “Azevedo has been doing a great job, wrestling with a lot of confidence.