McDaniel: Shifting Iowa State’s wrestling lineup next season makes no sense

Then-redshirt freshman Austin Gomez smiles at his opponents before the start of the Iowa State vs. Utah Valley dual meet Feb. 3, 2019, at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones defeated the Wolverines 53-0.

Stephen Mcdaniel

Despite not having the NCAA Championships to cap off the end of a successful 2019-20 season, Head Coach Kevin Dresser and Iowa State wrestling may have an even greater season ahead in the 2020-21 season.

The Cyclones will look to solidify themselves as a top team in the country when they get the test of facing No. 1 Iowa at Carver Hawkeye Arena and traveling to Happy Valley to face No. 3 Penn State. Not only that, but they’ll also look to overtake Oklahoma State and come out on top in the Big 12 standings.

There’s also no denying that Iowa State will be loaded with talent next season. They return almost every starter, which includes Big 12 title winners and First Team All-Americans Ian Parker and David Carr, as well as All-Americans Jarrett Degen, Alex Mackall, Gannon Gremmel and Sam Colbray. If that wasn’t enough, Austin Gomez will likely be joining them after sitting out this past season with a concussion.

There’s one issue with the team, and that’s too much talent and not enough spots in the starting lineup to utilize it.

The Cyclones only had one departure in the starting lineup, and that was the 165-pound redshirt senior Chase Straw.

With the one open spot, the return of Gomez and guys like Julien Broderson and Aden Reeves entering their redshirt year, Dresser and company have some decisions to make about how the lineup will look next year.

There is a possibility that Carr, Degen and potentially Gomez, Parker or Small gets moved around the weight classes.

With Gomez being gone for the year, Dresser found the stand-in at 133 with the two-time NJCAA champion Todd Small, and Small held his own at 133. After a rocky start, Small managed a fourth-place finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and managed to crack the top 15 in InterMat’s rankings.

With that being said, I think the best decision in regard to the lineup is to keep everyone where they’re at. Let Degen stay at 149, let Carr stay at 157, have Gomez and Small compete for 133 and find Straw’s replacement at 165.

Look, we already know what we’re going to get with these guys at their current weights.

Carr was ranked in the top three almost all season as a redshirt freshman, and now, he’s coming back with a full season under his belt, not to mention that his name was in conversations for a potential NCAA Championship.

Straw, who won a Big 12 title at 157, made the jump to 165 this past season, and he didn’t quite hit the same level of success. And yes, I know that Carr and Straw aren’t the same person, but I think it’s just important to note that there’s a recent example of how shifting weights couldn’t work.

Degen has been a 149 guy his entire collegiate career, and his height alone gives him such an advantage on the mat. Mix that with talent on the mat? You’re talking about a guy that came back from a shoulder injury and wrestled in a shoulder brace, his shoulder still popping out occasionally, and he still finished as an All-American.

These two guys absolutely thrive at the weights they’re currently at, and it sounds like they don’t plan on changing it. Degen even mentioned he still planned on wrestling at 149 when he gave some commentary on Facebook Live during the Sundevil Duals back on January 11.

Then there’s Gomez and Small.

When I wrote a story about Todd Small’s journey to Iowa State, I asked Dresser about having Gomez and Small at 133, and this is what Dresser told me:

“In the college wrestling world, when you start having that kind of competition in the room of two top-20 guys in the nation banging heads just to make the team, that’s what you got to have,” Dresser said.

There’s already an expectation that the guys will have to compete in the wrestling room to earn their spot on the team, and that’s something that veterans like Gomez and Small should know by now.

When the season starts to rear its head into view, there’s no doubt in my mind that these two will push each other to the max and bring out the best in each other, and, just like what Dresser said, that’s exactly what you need.

This is also without mentioning that when I talked to Gomez, he had told me that the plan was for him to return to 133 for this upcoming season.

Again, both of these guys are tremendously talented, but if you have a program that’s trying to push itself into the top 10 of wrestling programs, this is the kind of thing that you’ll have to expect.

When it comes to 165, there’s plenty of guys that could take over, but in my eyes, Logan Schumacher will be the guy.

He’s already got experience in the starting lineup when he filled in at 165 during the 2018-19 season, which saw him finish sixth place at the Big 12 Championships.

He had a good season while wrestling unattached throughout this last season, compiling a 21-6 record with a handful of podium finishes at a bunch of open tournaments. With a year off, I think Schumacher is ready to get another crack at the starting lineup and take over for Straw.

If Dresser keeps the weight classes the same, there’s no doubt in my mind that Iowa State could have a potential six, maybe seven Big 12 title holders come March 2021.

Nick Piccininni graduated, so Mackall may be able to capture the 125 title.

Gomez (if he takes over) was already a top five-ranked guy at 133 and could capture the Big 12 title he missed out on during his redshirt sophomore year.

Parker is a returning Big 12 title holder at 141, so you already know that he’ll be a favorite to repeat as a Big 12 title holder.

Degen, when fully healthy, is really good. If he can get through Oklahoma State’s Boo Lewallen, I can see him winning a Big 12 title at 149.

We all know what Carr can do at 157. Does this really need much more explanation?

Colbray finally found a home at 174, and the Big 12 title competition could pretty much come down to him and Anthony Mantanona of Oklahoma. Bryce Steiert, Joe Smith and Kimball Bastian all graduated.

With Tate Orndorff transferring out of the Big 12, Gremmel has pretty much solidified himself as a top heavyweight in the Big 12; not to mention, he was a runner-up in the past season’s Big 12 Championships.

To me, this sounds like a great season.

As the old saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”