Kevin Dresser’s Iowa wrestling roots helped him land Iowa State job

New head wrestling coach Kevin Dresser listens as Athletic Director Jamie Pollard introduces him in his first press conference Feb. 22, 2017.

Curran Mclaughlin

Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard had three steps in his hiring process for the coaching position for Iowa State wrestling.

First, listen to the ideas of individuals who are close to the wrestling program. Second, target the person he wanted for the program. And third, interview candidates if he couldn’t convince his target to join.

Luckily for Pollard, he only had to go to step two in hiring new coach Kevin Dresser.

Every person Pollard talked to echoed a similar mentality of what Iowa State needed.

“The overriding consensus was, we need a CEO of wrestling,” Pollard said. “We need somebody that’s done it, who’s been there, who can restore this program to its rightful place in the history of college wrestling.”

It didn’t take long for Pollard to set his sights on Dresser.

Dresser inherited a Virginia Tech program on the downtrend in 2006 and quickly turned it into a national power that’s currently ranked fourth in the nation.

Iowa coaching legend Dan Gable, who coached Dresser when he wrestled at Iowa, said Dresser is business-like in how he handles a wrestling squad. Dresser places people into roles and expects them to do their job.

Not only is Dresser’s coaching philosophy based on Gable’s system, something that Pollard keyed in on, but it was also Dresser’s passion to return to wrestling in the state of Iowa.

“Growing up in Humboldt, Iowa, having season tickets to Cyclone football games when I was a kid — when this opportunity came up, my radar went way up,” Dresser said.

At a young age, Dresser’s father and a neighbor took him to wrestling meets at Hilton Coliseum.

“I could remember … parking a long ways away and I was surprised at how far we had to walk just to get to a wrestling match,” Dresser said.

Dresser recalled names like Chris Taylor, Dale Bahr and Kelly Ward as he grew up and wrestled his way to two state championships for Humboldt High School.

Even when his wrestling career took him to the University of Iowa, where he won a national championship in 1986, Dresser kept his eye on the then “enemy” school.

All Pollard needed to do was convince Dresser to take the job.

“The amount of passion and the amount of, I wouldn’t [even] say it’s salesmanship, that Jamie Pollard has provided me since that first phone call is most impressive,” Dresser said.

What Dresser said he admired most from Pollard’s pitch was the vision that both men shared in getting Iowa State wrestling back to the national stage, along with building a Regional Training Center to bring post-graduate wrestling to Ames.

But Dresser also had another reason to take the job after being a wrestling coach at Virginia high schools and at Virginia Tech since 1988.

“It’s a chance to come home,” Dresser said.

Moving back to Ames gives Dresser a chance to be closer to his brother, Dan, who lives in Ankeny. Their mother also lives there six months out of the year.

Pollard had enlisted the help of football coach Matt Campbell, too, to go visit Dresser on Feb. 9 in an effort to recruit him to the job.

Dresser said he was impressed by the amount of effort Pollard and Campbell put into his family and him.

It took about a week and a half for Dresser to make up his mind. Pollard received a text from Dresser on Saturday while attending a wedding.

“He texted me on Saturday and said, ‘I hope it’s not too late. I would like to talk to you Sunday after my meet with Nebraska, because we’re ready to come,’” Pollard said.

The deal was done Sunday night and announced the next day.

It was a perfect storm Iowa State created to lure Dresser to be the new coach. Dresser made it known during his press conference on Wednesday that he will always be a Hokie, saying he never thought about coming to Iowa State until being offered the job.

“There’s probably only two, maybe three jobs in the nation that I would have left Virginia Tech [for], because Virginia Tech is so daggone special,” Dresser said.