Iowa State, Iowa and UNI wrestling programs spar at Fight Night

By Brian Mozey, [email protected], @BrianMozey
Then redshirt freshman Colston DiBlasi gets put into a head lock by the Iowa wrestler in the 157-pound match. DiBlasi lost his match with an 8-7 final score as Iowa State lost the Cy-Hawk wrestling match to Iowa 26-9 on Dec. 10 in Iowa City, Iowa. 

Jack Shover

What a night.

The annual Fight Night at Joe’s Knight Hawk in Waverly, Iowa on Nov. 1 featured an abundant amount of trash talk, verbal jabs and use of the word, “oranges.”

At Fight Night, a panel is held consisting of a representative from Grandview, Northern Iowa, Iowa, and Iowa State.

At the panel, the representatives have the ability to talk up their own program or speak negatively of others.

Before the coaches panel began, wrestling legend Dan Gable arrived at the event and shared some of his thoughts on new Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser’s hiring.

Gable believed that Dresser’s hiring was “really good” in regard to excitement in the program and reinvigorating the program.

He also says that the true test of success will be in the win column and being able to recruit top wrestlers in the future. Also, Gable hopes that the hire will truly be able to rejuvenate the rivalries between the Cyclones and Iowa/Northern Iowa.

The last 10 years Iowa State is 0-11 against Iowa and 8-2 against UNI with those two losses coming in the last four seasons.

“I could say be patient, but I am not a man of patience… If you work hard every day you are going to see some sparks and the people will end up seeing the sparks,” Gable said. 

The “sparks” should be there for Iowa State as it currently has Kanen Storr ranked No. 13 nationally at 141 pounds, according to Flo, and the Cyclones recently picked up commit from blue chip prospect and legacy Cyclone David Carr.

“If you expect automatic winning it’s just not going to happen,” Gable said. “The program is probably a little further down than they really want it, but I don’t think that it’s not so far down that it can turn around quickly.”

Gable also isn’t concerned about the majority of the Cyclone roster being underclassmen. He also said that he never worried about the age of a roster.

“You’ve gotta think about the talent and how good you are and where you are at,” Gable said. “And when you go out and step on the mat it doesn’t matter the age.”

High school students entering college are more ready than years past with the ability to compete and train with organizations like USA Wrestling, said Gable.

The host of the panel was former head coach from Division III Wartburg, Jim Miller. Wartburg is located in Waverly, Iowa.

The representative from Iowa State and UNI were coaches Kevin Dresser and Doug Schwab, respectively.

Northern Iowa will be joining Fresno State as the newest members of the Big 12 Conference this year for wrestling.

Iowa head coach Tom Brands was absent and in his place was Hawkeye Wrestling Club member Thomas Gilman.

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club is an organization that gives resources, training and coaching to ex-collegiate wrestlers with the goal of performing at the international level.

Gilman recently earned a World Silver Medal at 57 kilograms and is a three time All-American.

First to speak from the Division I schools was Schwab.

“I’ve got a lot of things going through my head,” Schwab said. “I am not sure what I am going to say, so don’t anybody take offense. Hopefully nobody had thin skin.”

To start off, Schwab went after Dresser.

“I’ve got my Mountain Dew here. Dresser are you like a Diet Coke guy? Mike’s Hard Lemonade? Something like that seems like your drink. I’ve got to make sure to get an orange juice for Gilman,” Schwab joked.

The reference was puzzling until Schwab explained that years ago Dresser called the Hawkeyes oranges while he was at Virginia Tech, but Schwab eluded that oranges meant something else.

Schwab then congratulated Gilman for his silver medal finish at the World Championship.

When speaking on his projections for the team’s success, Schwab preferred to not make any claims.

Gilman, who seemingly took issue with Schwab’s remarks, chirped at Schwab, who vehemently responded.

“Joe was upset, he was afraid I was going to pull a Brands and not show up, but I did. I did show up, so you know I can talk because I showed up. You see now I got him fired up,” Schwab said.

Schwab told the room he thinks he has the chance of beating Iowa State this year, and took a shot at ex-Cyclone coach Kevin Jackson.

“[Kevin Jackson] knocked it out of the park every year [against us], but I’ll tell you it was the only thing he knocked out of the park though. That’s rough; he’s not here to defend himself, but it’s funny,” Schwab joked. 

He gave props to Dresser for promoting wrestling and Iowa State, stating that at media day Dresser was surrounded by 8-10 reporters and the team only scored 1 point during the NCAA Championship by his account.

The next and most fiery speaker was Gilman, and he promptly defended coach Brands.

“You are right Tom’s not here; he has better things to do I guess than argue with Dresser and Schwab here [and] fighting for scraps while Tom’s out here getting big bucks. Bucks as in money,” Gilman said. 

Iowa City is the best wrestling city in the world according to Gilman, and he wasn’t afraid to elude that the other coaches felt the same way.

“Best place in the world, place in the country to watch wrestling, to wrestle, to practice. These guys know it — they’re just too afraid to admit it,” Gilman said about Schwab and Dresser.

Gilman announced that Iowa will no longer be partaking in Fight Night after this year.

Gilman then began to talk about his experience with wrestling fans during his time as a Team USA member where he won his silver medal.

“People tell me ‘yeah I was never a Hawk fan, I was never a Gilman fan, but you know once you graduated from Iowa I became a Gilman fan because we are on the same team now, Team USA’ do you know what I say to that? I say f*** you,” Gilman said. 

Gilman had some strong words for those who may have taken issue to what he had to say.

