Takeaways: David Carr takes home first NCAA title 40 years after his dad’s first

David Carr celebrates after winning the 157-pound national title at the NCAA Wrestling Championship against Rider’s Jesse Dellavecchia on March 20.

Sam Stuve

40 years after his father Nate won his first of three NCAA Championships, David Carr has won his first after defeating Rider’s Jesse Dellavecchia 4-0 in the finals Saturday in the 2021 NCAA Championships at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Carr’s 4-0 win over Dellavecchia in the NCAA Championship match at 157 pounds capped off a dominant week and a dominant season by the redshirt sophomore.

One of the things Carr said got him through the tournament was his faith.

“I just want to say all glory to God, and without Him, I couldn’t do it,” Carr said. “Like I’ve been saying, I walk by faith, not by sight. Jesus got me through this whole tournament, and I put my faith in him.”

He and redshirt senior Gannon Gremmel led Iowa State to its best finish at the NCAA Championships in the last four championships.

Carr’s first title win comes 40 years after his dad’s first

With his family, including his dad, in attendance, Carr accomplished what he previously said was a childhood dream of his: winning an NCAA title.

He did it in a unique setting with limited fan attendance due to COVID-19 protocols, which Carr said had its advantages in spite of the lack of a large boost from fans cheering.

“I liked it because I can hear my coaches clearly,” Carr said.

One of the coaches he could hear was Assistant Coach Brent Metcalf, who tackled Carr after Carr did a cartwheel in celebration of winning the title.

“Metcalf has been with me this whole season, and he’s been telling me the right stuff; he’s telling me to trust my process,” Carr said. “These coaches are amazing, and so without having that many fans, I can hear them clearly. When they’re telling me to push, I push.”

Carr said he told his dad when he wanted to commit to Iowa State, he wanted to bring the program back to fruition and break all of his goals while he was at it.

“If anyone ever wants to be a top guy and wants to train, come to Iowa State, I’d be happy to train with you, happy to bring the program back to where it should be,” Carr said.

To beat Dellavecchia, Carr had a key double-leg takedown, which gave him a 3-0 lead that would eventually lead to him winning 4-0 with the riding time advantage bonus point.

“It’s awesome to get that takedown,” Carr said. “I felt like the double leg was there, and it was.”

In his final three matches, Carr had key takedowns that gave him the edge in those matches.

Against Minnesota’s Brayton Lee in the quarterfinals, Carr scored a takedown in overtime to win that match 4-2 in sudden victory one.

In the semifinals against North Carolina State’s Hayden Hidlay, Carr got the first takedown of the match in the first period and then got another takedown in the third period, giving him a 5-point cushion and allowing him to win 6-4.

At the NCAA Championships, Carr outscored his opponents 40-10 combined and 26-4 in the first two rounds combined.

With the title win Saturday, Carr finished the season 22-0 and has won 33 NCAA matches in a row.

Throughout the season, Carr dominated tough competition, outscoring NCAA Tournament-qualifying wrestlers 68-16 during the regular season and the Big 12 Championships.

With Carr’s title win, he became Iowa State’s first champion since Kyven Gadson in 2015.

Immediately after his title win in 2015, Gadson said he just wanted some ice cream.

Carr had a very similar statement Saturday.

“I just want some gummy bears,” Carr said in front of the ESPN cameras.

Carr is the first Cyclone since 2007 to win an NCAA Championship at 157 pounds (Trent Paulson).

He is also the first champion Iowa State Head Coach Kevin Dresser has had at the collegiate level.

“I love this job because I love to see kids reach their goals,” Dresser said. “A long time ago, I got a chance to live that moment that he just lived, and when I started coaching, you know, even at the high school level, to see kids win state championships, for the first time especially, it’s just a really cool thing, and to see kids reach their goals and get on a podium, and then especially to win a national title is really satisfying as a coach.” 

Dresser says seeing his wrestlers win championships is why he gets up in the morning and does his job.

Carr is the 50th Cyclone wrestler to win an NCAA title and the 70th individual champion overall.

But Carr wasn’t the only Cyclone to come home with a medal Saturday.

Gremmel makes history

At the NCAA Championships, senior Gannon Gremmel became the first Iowa State heavyweight to finish in the top six since 2010, when David Zabriskie won the title.

After getting pinned by two-seeded Mason Parris (Michigan) in the semifinals, Gremmel still had the chance to earn third place Saturday if he won two matches.

For the second time this year, Gremmel wrestled Arizona State’s Cohlton Schultz, and like the first match, Schultz won in overtime, this time with a takedown to win 4-2.

Gremmel bounced back from his loss to Schultz and defeated Wisconsin’s Trent Hillger 4-0 in the fifth-place match.

Gremmel got on the board early in his fifth-place match Saturday by scoring a takedown in the first 30 seconds of the match; he then iced the match with a reversal in the second period to defeat Hillger for the second time in the tournament; he had defeated Hillger 2-1 in tiebreaker one in the quarterfinal match Friday.

By finishing the tournament in the top eight, Gremmel is now a multi-time All-American, making him just the third heavyweight to do so at Iowa State since the weights changed in the 1998-99 season.

“Gannon Gremmel has come so far since the last time he wrestled in the NCAA Tournament two years ago,” Dresser said Friday.

Gremmel and Carr are the 86th and 87th multi-time All-Americans in Iowa State history.

With Carr’s first-place finish and Gremmel’s fifth-place finish, Iowa State finished tied for 13th (37.5 points) with Rutgers out of the 64 teams in the field, but after some early exits, it looked like Iowa State was not going to finish that high.

Early exits cost Cyclones in the team race

With a tied-for-13th finish Saturday, Iowa State had its best finish in the NCAA Championships in Dresser’s tenure at Iowa State (began in 2017-18 season).

Iowa State had a solid finish to the tournament but struggled at the start. Carr and Gremmel were the only two Cyclones to win their opening-round matches, and the Cyclones had a 2-6 record to start.

“We started out really slow on Thursday morning,” Dresser said. “I think from that point on, we wrestled pretty solid.”

The Cyclones had three wrestlers eliminated early Thursday, with redshirt senior Jarrett Degen and freshmen wrestlers Kysen Terukina at 125 pounds and Zach Redding at 133 pounds all combining for a 0-6 record and zero team points.

All three of these wrestlers lost at least one match by 6 points or less, including an overtime loss by Redding to West Virginia’s Ryan Sullivan in the first round.

After day one of the championships, the Cyclones had three wrestlers eliminated from the field and were tied for 20th in the team race.

Iowa State got things started off on the right foot Friday as four out five of their remaining wrestlers won their first match of the day, with only redshirt senior Ian Parker falling 11-8 to Nebraska’s Chad Red.

In addition to Carr and Gremmel advancing to the semifinals, redshirt junior Marcus Coleman at 197 pounds and redshirt senior Sam Colbray at 184 pounds won their first matches in the consolation bracket Friday.

Coleman pinned Virginia’s Jay Aiello (5:38), while Colbray won via a 7-3 decision over Campbell’s Caleb Hopkins.

Colbray and Coleman were eliminated in the next round, with Colbray losing to Oklahoma State’s Dakota Geer 9-4 and Coleman losing to Purdue’s Thomas Penola 3-2.

Iowa State finished with 37.5 team points; 22 came from Carr and 10 came from Gremmel.

The 37.5 points led to a tied-for-13th finish, besting Iowa State’s 16th-place finish in the 2019 NCAA Championships.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction, we keep climbing the ranks,” Dresser said. “We started out at 45th and we’ve slowly climbed in three years from 45th [in the 2018 NCAA Championships] to 13th.”