Wrestling takes away positives despite frustrating loss

The Iowa State wrestling coaches watch the match between Patrick Downey and Arizona State’s Connor Small Jan. 6. 

Curran Mclaughlin

Cyclone fans in Hilton Coliseum had to move their eyes back and forth across the arena floor Friday night, but not for a basketball game.

Friday night was Iowa State wrestling’s Beauty and the Beast dual against No. 20 Arizona State, which features a wrestling dual along with a gymnastics meet going on simultaneously.

With gymnasts covered in chalk and spandex competing in the distance, No. 9 Lelund Weatherspoon looked to redeem himself against No. 4 Zahid Valencia.

Weatherspoon had lost Valencia twice this season, most recently in the Midlands finals where he lost by major-decision to the undefeated Sun Devil.

Weatherspoon wrestled a better match this time around, but still couldn’t conquer the 174-pounder, losing by decision, 5-2.

Despite the loss, there was much more to be taken away from the match for coach Kevin Jackson.

“I think he’s closed the gap,” Jackson said. “If you can say Valencia is in the hunt to be a national champion, if Lelund changes a couple of things, he’s in the hunt to be a national champion.”

Jackson had a handful of positives to take away from the 25-19 loss to the Sun Devils, but didn’t hide his displeasure in the performance from his wrestlers.

“We just didn’t wrestle hard enough,” Jackson said. “I think the guys know they’re better than that.”

Jackson felt that his team could have jumped out to a four-win advantage with the dual starting out at 125.

With No. 16 Markus Simmons coming back into the lineup followed by No. 10 Earl Hall, Jackson expected John Meeks and Chase Straw to win their swing matches.

Simmons and Hall did not disappoint, as Simmons scored a fall in 1:30 and Hall got a 14-4 major-decision. Straw was beaten by tech fall and Meeks sluggishly lost 3-2.

Arizona State would go on to win the next three weight classes and put the dual away with Austyn Harris beating Marcus Harrington by a 3-2 decision at 197.

Jackson expressed how the team was tired of getting disappointed but he will continue to try and keep positive.

“Our guys are good enough, they just have to make their mind up that they’re going to go out there and battle for every single point,” Jackson said.

That’s something Jackson doesn’t need to worry about with Simmons or Hall.

Hall, who said he’s always looking to put on a show, also knows he has to focus on doing the best to get bonus points for the team.

“[I have] go out there and dominate,” Hall said. “[I have] to lockdown the situation.”

Hall proved that by recording five takedowns in his match, which echoes a goal that is always in the back of his head.

“That’s not enough,” Hall said about his five takedowns. “I always want to try and 30-15 somebody, that’s my goal.”

184-pounder Pat Downey shared a similar sentiment that night, beating Conner Small 19-7 in his first match back since breaking his rib at the Cyclone Open in November.

Despite the good performance, Downey didn’t show the same excitement as some Cyclones fans might have for him right now.

“Legs were a little heavy, felt a little congested,” Downey said calmly. “But I felt good, cause I didn’t feel my rib at all. That was my main concern.”

Downey hadn’t much time back on the mat before the meet, only getting a chance to wrestle Wednesday and Thursday. Downey said he mainly ran the last couple of weeks.

“Pat’s a dog,” Hall said. “Pat can go out there and wrestle [anytime]. Pat [could] not train for the whole year and go out and wrestle anyways.”

Having Downey back will be a huge boost to the Cyclones moving forward, already showing his worth despite limited time to prepare for live wrestling. Iowa State will be waiting anxiously to see him at 100 percent.

“It just shows his competitive nature,” Jackson said. “[This] shows that he’s a true competitor, no matter how he feels, he’s going to go out there and try to wrestle and try to win.”