Iowa State is young at some weights, but talented nonetheless

Then-freshman Zach Redding celebrates after winning his dual against Oklahoma State’s Reece Witcraft 6-0 on Jan. 30, 2020.

Sam Stuve

In interviews at media day, there’s one big thing that Iowa State head coach Kevin Dresser mentioned about his team: Youth.

Iowa State doesn’t just have youth, it has quality youth.

Take Zach Redding, for example.

Heading into his freshman year, he was slated to be a backup behind Austin Gomez, a 2018 junior world team member and 2019 NCAA tournament qualifier.  

But in December of 2020, due to concussions, Gomez medically retired from the sport. From there, he began teaching Redding for the majority of the 2021 season. 

This was before Gomez transferred to Wisconsin this past summer.

The Manorville, N.Y., native’s freshman season was a success.

He managed to finish with a 10-7 record, finished third at the Big 12 Championships and was an NCAA Tournament qualifier.

Redding is now projected to be the starter at 141 pounds this season. 

“I think the weight won’t be an issue for him like, I think a few times last year maybe it was, so I think that’ll be good for him,” redshirt senior Ian Parker said, who has been the starter at 141, but is moving up to 149 pounds. “I think he’ll fit in well in the lineup and stuff like that. We’ll get two studs in the lineup, Zach’s a really tough kid and then Ramazan was kind of behind him last year so I think it’s good for the team having both those guys.”

Another example of a young wrestler having to step up last season was Kysen Terukina.

The Ewa Beach, Hawaii, native won the wrestle-offs against Alex Mackall, a 2019 NCAA tournament qualifier and a 2020 NCAA All-American second team member.

And after Mackall stepped away from the program, Terukina undoubtedly was the guy at 125.

Terukina finished his freshman year with a winning record at 8-7, finished sixth at the Big 12 Championships and was selected for the final spot in the 2021 NCAA Championships. 

Dresser said both Terukina and Redding are examples of the program’s bright future. 

“Both of those guys, 18-year-old kids, got thrown to the wolves into a division one schedule, both qualified for the NCAA Tournaments, so obviously there’s a lot of wrestling ability with those two guys, so again, this team has a tremendous upside,” Dresser said. [We’re] very young, probably going to take some lumps and some faults with that youth, like all youth do, but I think the upside and the future is really exciting.”

In addition to these two, there’s a few other underclassmen that are projected to be a starter or could be at some point in the year. They could also be fun to watch regardless of whether or not they are the starter in the duals.

Let’s look at sophomore Yonger Bastida.

The Trinidad, Cuba, native, only got to Ames in December of 2020, one month before the season started, as the United States was still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plus, he had to transition from freestyle wrestling, which he had been wrestling for his entire life, to folkstyle, the style of collegiate wrestling. 

That transition is never easy, nevermind having to learn it as you go in a season and wrestling against some of the top teams in the country like he did a year ago.

He earned a 4-4 record and was eventually beaten out for the starting spot at 197 by Marcus Coleman, a now three-time NCAA championship qualifier.

All four of his wins in the 2021 season came against wrestlers from non-division one schools. 

But even in defeat, Bastida was impressive and nearly pulled off some upsets.

He lost by three to Oklahoma State’s AJ Ferrari, the eventual national champion at 195 pounds, and he lost by just one to Missouri’s Rocky Elam, who went on to finish fifth at the NCAA Championships.

His other two losses were to Arizona State’s Kordell Norfleet, who was the No. 3 seed in the 2021 NCAA Championships and Jake Woodley of Oklahoma, who finished sixth at the NCAA Championship.

Bastida also won silver medals in 2020 at the Junior World Championships and Granma y Cerro Pelado Championship, a gold medal at the Pan-American Junior and earned a bronze medal at the 2019 U23 World Championships.

Now with Coleman moving down to 184, that opens a huge opportunity for Bastida to make a name for himself in the NCAA at 197.

“He is really gonna turn some heads this year. He’s really had a good offseason and you don’t want to look past that guy, I’ll leave you with that,” Dresser said in regards to Bastida.

His transition from freestyle to folkstyle, is the same transition that redshirt sophomore Ramazan Attasauov, the projected starter at 133, had to make.

“That’s their chink a little bit and and so we spend a lot of time on that, we know that when you when you grow up, and you don’t have top [and] bottom or focused (have training) on,” Dresser said. “‘Are they great there yet? Are they perfect there yet?’ No, but they’re much improved.”

Some wrestlers this season have already wrestled a bit in this young season and have had success. 

This includes Terukina, who won the 125 pound open championship at the Grand View Open on Saturday. To do so, he had to beat another Cyclone who gave him a run for his money.

That Cyclone is fellow Hawaiian, Corey Cabanban, junior, who took Terukina to sudden victory one in the championship round, before giving up a takedown that gave Terukina first and Cabanban second.

Terukina was one of five current Cyclones to take home an individual title at the Grand View Open.

This includes two wrestlers who are in the middle of fighting for a starting spot that appears to be wide open.

Redshirt junior Isaac Judge won the 165 pound title in the open division, while redshirt sophomore Carter Schmidt won the 165 pound title in the freshmen/sophomore division.

The 165 pound weight class has probably the most uncertainty as to who the starter will be week in and week out and Dresser has said there’s plenty of options there.

In fact, Dresser says this team has many options period. 

“I like a big roster because I like guys to get different looks in the room. Nobody wants to wrestle the same one or two guys all the time, so we’ve got a room full of options,” Dresser said. “You know, one day you might wrestle a tall guy that does this, the next day you might [wrestle a] short guy that does that, I think it’s good to get a lot of looks.”

In addition to Terukina, Judge and Schmidt winning individual titles at the Grand View Open, sophomore Cody Fisher won the 184 pound bracket in the freshmen/sophomore division.

Sophomore Cam Robinson, who nearly beat NCAA finalist Jarrett Degen in the initial wrestle-off at 149 a season ago, won the 149 pound title in the open division, while 2021 recruit Paniro Johnson (who will join the Cyclones next season) won the freshman/sophomore bracket at 149, wrestling unattached. 

With two sophomores that have already qualified for the NCAA Championships, a sophomore who was the 2020 U23 national champions (Ramazan Attasauov) and other young talent in addition to having a national champion, David Carr, on the roster, the future appears to be bright for the Cyclones who are ranked at No. 14 heading into the 2021-22 season.