ISU wrestling revisits tough UNI envirnoment

Redshirt senior Tanner Weatherman takes down Central Michigan’s Jordan Atienza at 165 pounds at Hilton Coliseum Jan. 31. Weatherman would go on to win 9-3.

Ben Visser

The five senses all come into play at Northern Iowa’s West Gym. It’s dark, it’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s loud, and the last time ISU wrestling traveled to West Gym to wrestle UNI, it tasted like victory for the Panthers.

In 2014, the Panthers beat the Cyclones for the first time since 2004. The Cyclones hold the all-time series against the Panthers, 56-17, so when the Panthers won in 2014, they made sure the Cyclones knew about it.

Does ISU wrestling’s 165-pound Tanner Weatherman remember the showboating after the 24-13 UNI victory?

“Absolutely,” Weatherman said. “They did kind of showboat on us a little bit. They had a good team that year, so give them credit where credit is due, but to disrespect us like that. Something is always going to kind of stick with you, definitely as a program for sure.”

In 2015, ISU coach Kevin Jackson said Northern Iowa acted like it won the national championship after every Panther arm was raised in victory. 

Iowa State got its revenge last season at Hilton Coliseum, defeating UNI, but it will travel back to Cedar Falls at 7 p.m. Friday in an attempt to get a positive outcome. 

“We’re not someone you can disrespect and get a way with it,” Weatherman said. “We are going to smack you back in the mouth. I don’t expect anything less than that.”

Weatherman will wrestle fellow top-15 wrestler Cooper Moore. He pinned Moore earlier this season at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

“If Tanner goes out there to score points, and dominates and wrestles the way he’s capable of wrestling, he’s going to be fine,” Jackson said.

It won’t be easy, however, because of the venue — West Gym.

Weatherman said West Gym is smaller than his high school gym at Ballard High School in Huxley, Iowa. Even though it’s small, the UNI fans make enough noise to compensate. 

But Weatherman embraces the raucous atmosphere.

“It’s a fun atmosphere. Everyone’s rooting against you,” Weatherman said. “You have the target on your back. You’re the enemy. They all hate your guts, screaming at you, stalling, this and that. I embrace it. It’s a fun atmosphere, and I think it’s a good place to test your mind mentally for the national tournament.”

While Weatherman will embrace the revenge factor, 133-pound Earl Hall will remain composed.

“[Coach Jackson] told me not to get into the hype, so I’ll just wrestle my match,” Hall said. “Walk out onto the mat, smile, shake his hand, walk off the mat and be calm about it.”

In between smiling and shaking his opponent’s hand, No. 8 Hall will wrestle No. 15 Josh Alber. Hall holds a 2-0 record against Alber in his career.

“I’m not really worried about what he has,” Hall said. “I feel like he doesn’t have much of an offense. If I let him control the pace, then I lose but if I just go out there and wrestle, then I’ll dominate.”

ISU wrestling’s 125-pound wrestler, Kyle Larson, has never made the trip to West Gym, but he’s heard plenty about it.

“They all say it’s just super hot, a really compact, small gym,” Larson said. “There’s a lot of fans there, it’s loud. But like [coach Jackson] was just saying, ‘Yeah, it’s a hostile environment, but would you rather go somewhere and wrestle in a cold gym, or would you rather wrestle somewhere in a hot gym?’ We’d rather wrestle in a hot gym.”

Larson will have a tough task a head of him. He’ll wrestle No. 7 Dylan Peters.

Larson said Peters has a bread and butter move that leads to pins. Larson has been working on that position in practice, making sure to avoid getting caught on his back. Larson isn’t just trying to avoid the pin, he’s trying to get the upset.

“I just have to get to his legs,” Larson said. “He’s injured, he’s injured pretty good. So I think the key for me is to wrestle hard for seven minutes, stay on him, keep attacking and just be aware of that one move. That’ll give myself the best chance to win.”

UNI boasts a roster with five ranked wrestlers. However, Jackson thinks his team matches up well.

“We know what the matchups are,” Jackson said. “We feel like we should be favored in quite a few matches. But again, you have to go out there and you have to make it happen.”