Takeaways: NCAA Championships approaching quickly

Iowa State’s Todd Small (right) fights for position with Utah Valley’s Taylor LaMont in their ninth place match at 133 pounds March 8 at the Big 12 Championships inside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa.

Stephen Mcdaniel

Iowa State returned home after a second-place finish at the 2020 Big 12 Wrestling Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Cyclones were the runner-up with 116.5 team points to Oklahoma State, that won its eighth-consecutive team title with 147.5 team points.

Iowa State crowned two individual titles and two individual runners-up in Tulsa. Ian Parker (141 pounds) and David Carr (157) walked away with Big 12 titles, while Alex Mackall (125) and Gannon Gremmel (285) fell just short in the finals.

Struggles for Small

When Todd Small injured his knee during Iowa State’s final regular season dual against North Dakota State, his status for the Big 12 tournament was up in the air.

Miraculously, Small recovered from the knee injury and took part in the Big 12 tournament, trying to capitalize on the eight allocations at 133.

However, the tournament didn’t work out well for Small.

Small lost his opening match to South Dakota State’s Zach Price, sending Iowa State’s redshirt junior to the wrestle backs.

In the wrestle backs, Small lost again, this time in a rematch with Northern Iowa’s Jack Skudlarczyk, whom Small had beaten earlier in the season.

Just like that, Small found himself in a mini bracket to determine a true ninth-place finisher. Small won his first match against Air Force’s Jared Van Vleet in a major decision but lost to Utah Valley’s Taylor LaMont in the true ninth-place match.

Small finished the Big 12 tournament in 10th place, while LaMont ended up winning the true eighth place match, stealing the last auto bid for NCAAs.

Now, Small’s future rests in hoping for an at-large bid to join his teammates in U.S. Bank Stadium.

Straw punches his ticket

If Chase Straw wanted to make his way to U.S. Bank Stadium for the NCAA Championships in two weeks, he needed to have a clutch performance. He did just that.

The redshirt senior was listed as the sixth seed in a 165-pound weight class that was given only four auto bids to the NCAA tournament. Realistically, there were only two spots that Straw could have stolen a bid with Oklahoma State’s Travis Wittlake and North Dakota State’s Andrew Fogarty claiming two bids.

Straw’s first opponent, Jordan Robinson on Northern Colorado, upset the No. 3 seeded Randy Meneweather of Air Force before eventually losing to the Cyclones’ redshirt senior.

Straw lost to eventual runner-up Fogarty in the semifinals and was placed in an extra match to determine a true fourth-place finisher for the last auto bid.

Straw found himself in a sudden victory period with Fresno State’s Adam Kemp, tied 8-8, with the winner moving on to Minneapolis.

In the clutch, Straw recorded the match-winning takedown that ensured him a spot in Minneapolis.

NCAA qualifiers

Straw isn’t the only one who got his ticket punched for the NCAA tournament in Minneapolis.

Iowa State will be sending seven other wrestlers, alongside Straw, with auto bids for NCAAs, although getting the auto bids weren’t nearly as intense as Straw’s run to get an auto bid.

Mackall (125), Parker (141), Jarrett Degen (149), Carr (157), Sam Colbray (184), Marcus Coleman (174) and Gremmel (285) have all earned themselves an auto bid with their individual performances at the Big 12 Championships.

Colbray comes with an asterisk because while he placed fourth and earned an auto bid with five allocations awarded to 174, he had to medically forfeit his match with Oklahoma State’s Joe Smith.

This causes some concern with Colbray’s current status and if he’ll be healthy for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

The only two Cyclones that didn’t earn auto bids were Small (133) and Joel Shapiro (197). Small and Shapiro will have to hope for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament if they want their season to stay alive in Minneapolis.