Iowa State wrestling exits NCAA Championships, begins new era


Lani Tons/Iowa State Daily

From left, Angel Escobedo, volunteer coach, Travis Paulson, assistant coach and Kevin Jackson, head coach, gave direction to the wrestling team as they won 19-14 against University of Wyoming at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 12.

Ben Visser

ST. LOUIS — As one era ends, a new one begins.

Iowa State wrestling exited the NCAA Championships just as quietly as it entered. The Cyclones earned one team point in the tournament in St. Louis and finished tied for 56th.

That team point came courtesy of No. 14 seed 174-pounder Lelund Weatherspoon in his first-round match.

He dropped his next two matches, and that ended the 2016-17 Iowa State wrestling season.

A season that was marred by underperformance, disappointment, injury, coaching change and culminated in a wrestler getting kicked off the team.

Travis Paulson was named the interim coach for the championship season. He said it was a dream job before the Big 12 and NCAA Championships, and even though things didn’t go well for him, he maintains it’s still a dream job – for anyone.

“It was a dream and a goal for the future,” Paulson said. “Got some work to do, but we’ll see what happens in the future. Iowa State has everything you need to succeed — great school, all the resources, big budget, administration support. It should be a dream job for anybody.”

Iowa State’s new coach Kevin Dresser has been in Paulson’s shoes before.

“Their commitment and just the meetings I’ve had with [the Paulson brothers], those guys are super passionate about Iowa State wrestling,” Dresser said. “My heart goes out to any coaches that don’t have the weekend they want to have. And they obviously didn’t have the weekend they want to have.

“It’s a gut-check business, and I’ve been down here in the bowels of this before and had bad tournaments and there’s nothing that’s worse.”

Combined, Iowa State wrestlers went 1-6 in the tournament.

But with all the wrestlers eliminated, the Dresser era has officially begun. He’s already had a team meeting to discus expectations going forward.

“I had a chance to have a team meeting last week and told them the expectation and told them it’s about going to work and bringing back the history of Iowa State wrestling,” Dresser said. “And that’s my goal — to get it back to where it was when I was an athlete and when I competed.”

Dresser met with Iowa State’s young studs Kanen Storr and Ian Parker individually as well.

He liked what he saw from the two freshmen.

“I think they’re excited, I think they were listening, and that’s what you have to do,” Dresser said. “They were listening and I wasn’t preaching a lot, but you have to start preaching. You have to start serving the Kool-Aid.

“They got their first dose of coach Dresser’s Kool-Aid and so we have to keep feeding it to them and keep feeding it to them and keep feeding it to them and make it part of who they are.”

He said all the underclassmen have to be ready to go and ready to work Monday morning. That will be the team’s first taste of “coach Dresser Kool-Aid.”