Dante Rodriguez trades in redshirt for uniform

ISU wrestling coach Kevin Jackson addresses reporters at media day on Oct. 24. Wrestling season begins on Nov. 7.

Ben Visser

ISU wrestling’s Dante Rodriguez will be trading in his redshirt for a red ISU singlet.

ISU coach Kevin Jackson plans on lifting Rodriguez’s redshirt for the double-header Thursday against Midland and Boise State. The team was planning to save a year of Rodriguez’s eligibility by taking him out of competitions in his sophomore season.

The decision comes after John Meeks lost at No. 6 Virginia Tech on Saturday in overtime, 3-1, at the 141-pound weight class.

Pulling Rodriguez’s redshirt doesn’t mean Meeks has lost his starting spot, but, with back-to-back meets coming up on Thursday, it allows Rodriguez to show what he can do.

He is ready for the chance.

“[Jackson] asked if I was ready to get my [redshirt] taken off,” said Rodriguez, who will compete in the 141-pound weight class. “I told him I was ready whenever the opportunity came.”

The decision to pull Rodriguez’s redshirt comes early in the season because the Cyclones didn’t want to be forced to pull the redshirt down the road and miss chances for him to compete and make an impact.

Iowa State will have a chance to redshirt Rodriguez next season, if it desires. 

Getting the team’s 10 best guys out on the mat is the most important thing, Jackson said. Rodriguez beat Meeks in the wrestle-off and, based off what Meeks has done, Rodriguez might be the best option going forward.

But don’t expect Meeks to roll over and give Rodriguez the spot.

“[Rodriguez] might be the best guy, but [Meeks’ going to have something to say about it,” Jackson said. “It’s still in [Meeks’] hands where we go with him.”

Jackson doesn’t know who will wrestle against Midland State or Boise State come Thursday, but Boise State brings with it the No. 9 wrestler at 141 pounds: Geordan Martinez.

He beat both Meeks and Rodriguez last year, but Meeks wrestled him much closer than Rodriguez, Jackson said. 

If Meeks gets the opportunity to wrestle him this season, he has his game plan all figured out.

“I just have to go out there and win,” Meeks said. “Just makes it that easy.”

A win for Meeks against the No. 9 wrestler at 141 pounds could solidify that spot for the Cyclones going forward. Rodriguez is recovering from an illness, so Meeks could get that opportunity when Thursday rolls around.

No matter which opponent he wrestles, Rodriguez will be proud to don the cardinal and gold as he makes his season debut.

“It’s always a great opportunity to put on a Cyclone wrestling singlet,” Rodriguez said. “To go out there with the ‘I State’ on the front of your chest, be a face to the Ames community, the alumni of Iowa State — it’s a great opportunity.”

Jackson is unsure which wrestler will be the starter going forward, but he does know whichever guy has the best opportunity to qualify for the NCAA tournament will be the one to wrestle at 141 pounds.

“We are still in the challenge situation, but that will be determined within the next couple of days,” Jackson said. “It’s something that we have to seriously consider because you’re dealing with a couple athletes that really, really want to compete. It’s really sensitive.

“They’ll both have opportunities, but we are looking for the guy who’s going to step up and wrestle the way we need them to, [to] compete to give us the best chance to win.”