Wrestling tries to regroup for weekend duals after tumultuous two weeks

Curran Mclaughlin

Wrestling coach Kevin Jackson walked into the Pete Taylor Media Room at Hilton Coliseum on Monday like it just was another day doing his job.

He stopped at the small soda fountain machine by the door. The box hissed at him when he pressed his cup up to his first choice.

“Nothing?” Jackson said.

He scanned the room full of journalists while finding an option that would fill his cup. Jackson saw more than the usual few who attended his weekly press conferences.

“Man, maybe if we would have won [more], I would have had all you guys [for] years and years in this room,” Jackson remarked.

Jackson sat down in front of the cameras and recorders and gave his opening statement.

“A couple of duals this weekend, Pittsburgh and West Virginia — got Minnesota after,” Jackson said. “Just looking to finish the season off the right way and move forward.”

It was all Jackson said about Iowa State’s away duals against No. 24 Pitt and West Virginia this weekend.

The two duals will have little impact on Iowa State’s 1-9 season, especially after Jackson announced he planned to resign after the year.

Jackson chose to release the statement on Jan. 31 during the bye week in an effort to relieve pressure on his wrestlers heading toward the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.

After the announcement, Jackson said he took a few days off to take a deep breath and regroup with his family.

“The first day [without Jackson] was quiet,” wrestler Gabe Moreno said. “It was definitely different.”

Assistant coaches Trent Paulson, Travis Paulson and volunteer coach Angel Escobedo took over practice in Jackson’s absence.

It was time away that both Jackson and the team needed from each other.

Many of the wrestlers are fully invested in Jackson, some hoped that a good showing at the end of the season would keep him around for another year. Not getting that chance hurts.

Jackson’s absence for those few days would help keep the team’s mind off of what happened.

“Surprisingly the energy’s been really high [in the wrestling room],” Earl Hall said.

Hall took the news hard but refused to let it drag him down.

“As a leader I can’t put my head down and mope about it,” he said. “I got to continue to lead my brothers and go to war.”

Hall’s motivation to finish his final season on top is stronger than ever. The rest of the team seems to be just as determined since the news.

Even when Jackson wasn’t there, Hall said he can see his coach in the room with them.

“Angel put us through extra workouts and I just pictured [Jackson] sitting in front of me and it made me work even harder,” Hall said. “He’s always in the back of my head.”

Like Hall, the rest of the team is determined to give Jackson a good send-off. The fact that Jackson is leaving, however, is being put on the back burner.

“We didn’t really have any time to sit back and reflect on it, we got to push forward,” Moreno said.

Hall and Moreno are two of four seniors who are expected to wrestle at the Big 12 tournament. For these men, qualifying for the NCAA tournament will be the last chance to prove themselves and make a lasting mark in a cardinal and gold singlet.

“At the end of the day this is my last season, even the underclassmen only have so long,” Moreno said. “So whatever the future holds for our coaching staff, we have to make this season count.”

Moreno knows this more than anyone else, having lost out on that opportunity twice from a shoulder injury. He said he’ll have to wait until after March to reflect on the memories he made with the coaching staff.

“Right now I’m looking to make new memories with them and looking to get better results than within the past,” Moreno said.