Iowa State wrestling gets new life at Big 12 Championships

Gabe Moreno wrestles Minnesota’s Ben Brancale on Feb. 19. Moreno goes out with an 8-0 major decision and 4:15 of riding time on Senior Day. Minnesota defeated Iowa State, 40-7.

Curran Mclaughlin

Possibly no other wrestler’s situation heading into the Big 12 Championship is more representative of the Iowa State’s overall season than Gabe Moreno.

After missing a large chunk of the season due to a concussion in December, Moreno has not won a single match in duals against Big 12 opponents at 149 pounds.

Because of that, Moreno sits in the last seed at No. 10 for the tournament, which will take place Saturday and Sunday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Many people may overlook the 149-pounder, just as many have written off Iowa State this season after a 1-12 dual season. That doesn’t bother Moreno.

“I kind of think of it like when you play the old Mortal Kombat, how each time you win you go up [the tournament ladder] and then you’d have to face the boss,” Moreno said. “I can’t lose. There’s no restarts in this [tournament].”

Kevin Jackson decided to step down completely after dual season, leaving his assistant coach, Travis Paulson, as the interim coach for the remainder of the year.

“It was a good way to reset,” Moreno said.

Paulson is doing his best to eliminate distractions and get his team ready for the Big 12 tournament.

“[We’re] squashing any talk about next year or rumors or anything going on,” Paulson said. “Once you walk into practice you put on your hard hat and [get] ready to put in some work.”

Paulson made sure to talk with the wrestlers before practice to ground them and remind them all why they’re here.

Paulson decided to have a meeting with the leadership council, which consists of two representatives of all four classes, to establish expectations and goals to finish out the year.

That expectation is to fight for seven minutes.

Paulson said it’s not about the results, but rather the effort given on the mat. When a wrestler wearing cardinal and gold steps onto the mat, he’s representing Iowa State University for seven minutes. The results come with the effort given.

“This group of guys have an opportunity to do the biggest turnaround in Iowa State history,” Paulson said.

With pre-seeds decided for the Big 12 tournament, the only thing left to do is wrestle in the tournament. Every second is an opportunity for the Cyclones to make an impact.

“Everyone is 0-0 from here on out,” Earl Hall said. “Whatever you did earlier in the year doesn’t matter.”

Hall, who’s seeded third, said he can’t focus on what’s happened this year. He can only worry about what he can do moving forward. It’s a choice to dwell on the past.

Hall and Moreno are both determined to give their coaches a send-off that they deserve.

As seniors, both men want to leave a positive mark on what’s been a terrible season for the program while setting an example for the returning wrestlers.

Paulson stressed that it’s not too late to turn it around, the important step is now.

“[We can show] the underclassmen by the trials and tribulations of the season [that] really it’s all about how you end up,” Moreno said.