Degen grows as a verbal leader for the Cyclones


Mikinna Kerns/Iowa State Daily

Then-redshirt freshman Jarrett Degen wrestles Tyshawn Williams during the Iowa State vs. SIU-Edwardsville match Nov. 11, 2018, in Stephens Auditorium. The Cyclones won nine of the 10 matches over the Cougars. 

Zach Martin

Jarrett Degen has been alongside Kevin Dresser his entire collegiate wrestling career.

Degen was recruited by Dresser at Virginia Tech, where the 149-pounder compiled a 22-6 record in his redshirt season.

Like the Iowa State wrestling program, Degen has taken leaps and bounds since arriving in Ames.

He went from NCAA qualifier to All-American and moved up one place at the Big 12 Tournament.

Expectations have only gotten higher.

Degen comes into his redshirt junior season as InterMat’s third-ranked wrestler at 149 as he is aiming for his third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament and his first Big 12 Championship.

“I just got to wrestle smart, stay in my stance and have good leg defense,” Degen said. “Everything else will work itself out.”

Degen is the highest-ranked Cyclone at any weight and is the highest-ranked conference wrestler in a weight class that has six in the top-20 and three in the top-11.

It’s a deep weight class that Degen — who went 5-2 against wrestles in his weight class a season ago, including going 2-0 against Iowa’s Pat Lugo — is ready for.

When asked if his wrestling progress has mirrored that of the Cyclone team in Dresser’s three years, he was unsure.

“It kind of looks like that, I guess,” Degen said. “I wouldn’t put it like that; we’re all a team and it kind of worked out that way.”

As one of eight returning NCAA qualifiers in the Cyclones wrestling room, Degen has embraced a different kind of leadership role. Usually one to lead by example, the Belgrade, Montana, native is taking over as a vocal leader.

It’s a transition Degen is comfortable with.

“When I first got here, it took a little while,” Degen said. “Get here and realize there’s not really a bunch of leadership going on, kind of step in there as a younger guy. I got good connection with a lot of these guys. It’s not like I’m going out there and yelling — it’s a quiet type of leadership.” 

Dresser has seen it first-hand.

“He’s not afraid to call guys outs, he’s slapping guys on the butt and he’s really positive,” Dresser said. “He’s always been a good leader, he’s gotten more verbal.”

Degen committed to the Hokies after compiling a 184-8 record has a prep wrestler for Belgrade High School. He was a four-time state champion and ended up as the No. 83 overall recruit in the class of 2016.

Once Dresser took the job at Iowa State, Degen followed him and was inserted into the Cyclones lineup.

His impact was immediate.

Degen went 10-4 in duals on his way to a 23-11 record and earned an automatic berth at the NCAA Tournament in Cleveland after he placed third at the Big 12 Championships.

He finished in the top-12 as Iowa State’s lone qualifier that capped off a year where Degen led the Cyclones in wins, with 11 of them being bonus point victories.

One year later, he got on the podium.

Degen and now-volunteer-assistant Willie Miklus were the first two wrestlers in the Dresser era at Iowa State to garner All-American honors in Pittsburgh. Degen placed seventh after he defeated Lugo in a rematch from the regular season dual.

For the second straight year, Degen led the Cyclones in overall wins.

Still, there is a lot left for Degen to learn.

“My stance and good short defense,” Degen said. “Get my offense going on my feet.”

Dresser is hopeful that a fourth season under him will do wonders for the 149-pounder.

“He’s coming in every day to compete, whereas two years ago I saw him on Sundays getting kind of thrown all over,” Dresser said. “He’s getting more consistency.”

If the Cyclones are going to live up to the hype, it starts with Degen. Both he and Dresser are aware of that.

“He’s got to understand that it’s a big step and it’s hard,” Dresser said. “When it’s that hard, you have to do extra things. Seventh to third is hard. Got to put the time in, and right now he is.”