“If you don’t like my mouth the door’s over there, there’s one over there too,” Gilman said. 

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club, or HWC, members are competing across the world, including Poland, and the Cyclone and UNI members combined only have 2-3 athletes compared to Iowa competing at the international level.

The HWC currently has ten male and two female members while the Cyclone Club has three male members and the Panthers have only one.

“Our success relates directly to the college guys success, and we help them and they help us,” Gilman says about the relationship of the club and collegiate teams.

The conversation shifted to events the Hawkeyes are hosting and having tailgaters from football games come watch the wrestling team. Gilman then said the tailgaters need to leave the beer in the parking lot, but he joked he would possibly drink with them after.

Then he sarcastically mentioned only coming if the tailgaters had orange juice.

“I’m not sure what the whole oranges [thing] is about. I mean if you were a real man you’d just call us p******,” Gilman said. 

He added to that remark that Dresser was censored to a degree at Virginia Tech.

On the current collegiate Hawkeye team, Gilman said that 149-pound senior Brandon Sorensen and 157-pound sophomore Michael Kemerer need to step up in the room as leaders. Both were All-Americans last year.

The World silver medalist added that you can do everything right, but if you don’t have tenacity you won’t have success as a wrestler. Gilman believes this year’s Hawkeye squad has that tenacity.

He then added his thoughts on rivalries between Iowa and Iowa State.

“I can’t say much about Dresser because he hasn’t coached a season yet, but with Iowa State, is it a rivalry? Because we just beat the crap out of them every year,” Gilman said. 

As Gilman was speaking, a crowd member called out Iowa for allegedly avoiding meets with UNI and Gilman promptly responded.

“We’ll wrestle them. I’ll wrestle Schwab right now. You want to see it? Let’s do it. I got Zadick next, then Metcalf, then we’ll take Dresser last because he is old and crippled,” Gilman said. 

“[Dresser] calls us p******, and I guess I am a p**** because I wrestled for coach Brands, you know [Brands] is just soft because he won’t wrestle UNI, he won’t wrestle Virginia Tech,” Gilman said.

To cap his time on the panel off, Gilman called out Dresser for leaving the Virginia Tech program during the season.

“Why would you send your kid to Iowa State, if he can’t even hold a loyalty for one year,” Gilman said. 

Last to speak was Dresser, who began his time with talking of his time as an Iowa Hawkeye wrestler.

“We worked really hard, we played hard, we had a good time, by the way we won nine straight NCAA Championships. When is the last time Iowa won a National Championship in wrestling?” Dresser said. “We didn’t dodge anybody in those days. In fact, we went out of our way to wrestle everybody as much and as often as we could.”

Dresser hopes that Iowa State will be able to produce a good product and have fun to reinvigorate the fan base. He also understands that Iowa State may be the weakest of the Division I schools and he hopes to promote the state of Iowa’s wrestling reputation as a whole.

It was noted, that Iowa State broke a record, an over 20 year season ticket holders record, and the team finished 1-15 last year.

Dresser spoke of the new look of Hilton Coliseum that will be devoid of a giant black partitioning curtain.

“We are going to try to burn that curtain. Does anybody like that curtain?” Dresser said. “I hate that son b****. I hate that curtain. We’ve already got the gasoline and match.”

At the time, it seemed like this was a figure of speech, but in the light of this heist-esque video featuring the coaching staff, the meaning seems to be much more literal.

As on media day, Dresser admitted to the unknown with competition throughout the roster that has yet to establish a majority of starters.

Then Dresser was asked of the origin of the oranges story.

“That’s a long story. I just called them p******. My AD said I couldn’t call them p******, so I had to change the name. That’s where the oranges story came from,” Dresser said. 

He then added that growing up he heard the word all the time including from his mother and didn’t have the issue with it that others may have.

“I hope you don’t get offended if I use that word. In Virginia, that didn’t go over very well and I almost lost my job. Oranges was a lot less threatening,” Dresser said.

As Gilman was leaving, he and current Iowa State volunteer assistant coach and former Iowa wrestler Brent Metcalf shared unknown words and Gilman proceeded to leave the establishment clearly impassioned.

After, Dresser reflected on his first Fight Night.

“There was a little testosterone in the room I think,” Dresser said. 

He then reflected on the Hawkeyes’ announcement that they wouldn’t return to Fight Night.

“They’ve got their reasons to do what they’ve got to do,” Dresser said. “From the outside looking in, it looks like they continue to run from things. I think they think it’s a game and and I think they like to create that adversity and put that chip on their shoulder and everybody has a style for motivating their teams and their programs.”

The most fiery performance of the night was Gilman and Dresser had some thoughts on his showing.

“It’s almost like a cartoon character. It’s like WWE — that’s alright. If that’s what their deal is that’s what their deal is, but it’s like the old WWE with Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Savage,” Dresser said. 

The 2017 edition of Joe’s Fight Night was memorable and wrestling fans across Iowa can only hope that the Hawkeyes do end up returning next year.

It is also safe to say that the rivalry between the Hawkeyes and Cyclones will be hotter than ever as there seems to be no love between the Brands and Dresser staffs.

At this point, the dual between Iowa State and Iowa has only been a rivalry in the name, but this year will be the first test of what is to come in the rivalry when the two squads face on February 18, 2018.

The Cyclones may take several years to truly compete with the Hawkeyes, but if they reach that level of competition the rivalry will be something that Cyclone fans and wrestling fans alike have been patiently awaiting.