Pat Downey makes late-season impact for ISU wrestling

Junior Patrick Downey III attempts an escape against West Virginia’s Bubba Schefflel. Wrestling at 184 lbs, Downey won his match in a 5-4 decision over Schefflel.

Ben Visser

When one meet remains in the season, most wrestling teams have their lineups set and are beginning to prepare for their conference tournaments. But ISU wrestling has integrated a key piece.

Junior World Championships silver medalist and Junior College National Champion Pat Downey III first entered the Cyclones lineup Feb. 5 at Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

In his debut dual, Downey weighed in at 184 pounds but proceeded to wrestle at 197 pounds.

“Pat’s a pure competitor,” said ISU coach Kevin Jackson. “We pushed him up to 197 pounds, he had to make two pounds over 184 pounds to be able to still make [the] 184-pound [class] the rest of the year. He was the first matchup and it was his first match of the year.

“He just showed his competitive nature, he showed how tough he is. And [he] loved the environment. He just loves to compete — just a joy to watch to be so excited about the opportunity to wrestle.”

He had to wrestle up a weight class because heavyweight Quean Smith couldn’t wrestle that day.

Downey won 5-2.

“It was a lot of emotions, from nervous to exciting to not knowing how I’d perform out there,” Downey said of his debut. “It was definitely a lot of emotions, but I was just happy to be able to get the job done. It wasn’t as dominant as it could have been, but for my first match, I thought it was pretty good. Good start to my season.”

Only two duals remained on the schedule after Downey’s initial match. ISU wrestling had already wrestled in 13 meets and four tournaments before Downey stepped on the mat. His season was just starting.

Downey is a junior college transfer from Iowa Central by way of Nebraska. The NCAA has a rule in place that says athletes who transfer from Division I colleges to junior colleges have to graduate before they transfer back to Division I.  

Downey took 19 credits last semester in order to graduate from Iowa Central and be eligible to wrestle for the Cyclones this semester. He did it and passed all of his classes.

“That was probably my biggest obstacle of getting here was the school aspect of things,” Downey said. “Now that I’ve got that taken out of the way, I can just focus on wrestling, and that’s a great feeling again.”

The Cyclones returned home last Sunday to wrestle Big 12 foe West Virginia. Downey made his Hilton Coliseum and 184-pound debut.

And his hand was raised once again in victory.

He had never wrestled before at 184 pounds. He always wrestled at 197 pounds. He went undefeated at Iowa Central wrestling at 197 pounds, but coach Kevin Jackson thought Downey can exceed at 184 pounds. 

“He’s got an opportunity to do some special things,” Jackson said. “He’s competed at the world level, he’s competed against everyone that’s nationally ranked for the most part — the top-three guys, the top-four guys — and he’s beaten pretty much all of them.”

Downey hopes he can do something even more special than just beat the top-ranked guys. All of his work culminates to his goal of being a national champion. 

Downey has his game plan all mapped out, maybe even including a celebration. 

Downey said winning the national championship is more than wrestling — it’s a lifestyle. They have to diet right, make weight, stay hydrated, stay healthy and do everything else off the mat right.

He wants to be walking around at 190 pounds, so he can make weight on any given day. At the national tournament, wrestlers have to make weight three consecutive days.

“It’s all about business until March,” Downey said. “Like I said, I want to be the national champion.”

Jackson said Downey needs to lock down his attack late in matches but added that his ceiling is pretty high.

“He definitely has the potential to accomplish [his national championship] goal,” Jackson said.