Dresser, Ersland’s hometown site of Cyclones’ dual against No. 15 Purdue

Iowa State wrestling coach Kevin Dresser watches the Cyclones compete in their dual against Army on Nov. 27.

Sam Stuve

There’s an old saying that all roads lead to home.

And for Iowa State head coach Kevin Dresser and Purdue head coach Tony Ersland, that’s the case on Sunday as Iowa State and Purdue face off in both of Dresser and Ersland’s hometown, Humboldt, Iowa.

The plan for having a dual like Sunday’s at Humboldt High School has been in the works for two years now, according to Dresser.

“I need to give credit to coach Erlsand at Purdue and the current Humboldt High School coach, [Chad] Beaman, they actually approached me about it, it’s probably been close to two years ago now about what I thought about it and I thought immediately, it was a good idea,” Dresser said. 

For Humboldt, a town with a population just under 4,800, they will not only see two of their own coaching on Sunday, but two of the top 15 teams in the nation going at it.

In this week’s NWCA Coaches Poll, Purdue (6-0) is ranked No. 15 and Iowa State (2-1) is ranked No. 13.

“Well, it’s just another opportunity to get out there and wrestle a quality team, individually there’s a lot of matchups that are big, ranked matchups, and you know, it’s just a test, it’s fun,” Dresser said. 

At 5 p.m. Sunday, Iowa State and Purdue begin battle in a gym that seats about 1,500.

With the nature of wrestling, there’s already a lot of built-in intensity, especially between two top-15 teams.

But mix in the fact that both coaches are from Humboldt and with the dual set in a high school gym that’ll likely bring spectators closer to the mat, the intensity and atmosphere has the potential to be off the charts on Sunday.

“You know, if you’re a college kid, you sign up for wrestling. This is the environment you want,’ Dresser said. “You know, if you go off the mat, they’ll probably put you right back on the mat. It’s that kind of environment. So I think as a competitor, it’s got to be just a really fun thing.”

Located about 88 miles northwest of Ames, Dresser grew up watching the Humboldt Wildcats sporting events.

Whether it was wrestling or basketball, Dresser said he had a lot of good memories from his childhood watching his hometown team at the Humboldt High School gymnasium. 

“Back when I was a kid growing up,  I remember sitting on the balcony and I remember sitting next to the band and thinking how cool it would be someday to run out there as a high school wrestler in wrestling in that environment,” Dresser said. “So it was just a great place to grow up and it was just really well followed.”

Dresser did run out on the gym floor to wrestle and was good at it.

Dresser got himself to the biggest stage, the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships and was successful, winning back-to-back state titles in 1980 and 1981 and helped his team finish second in team score in 1981.

Ersland did the same a decade later, as he won back-to-back state titles in 1991 and 1992, but also led Humboldt to its only Dual State Championship in 1992.

For Dresser, it was at the age of six that he first got into wrestling, and growing up in Humboldt was one of the main things that drove his interest in the sport.

“A six-year-old Kevin Dresser is when I kind of remember started getting interested in wrestling, according to my mother. That’s when we started showing up a lot, but my dad is deceased that was a big sports fan, and started bringing us to wrestling matches, because Humboldt was pretty good way back in the day when we were kids,” Dresser said.

And with Dresser being from Humboldt and all, this current Iowa State squad has had a lot of interactions with the citizens of Humboldt.

“It’s like our number one season ticket holder, so we always go there for fundraising and things like that and I always have a great interaction with the Humboldt people,” junior David Carr said.

And Humboldt has given back to Iowa State, Dresser said.

“From even the minute I got hired here, Humboldt had done something every summer for us as a regional training center, and so the interest is off the charts and it (tickets for Sunday’s dual) sold out in one day,” Dresser said. So they’re gonna have a lot of people crammed in Humboldt High School.”

Much like what Dresser said, the Iowa State wrestlers are also expecting a crazy environment come Sunday.

“Yeah it’s probably gonna be an awesome environment, probably going to be a little bit loud, people like more on top of you than we’re used to but I think should be pretty fun environment,” senior Marcus Coleman said. 

With the projected number of ranked starting wrestlers ranging from 12 to 14 out of 20, it’s safe to say that Sunday’s dual is going to feature a high level of competition. 

But some say it’s not about the rankings at all.

It’s about a small Iowa town, two of their most famous sons, returning home with their top-15 squads and duking it out against each other. 

“How often does small town northwest Iowa get two top 15 programs in the nation? And I’m sure I don’t think anybody else has got two division one head wrestling coaches that wrestled at the same high school in a town of less than 5,000 people, so it’ll be buzzing,” Dresser said. 

To put a bow on top of it, if Iowa State were to win this dual on Sunday, it would be Dresser’s 200th career win as a collegiate wrestling coach (his 40th at Iowa State).

“I think it’s really cool, I hope that it’s a great turnout, and that we can do more things like this. For us, if we beat Purdue that’d be Dresser’s 200th win, which is, I mean, it’s crazy, 200 wins,” Carr said.