Iowa State close regular season with eyes on the postseason

Then-redshirt freshman Joel Shapiro faces off against Isaiah Patton during Iowa State’s 18-16 victory over then-No. 16 Northern Iowa on Feb. 16 at Hilton Coliseum. 

Zach Martin

Mother Nature created more long than short term problems for Iowa State.

When the dual scheduled for Jan. 19 against North Dakota State was postponed to Sunday, it gave the Cyclones a longer chance to rest after a grueling start in the month.

Coupled with injuries to key wrestlers and a late-season weight swap, it has forced Head Coach Kevin Dresser’s hand to continue to think long term about the season.

Which is why for Saturday’s dual on the road against Missouri, it will be majority reserves before the expected return of the full lineup against the Bison in the regular season finale inside Hilton Coliseum.

“It’s important that we finish this thing off right,” Dresser said. “Unofficially, if we can win Sunday night, we’ll tie in terms of standings. Considering all the injuries that we’ve had and just the adversity we’ve had to compete at that high level, it’s a credit to these guys and persistence to stay in there.”

David Carr, Jarrett Degen, Sam Colbray and Marcus Coleman with the possibility of a fifth starter will instead be traveling to Gilbert, Iowa, for an open tournament held at Gilbert High School on Saturday.

Dresser said the reasons for doing this is to help with allocation for the NCAA Tournament and seeding for both postseason tournaments.

“A lot of things got thrown up in the air,” Dresser said. “It’s more a strategic move.”

For all four grapplers, they have good reasons to believe this strategy will work.

In the case of Carr and Degen, it provides them a chance to wrestle in multiple matches after coming off respective injuries. Degen missed nearly two months and requires multiple matches to get an allocation. Carr needs just one match for allocation, but with the redshirt freshman not wrestling the past four duals, more matches on the same day prepares him for March.

Colbray and Coleman have half of a season to make up with them swapping weights, meaning everything they accomplished from the first half of the year is wiped. Both need over two matches to get allocation and both have to perform well in those matches.

In essence, the third-year coach is taking priority for the postseason over the final road matchup of the regular season.

“Last year, we didn’t have one injury in one dual meet and that is crazy, crazy unusual,” Dresser said. “So I guess to average to out this year, we’ve had a lot of guys out.”

The Tigers present challenges for the backups filling in, with the possibility of fifth-ranked sophomore Brock Mauller at 149 pounds facing Ryan Leisure and Grant Stotts potentially facing 14th-ranked Jarrett Jacques at 157.

Joel Shapiro will look to build off his 1-1 weekend with the probable battle of 20th-ranked Wyatt Koelling. It’ll be the redshirt freshman’s second top-20 matchup in the last seven days.

“Having those back-to-back duals is good preparation for the NCAA Tournament or Big 12 Tournament,” Shapiro said. “I’m the type of person I think I can pin anyone, it’s just a matter of time.”

The top-20 battle at 133 between Iowa State’s Todd Small and North Dakota State’s Cam Sykora highlight the final Big 12 matchup of the regular season Sunday night.

For Small, he’s approaching this weekend the same way he has all season long.

“Get hydrated for my match, do a little bit of cardio, try to get some rest that night and then the next morning I’ll worry about it the morning of North Dakota State,” Small said. “If I can do good on my feet, getting out from bottom is going to be the key in that match.”

If Carr returns to the lineup, he’ll face fellow freshman Jared Franek, ranked 17th with a record of 22-6 at 157; Chase Straw tries to continue his hot month with the possibility of facing one of the best 165 pounders in the conference in the form of Andrew Fogarty.

It’ll be the final test of the season before March approaches and the postseason comes into a clearer picture.

“They’ll be a little tired Sunday night, but I think we saw the benefits this weekend,” Dresser said. “By design, I wanted to put the last couple weekends that we had opportunities to compete with back-to-back weekends so we can get ready.”