Cyclone Wrestling Prepares for 2009-10 Season
AMES, Iowa New leadership is in place for the Iowa State wrestling team and expectations are high. Eight starters return from the 2009 NCAA Championships’ third-place squad to wrestle under new head coach Kevin Jackson. The former Cyclone NCAA finalist and 1992 Olympic Gold medalist will attempt to help ISU wrestlers reach their aspirations. ISU has placed in the top five teams at the last three NCAA Championships.
“We’ve got a good group of guys,” Jackson said. “They haven’t accomplished all of their goals so there is always room for improvement. We are bringing in a different attitude from a technical and tactical standpoint. We are going to be more aggressive and try to score more points.”
Jackson plans to work on expanding the wrestling repertoire of each individual Cyclone on the team.
“You can say Let’s be more aggressive’ but there is more to it than just that,” Jackson said. “Our strength and conditioning program will greatly aid all of our student-athletes. We are doing things that haven’t been done in the past.”
The group of senior Iowa Staters that made up the top-ranked recruiting class of 2005 are set to begin their final campaigns. Iowa State starters Nick Fanthorpe, Nick Gallick, Mitch Mueller, Jake Varner, David Zabriskie and reserve Joe Curran have compiled 436 career wins. The ISU group has lived up to the lofty billing by taking a personal stake in three-straight Big 12 Championship team titles.
“When the seniors came to Iowa State, they came here for a couple reasons,” Jackson said. “They wanted to be individual champions, they wanted to win a NCAA team title and they wanted to beat Iowa in a dual meet. Varner is the only one to reach one of those goals with his NCAA title. There are goals they haven’t yet fulfilled. We continue to work everyday to help them reach the goals that they set when they were being recruited by Coach (Bobby) Douglas.”
Headlining the Cyclone lineup is Varner, a three-time NCAA finalist and 2009 197-pound national champion. The Bakersfield, Calif. native will be striving to become the 11th four-time All-American in school history at the NCAA meet in March in Omaha, Neb. Varner polished his wrestling technique over the summer by winning the U.S. Senior Nationals and made the American World Championships freestyle team that competed in Herning, Denmark Sept. 21-23. Varner holds a 90-10 career record.
“We know Jake (Varner) gained a ton of experience wrestling in the World Championships,” Jackson said. “Only certain Americans are special enough to ever even wrestle in that event. He worked out with some of the best wrestlers in the country in preparation for it and met some of the best in the world over there in Denmark. Varner is truly world-class.”
Varner’s progression will be closely monitored by Jackson and the ISU leader is ready to push the 197-pound titlist even further.
“Hopefully with the experience he gained he’ll realize that he is the best in the nation,” Jackson said. “But he needs to know that he has to prove it every day, either in the practice room or in competition. We want him to know that when individuals wrestle him closely, it is almost a win for them. We are out for total domination now. We want him to be undefeated this season.”
Four fellow ISU teammates return with All-America accolades on their resume. Gallick, a native of Tucson, Ariz., placed third at 141 pounds at last season’s NCAA Championships. He knocked off the division’s top two seeds en route to earning All-America honors for the second time. He is also the winningest Cyclone on the current roster, with a career mark of 92-28.
Zabriskie, ISU’s “little” heavyweight, will be trying to earn All-America honors for the third time. Zabriskie has defied all odds in his career, routinely emerging victorious from matches where he is out-weighed by up to 50 pounds. The Cyclone from Branchville, N.J. stands at 90-20 for his career.
Jon Reader, a junior, has made the most of his two NCAA Championships trips so far, being honored as an All-American both times. The native of Davison, Mich. captured a silver medal in April at the 2009 Pan-Am Games, competing in freestyle competition. Reader has notched 60 wins to 17 losses halfway through his career.
Fanthorpe, a senior 133-pounder, will be looking to return to form after being hampered by a leg injury during his junior campaign. The Naperville, Ill. native was an All-American as a sophomore and will have his eye on the award stand for his final season. He holds an 82-23 career record.
“I like this team’s energy level,” Jackson said. “I like their focus. They understand they’ve accomplished some things already, but they still have their best tournament to come. That comes from what we do every day in training. Their championship is going to be won before they get to the NCAA tournament. It is going to be won with what we do everyday.”
Senior Mitch Mueller returns after his most promising NCAA Championships outing. Mueller, hailing from Iowa City, Iowa, was stopped one match short of All-America accolades at 149 pounds last season. Fellow senior Duke Burk has his sights set on another trip to the NCAA Championships. The Peoria, Ill. native will be the wrestler to watch at 174 pounds in his second season as a Cyclone.
At 184 pounds, sophomore Jerome Ward, of Evergreen Park, Ill., went 1-2 at the NCAA Championships to conclude his freshman campaign. Ward showed potential in his redshirt freshman campaign by grabbing runner-up honors at the Big 12 Championships.
Cyclone grapplers who could also see action on the mat are Anthony Valles (RFr., 133 pounds), Nate Carr, Jr. (Jr., 157 pounds) and Eric Thompson (RFr., HWT). Valles was ranked among the top-20 wrestlers in the country at 130 pounds his senior year of high school. Carr, Jr. went 13-6 in his first season in a Cyclone singlet. Thompson, a native of Shell Rock, Iowa, was the top-ranked heavyweight high school wrestler in the nation for 2008.
New additions to the ISU wrestling room this season include: Boaz Beard (184) of Wichita, Kan., Ben Cash (133) of Prole, Iowa, Tyler Christensen (184) of Middleton, Wis., Dallas Collier (125) of Aiea, Hawaii, Tyler Grask (125) of Des Moines, Iowa, Cole Shafer (174) of Heber City, Utah, Trent Weatherman (149) of Huxley, Iowa and Keith White (141) of Melbourne, Iowa.
Jackson has high expectations for the new faces in the room.
“I want them to follow by example,” Jackson said. “I want them to look at guys like Varner, Gallick, Reader, Fanthorpe and Zabriskie. We have a group of seniors and juniors that are trying to be their best, both on and off the mat. They need to bridge the gap between high school and college, first academically and then athletically.”
Jackson is hopeful the newcomers understand they are the future of the program.
“Our freshmen are already ahead of schedule,” Jackson said. “We want them to be ready to break the lineup next year.”
ISU begins the dual season at home within the friendly confines of Hilton Coliseum, facing South Dakota State Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. The Cyclones will hold an intrasquad match at the Lied Recreation Center Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.
Click the links section in the above photo to access the 2009-10 schedule and this season's team roster.