Takeaways: Memorable performances, finishes lead Cyclones to top-six finish in Vegas


Chris Jorgensen/Iowa State Daily

Then-redshirt-freshman Marcus Coleman celebrates after winning his match against Anthony Mantanona of Oklahoma on Jan. 25, 2019.

Zach Martin

Thanks to six top-six finishes over the weekend, Iowa State placed sixth in the stacked Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational — its second tournament of the season and one that acted like a miniature version of the NCAAs — with 82.5 points. 

Small wrestles large at 133 pounds

Since taking the crown in the open division at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open, Todd Small had trouble finding his footing. He lost his matchup against Bucknell by decision and was majored by Austin DeSanto of University of Iowa.

Small opened eyes in Nevada.

His fourth-place finish was the second highest by an unranked wrestler. His two losses were by a combined eight points.

After Small triumphed 9-3 in his first match against Clarion’s Seth Koleno, a date with the top seed Charles Tucker of Cornell was next.

In a close match, Tucker defeated Small 5-3. From there, the Iowa Central transfer would win his next five matches.

After pinning Travis Ford-Melton of Purdue and winning 12-6 over fellow Big 12 foe Zach Price from South Dakota State, Small would get the best of two seeded guys and one top-20 grappler.

Defeating Virginia’s Louie Hayes, seeded 11th, and Kent State’s Tim Rooney, seeded seventh, by decision sealed his top-six finish.

It’ll be interesting to see what this means for the future at 133. Austin Gomez will have a tough competitor if there is a wrestle-off once the redshirt sophomore is back on the mat.

Coleman experiences rollercoaster tournament

It might have been a surprise to see Marcus Coleman get seeded for the CKLV. He also received a bye into the round of 16.

Then, he showed the growth that many expected from him this year.

The Ames native took on top-10 ranked and fifth-seeded Devin Skatzka from Minnesota and defeated him 9-6. It’s his first win against a ranked opponent this season.

A high of highs suddenly turned into not making the podium.

Coleman ran into Anthony Valencia of Arizona State and was handed a 15-6 major decision defeat, a match that was tied at four after the opening period. The next day, his first consolation match was against Big 12 rival Hayden Hastings from Wyoming.

Hastings kept Coleman off the scoreboard in his 12-0 major decision win.

It won’t be easy for the redshirt junior to return to the NCAAs, but the win over Skatzka proved he can wrestle with the best.

Big 12 confirmed top-heavy

Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Northern Iowa were all looked at as this years favorites to win the Big 12 Championship in Tulsa.

With the performance the Cyclones and Panthers put up in Vegas, that all but confirmed it. And the Cowboys will certainly be there.

What was interesting was that the other Big 12 teams in attendance — Oklahoma, Utah Valley, Wyoming, Fresno State, Northern Colorado, North Dakota State and South Dakota State — didn’t put up much of a fight.

The Sooners had the highest ranked finish from a Big 12 school outside the state of Iowa, placing 10th. They had four total medalists compared to Iowa State’s six and Northern Iowa’s five.

Depth between the programs proved worthy.

One of Iowa State’s best wrestlers — Jarrett Degen — didn’t wrestle the second day because of an undisclosed injury, so he finished sixth. If healthy, he could’ve placed higher. 

Small proved himself as did Gannon Gremmel, despite losing twice to Tate Orndorff. Ian Parker had a solid tournament, David Carr placed in the top-three and Alex Mackall rebounded from a bad consolation semi-final defeat to snare fifth.

The Panthers have the best 1-2-3-4 punch at the four upper weights (174, 184, 197, HWT) probably in the conference, and they didn’t even bring their 197-pounder. Jay Schwarm has had a rough start to the year, but he’s a top-20 guy for a reason at 125. Max Thomsen, even with placing fifth, would be a complete surprise to see him not be an All-American at 149.

Oklahoma had four make it to the quarters. The rest of the conference had a grand total of five make it that far.

If Cliff Keen taught us anything, it’s that the top-three — barring injuries — will be who everyone thought they would be.