Iowa State hits road for dual against West Virginia


Ryan Young/Iowa State Daily

Redshirt senior Michael Moreno wrestles with Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State on Jan. 25.

Beau Berkley

The current composition of Big 12 wrestling consists of four teams, three of which could be considered historically prominent programs within a historically strong conference. The other is a geographical outlier and a more recent addition.

It’s the latter of the four that Iowa State (7-2, 1-1 Big 12) is concerned with this weekend. 

West Virginia (6-7, 0-2, Big 12) joined the Big 12 ranks in 2012 following the departures of longtime Big 12 staples Nebraska and Missouri. When it comes to major revenue sports like football and basketball, the acquisition of West Virginia, which originally hails from the Big East, was more than welcome, as the team is generally one of the more competitive programs in both sports. 

On the wrestling mat, the résumés don’t quite stack up. Compared to Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the history of wrestling at West Virginia fails in comparison to that of its conference foes. 

But Iowa State and the Oklahoma schools must also be grateful for West Virginia. After all, where would they be without the Mountaineers?

“The year Missouri left, there was a lot of talk and speculation about where we would end up, if we would end up in a regional at the end of the season or if we would join the MAC [Mid American Conference] for wrestling, we just didn’t know,” said senior Michael Moreno. 

Moreno, like many current ISU wrestlers, grew up watching the Cyclones wrestle against other traditional Big 12 teams. The current state of affairs is clearly different, but after three years of wrestling West Virginia, Moreno said that short of time is not enough to decipher whether a team fits the conference bill or not.  

“It’s hard to say where one team belongs after that long, but obviously growing up with the traditional Big 12 that I’m used to, it’s weird and I’m not quite sure if they belong or don’t belong, but I know that we have to be kind of thankful they are here,” Moreno said.

The past three years aside, the fact of the matter is that West Virginia is here to stay, and it is a team Iowa State will be well acquainted with in the coming years. West Virginia’s wrestling program in in the midst of the inaugural year for head coach Sammie Henson.

The Mountaineers’ lone ranked grappler is No. 13 Mike Morales at 141 pounds. Set to square off against Morales for Iowa State is true freshman Dante Rodriguez. Rodriguez is coming off a major decision victory against Oklahoma’s Trae Blackwell, which served as a sort of bounce-back win after Rodriguez lost by 17-3 major decision to Oklahoma State’s Dean Heil. 

Rodriguez said the win against Blackwell gave him a confidence boost, one that he hopes to carry against Morales and beyond. 

“I didn’t do so well against the Oklahoma State kid, so it was nice to bounce back with a good win and I actually dominated, but it’s just another step as me becoming a better wrestler,” Rodriguez said.

The dual against West Virginia is set to begin at 5 p.m. Feb. 7 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va.