Iowa State gets ‘fresh start’ with Big 12 Championships


Lee Chinyama

Sam Schuyler at the ISU vs. OSU wrestling meet on Jan. 29.

AMES – The postseason begins Saturday for No. 5 ranked Iowa State wrestling and with it comes a fresh start.

The Cyclones will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma Saturday and Sunday for the two-day Big 12 conference championships. They will enter the event with six wrestlers enjoying first-round byes while seven Cyclones will be seeded in their brackets.

Senior David Carr is the only No. 1 seeded wrestler for Iowa State. His teammates Sam Schuyler and Marcus Coleman are No. 2 seeds while Zach Redding, Paniro Johnson and Yonger Bastida are No. 3 seeds in their brackets.

Head coach Kevin Dresser’s team was nearly undefeated in conference dual meets during the regular season. Still, the Cyclones are attempting to learn and build off late-season lessons.

“It’s a fresh start,” Dresser said Wednesday.

Prior to the postseason, Iowa State lost its only dual to a Big 12 team. Missouri, ranked No. 10 in the nation at the time, defeated Iowa State by a margin of 23-12. The road loss was the highest margin of victory for an Iowa State opponent all season.

“Hopefully we’ve learned something from the regular season,” Dresser said. “We got a group of guys that are excited and a group of guys that are healthy. That’s really all you can ask for.”

In terms of team projections, Iowa State is slated to finish third in the conference team race. Both Missouri and Oklahoma State are ahead of the Cyclones in team scoring based on pre-seeding projections.

Individually, Iowa State will bring several first-timers to the Big 12 Championships and several wrestlers in position to win their first championship.

Corey Cabanban, Casey Swiderski and Johnson will wrestle in their first postseason at the collegiate level. Jason Kraisser, a transfer from Campbell will compete at his first Big 12 Championship.

Cyclone veterans Sam Schuyler and Marcus Coleman are seeded second in their respective brackets and are in position for their first Big 12 Championships after long careers. Coleman, a senior, will compete in the fifth Big 12 Tournament of his career this season. He finished third last year, which was the highest finish of his career.

For both athletes, years of experience means added confidence and improvements entering this Big 12 Tournament.

Coleman is in his sixth season with the Iowa State wrestling program. He redshirted his initial season in 2018 and gained an extra year due to COVID-19. Coleman has taken full advantage of his six years, Dresser said, by taking steps as a wrestler but also gaining confidence.

Schuyler started his collegiate career in 2018 by redshirting at Buffalo. He is also in his sixth year of college wrestling. Schuyler may be Iowa State’s most improved wrestler of this season, according to Dresser. With improvement also comes Schuyler’s most impactful weapon: his confidence.

“Confidence is the most dangerous weapon in sports, especially when you have it,” Dresser said. “He [Schuyler] is not going to Tulsa to make the finals. He’s going to win.”

Schuyler has gained several impactful wins for Iowa State during the final part of the regular season. Schuyler enters the Big 12 Championships with eight straight wins, including multiple dual meet-defining wins as the heavyweight for the Cyclones.

Schuyler helped Iowa State defeat Pittsburgh on the road with his win against No. 5 Dayton Pitzer. The Cyclones needed his win to force tiebreaker criteria in that dual meet.

Schuyler and Coleman will both have first round byes. For both, a journey to a Big 12 Championship will start in the quarterfinals. The Cyclones will need to win three matches to take home a Big 12 title.

For the upcoming NCAA Championships, the Big 12 conference has the following allocations.

125: 6
133: 6
141: 7
149: 7
157: 7
165: 8
174: 6
184: 4
197: 6
285: 8

Finishing at or below these positions at each weight class will guarantee a spot in the NCAA Championships.

If the Iowa State wrestlers perform at or above their pre-seeding positions, seven Cyclones will automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament. Unseeded Cyclones like Julien Broderson at 174-pounds and Casey Swiderski at 141-pounds will aim to meet these marks and keep their seasons alive indefinitely.

Sessions one, two and three of the Big 12 Championships on Saturday and Sunday can be streamed on ESPN+ while the final session can be seen on ESPNU starting at 8 p.m.