Iowa State’s new head coach Kevin Dresser met with the media on Friday after the Cyclones completed their worst NCAA finish ever at the Scottrade Center.
Chris Cuellar / The Register
Kevin Dresser looked out over all the young talent in Iowa State’s wrestling room as practice officially opened for the NCAA season this week.
The first-year head coach wanted to convey what an opportunity the staff and squad saw in front of them for 2017-18, while reinforcing expectations this early in the program’s rebuild.
“You don’t go from 57th in the nation to 10th in the nation overnight. That’s the thing everybody needs to get,” Dresser said in an interview Thursday.
“Sure, we’ve got a lot of big-name coaches in here, but last time I checked, all of our eligibility was up. We can’t do the wrestling for them. We have to coach them up and continue to make progress.”
The current Cyclone roster features 18 redshirt or true freshmen and 19 wrestlers older than that. Of those 19 with three or fewer years left, four are starting their ISU athletic careers this week.
There is some experience in the Harold Nichols Wrestling Room from Kevin Jackson’s time in charge. Marcus Harrington (heavyweight), Dane Pestano (184 pounds) and Dante Rodriguez (149) have been NCAA qualifiers over the last three seasons, but none sit safely atop the depth chart that Dresser and associate head coach Mike Zadick will likely experiment with.
Former Hawkeye Mike Zadick, second from left, speaks Head coach Kevin Dresser introduces his coaching staff including Zadick, Brent Metcalf, and Derek St. John Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (Photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register)
“Talent gets you nowhere if you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves and go to work,” Dresser said.
“We still need that full buy-in process, not just lip service… we’re getting more action and less lip service.”
Jackson’s final recruiting class was considered a top-five haul nationally, and Dresser’s staff will depend on the 2016 grads throughout the season. Danny Vega (125), Ian Parker (133), Sam Colbray (197) and Gannon Gremmel (heavyweight) were all Fargo national champions coming out of high school, and they’re bolstered by breakout star Kanen Storr (141) and transfer Jarrett Degen (149), who followed Iowa State’s coaches from Virginia Tech.
Iowa State freshman Kanen Storr, left, qualified for the Senior World Team Trials as the highest-placing U.S. medalist at the Dave Schultz Memorial in February, but will compete in Friday’s Junior World Team Trials at 66 kilograms. (Photo: Courtesy of Iowa State University athletics communications)
“We see some of those redshirt freshmen have great days, then not-so-great days,” Dresser said. “We’ve got to get some consistency there. The good news is there’s talent, but we really have to toughen up.
“There’s a lot of question marks and maybes there that could really help us.”
A massive influx of 11 true freshmen includes Austin Gomez (133) and Marcus Coleman (174). Dresser indicated his preference to not put college rookies out on the mat once the season starts next month, but Gomez and Coleman both won three high school state championships, and the former was one win from qualifying for the Junior World Championships over the summer.
“There’s two guys that are pretty darn good right away,” Dresser said. “But you have to do the best thing for Austin Gomez and Marcus Coleman, even though they might not exactly know what the best thing for them is yet.”
And the roster could be trending even younger because of the 2018 recruiting class. Iowa State has worked hard to sweep up in-state prospects, with Valley’s Joel Shapiro, Glenwood’s Anthony Sherry, South Tama’s Isaac Judge and Fort Dodge’s Cayd Lara among the high school contenders to announce their verbal commitments.
The new Iowa State wrestling coach describes competing against the Hawkeyes.
“I like Iowa kids,” Dresser said. “We’re going to try to get the best Iowa kids every year. Then we’ve got to go out and get the blue-chip kids, too. Sometimes those kids aren’t in Iowa. Sometimes they are. This first year looks like it’s not going to quite be the recruiting class we were hoping for.”
And that will go down as a defeat to Dresser’s program before the new staff, whose faces adorn the team’s posters and promotional materials, has coached its first dual. Iowa State made the top interest lists and hosted highly ranked prospects like Indiana’s Brayton Lee, Ohio-based legacy David Carr and Fort Dodge’s unbeaten standout Brody Teske, but will likely wind up with none of them.
“It’s going to be bumpy for awhile here,” Dresser said. “You learn a lot about people when it’s bumpy. You learn a lot about the fans, the team, the parents and everybody when things aren’t going great all the time.
“And we’re going to have a bumpy first recruiting year.”
Iowa State introduced its wrestling program’s new assistant coaches Tuesday. Associate head coach Mike Zadick discussed their plan for the future.
Chris Cuellar / The Register
Iowa State expects to pull in those elite prospects in due time.
Dresser was given a contract through 2024 when he signed with the Cyclones in March. Zadick and assistant coach Derek St. John are each making at least $50,000 more than their Hawkeye contemporaries in base salary. Athletic director Jamie Pollard walked in to that first practice on Tuesday with a smile on his face, even if the young squad isn’t ready to contend for national championships right away.
ISU is trying to build a powerhouse program that will last.
“Jamie has been great,” Dresser said. “From the day he called me, he was very focused and driven on me and the staff I could bring in here.
“He’s all-in. He’s pushed all of his chips in and he’s riding with us.”
The Cyclones open their 2017-18 season Nov. 4 with the Harold Nichols Open. Their first dual will be against Drexel on Nov. 12 in Hilton Coliseum.