Iowa State wrestling expects strong performances at NCAA Championships

Red shirt senior Earl Hall dominated Oklahoma’s Christian Moody in a 4-0 victory.

Ben Visser

ST. LOUIS — A note hung on Earl Hall and Lelund Weatherspoon’s fridge.

It read: “Only one tournament matters.”

That tournament is here. The NCAA Wrestling Championships begins Thursday in St. Louis.

Iowa State didn’t have the season it expected, and it only qualified three wrestlers for the NCAAs. But Hall and Weatherspoon are each returning All-Americans.

“I feel like there’s a lot more left in me and I just haven’t completely opened up yet,” Hall said. “In those big matches lately I feel like I’ve been trying to force a big move, which has slowed me down. But when I actually do shoot on the better guys I do get to my takedown. I just have to take it one step at a time and don’t look for the big move the whole time.”

Hall used his seventh place match in last year’s NCAA Championships as an example when he won by technical fall in the first period.

If the No. 13 seed is able to wrestle like that throughout the whole tournament, he should have a shot at being a three-time All American.

The things that have slowed Hall down this year are the minor details.

“The effort and the fight is there, it’s just locking into those small situations, like riding somebody out for 20 seconds instead of pushing them away or if you get taken down, you land and respond now instead of rest for 20 seconds and then get out,” interim coach Travis Paulson said. “The effort and the fight are there, it’s just understanding that 20 seconds matters, not attacking matters and hesitating matters.”

Last season, Weatherspoon was the only unseeded wrestler to make it to the semifinals.

While Weatherspoon is the No. 14 seed this year and won’t be able to sneak up on anybody, Paulson expects a similar run.

“He’s a gamer and he turns it up — he’s best in the limelight,” Paulson said. “When the NCAAs show up, he’ll be at his best. A lot of times when you go to the NCAAs guys will freeze up, but he does the opposite, he opens up. When he’s firing on all cylinders I’ll take him versus anyone in the country.”

Lastly, Marcus Harrington, the No. 8-seeded wrestler at the Big 12 Championships, was the only automatic qualifier for the Cyclones. Harrington had a slow start to the season after an injury.

But in the last month, Harrington has proven he takedown and compete with anyone. Harrington has gotten the first takedown in every match from Minnesota’s No. 2 Brett Pfarr to South Dakota State’s No. 9 Nate Rotert.

Talent was never the issue for Harrington, but it’s doing it for a full seven minutes.

“I think that’s kind of the mental aspect of matches for me,” Harrington said. “I have to wrestle for seven minutes. If I do that, I’ve shown I can take down anyone in the country and beat anyone in the country.”

Hall said a big change for Harrington and his late-season turnaround was sparring with for national champion Kyven Gadson everyday in the wrestling room.

“His work ethic is way different than it was at the beginning of the year,” Hall said. “He wants to go at those guys that will challenge him. He loves to go against Kyven now. He trains with Trent and Travis. He’s just had enough. The guy that he was in high school, we’re starting to see that translation to college.”

While the season is a lost one for the Cyclones, they have a chance to send out two seniors on a high note and prove the future is bright in the NCAA Championships.

“We know that one tournament matters, like we have on our fridge,” Hall said.