"Releasing the Lion," Reader is NCAA Champ
AMES, Iowa -- While at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships March 17-19 in Philadelphia, Pa., Iowa State senior Jon Reader, in his own words, "released the lion." He defeated Stanford's Nick Amuchastegui 10-3 in the 174-pound weight class to win the national title March 19, in the Wells Fargo Center. Reader had many firsts this season, posting an undefeated record, a Big 12 Conference title win and the NCAA Championship crown.
Iowa State's 2011 champion ended his senior season with a 39-0 record and a career mark of 124-23.
Reader led the team with victories in the 174-pound weight class at NCAA Championships, Big 12 Conference Championships, Hokie Open, Harold Nichols/Cyclone Open Midlands Championships and Cliff Keen NWCA National Duals.
The Davison, Mich. native was introduced to wrestling when he was 6 years old.
"When my brother and I were in T-ball we weren't very good so they stuck us in the outfield," Reader said. "A local club-wrestling coach asked if we would be interested in coming out and joining the club, so we did."
His father, Dean, wrestled in high school and played Division I football at Indiana State. His brother, Jesse, began wrestling around the same time as Reader and went on to wrestle for two years at Eastern Michigan.
Reader wrestled at Davison High School and ended his high school career at 234-6 while claiming three state-champion titles. Reader looked at Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Nebraska and Oklahoma State before deciding Iowa State was the school he wanted to represent on the mat.
"I grew up watching the Cyclones, and they always had the lead program," Reader said. "Iowa State was always producing amazing athletes and always seemed to have wrestlers reaching their full potential at the national championship level."
Reader always looked up to former Cyclones Chris Bono, Trent and Travis Paulson and Joe Heskett as wrestling role models.
He hit the jackpot in Ames because the Paulson brothers work out in the Cyclone wrestling room.
After redshirting his first collegiate season, Reader became an All-American, finishing seventh at 165 pounds at the NCAA Championships. He also recorded one of the fastest pins in Iowa State history when he struck Northwestern's Dominic Marella at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in 15 seconds.
During his sophomore season, 2008-09, Reader won a silver medal in 74-kilogram (163-pound) weight class at the 2009 Pan-American Games. Reader took All-America honors once again, finishing with a fourth-place effort at the NCAA Championships. He recorded 13 major decision wins along with four technical falls and two pins.
Reader ended his junior season with a 25-6 record. He earned the first-place title at the Harold Nichols/Cyclone Open and second-place at the Midlands Championships.
After a disappointing NCAA tournament in 2010, Reader was determined to train hard and take a title for himself in 2011. He used the ensuing summer season to sharpen his skills and concentrate on competing for seven straight minutes. He also adjusted his lifestyle.
"You really have to live a lifestyle to achieve your full potential," Reader said. "It brought me to a point where I was fueled with the dream of being a national champion."
Reader came back with a vengeance and posted one of the greatest seasons in Iowa State history. He claimed two pins and two technical falls to take his title at the Hokie Open. He posted a win over Minnesota's 13th-ranked Scott Glasser with a major decision of 13-3. He also defeated returning national runner-up Mack Lewnes of Cornell by a decision of 7-6.
"The expectations for Jon, even last year, were to become a national champion," Jackson said. "We are very happy Jon was able to fulfill his goals of becoming a NCAA champion, and going undefeated was icing on the cake. We knew he was capable of that performance all year long."
On March 5, Reader thrilled the crowd at the Big 12 Conference Championships at Hilton Coliseum, when he defeated Oklahoma State's 11th-ranked Mike Benefiel by a 14-3 major decision, earning the Cyclone first place. He also won the championship's Most Outstanding Wrestler Award, voted on by the league's coaches. Reader automatically qualified the NCAA meet.
"I was talking to my grandma the other day and she told me that she could remember when I was little, and we were watching the NCAA Championship finals on TV and I said that I was going to be there one day," Reader said. "I always told people, 'I will be there someday.'"
Reader had a great week at the NCAA Championships as he extended his undefeated record. He left Philadelphia with major decision victories against Michigan's Justin Zeerip (13-3) and Purdue's Luke Manuel (13-0). Reader also claimed wins over Maryland's Mike Letts and Virginia's Chris Henrich.
"I've never been as confident as I was this season, especially walking into the last match of my career," Reader said. "I knew, win or lose, I was going to scrap. I was going to be a warrior. I knew I wasn't going to walk off that mat without a win. I think I knew I was going to win that match before I stepped on the mat."
Reader wrestled a tremendous championship match against Amuchastegui, leading the entire match. His training and determination was seen nationwide as he finished the match one point shy of a major decision before a national ESPN audience.
"I will never forget that feeling I had when I stood up and realized I was actually a national champion," Reader said.
The successful wrestler has a close relationship with his teammates and coaches. For Reader, the Cyclone wrestling team and coaches are a close-knit family.
"I don't only look up to coach Jackson as a coach, but also as a father figure," Reader said. "I couldn't ask for a better place to be or a better person to learn from. The coaches are great motivators, great athletes and great role models. The three of them are really a package deal."
"Jon looked at us as mentors," Jackson said. "We had the father-son relationship as well as the coach-athlete relationship. He just needed someone to direct him. We have a very strong relationship; we are like family. That is going to continue."
Reader is majoring in business management. He plans to stay at Iowa State to finish his degree and continue to be a part of the Cyclone wrestling club by helping his teammates achieve their full potential.
As Reader once said, "When it's time to release the lion, it's time to release the lion."
He will share this determination and mind set with his fellow wrestlers as they chase down their own wrestling dreams.