Sunday marked a unique day for Iowa State wrestling.
Hilton Coliseum saw an uptick in its attendance, despite blizzard conditions. On the mat, a trio of Iowa State's top starters lost via technical fall or pin, and redshirt senior 197-pounder Willie Miklus — a Missouri Tiger at this time last year — wrestling in a cardinal colored singlet.
"It was emotional," Miklus said. "I turned around and acknowledged the fans [and the] Mizzou fans. I loved being a Tiger; I love being a Cyclone. I love going out there and competing and representing my school, so it was emotional.
"Just having my family there, too. It was a bigger deal than I kind of let on [about] and wanted to admit to before, but yeah, it was huge."
One thing remained consistent, though. Miklus and NCAA qualifier 149-pounder Jarrett Degen turned in a solid performance to help put points on the scoreboard in Iowa State's 23-15 loss.
Degen and Miklus combine for four trips to the NCAA Tournament, and on Sunday a theme of experience being superior emerged.
Eight of the 10 matches were won by the older athlete (in terms of classification). The exceptions were 157-pounds and 184-pounds.
The 25-year-old Miklus found his way to Ames, Iowa, during the summer, when he decided to transfer for his final season.
Since his arrival at Iowa State, he hasn't been the flashiest Cyclone, but he picks up wins, and a slew of young athletes mentioned his leadership inside the room throughout this season.
On Sunday with his family present, Miklus delivered another consistent performance.
With a score of 23-12, Missouri wrapped up the dual after nine matches, but the 197-pound match remained.
Miklus ran through the Hilton Coliseum tunnel to his introduction music and shook his former teammate Wyatt Koelling's hand.
In the first period, Miklus secured a takedown, holding a 2-0 advantage after three minutes. After a scoreless second period, Miklus added an escape point and earned a riding time point to give him a 4-0 win.
As the final buzzer wailed, Miklus and Koelling shook hands, followed by a hug. Down the handshake line, a flurry of hugs came Miklus's way in his final dual at Hilton Coliseum.
Prior to the final match, Iowa State lost its way in the middle portion of the dual. After jumping out to a 6-0 lead, Iowa State dropped matches at 133-pounds and 141-pounds.
"They lit us up in a couple places, and that was the difference today," said coach Kevin Dresser. "We lost a couple close one. we won some close ones, but I knew on paper it was going to be a good dual meet."
At 133, redshirt freshman Austin Gomez lost 22-6 to redshirt senior John Erneste, and redshirt sophomore Ian Parker followed with a loss via pin to redshirt junior Jaydin Eierman.
When the 6-0 Cyclone lead quickly shifted to an 11-6 deficit, Iowa State leaned on its returning NCAA qualifier: Degen.
Degen received the task of freshman phenom Brock Mauller and his 25-1 record. Despite being a freshman, Mauller features a history with Degen. His lone loss came at the hands of Degen at the Lindenwood Open, but he defeated Degen earlier in the year.
"I think that's the thing about Jarrett Degen is he's always going to be in there," Dresser said. "I think anybody that gets him on a bracket sheet at Big 12s or NCAAs [will go] 'Oh my gosh. I've got Jarrett Degen.' You just don't know what you're going to get a lot of times."
The match I'm looking forward to most tonight is 149. Brock Mauller has one loss this season (to Jarrett Degen at Lindenwood, 7-4), but he also beat Degen 12-6 at the Cyclone Open.— Trevor Holbrook (@TrevorHolbrook) February 24, 2019
In the rubber match, Degen surrendered the first takedown, handing Mauller a 2-0 lead. After the initial takedown, the two split takedowns and Degen secured two escapes to keep the match tied at four.
Degen opened the second period on top and snagged two quick near fall points. Mauller gave up a point from stalling, extending Degen's lead to 7-4 after two.
In the final period, Degen escaped and added a last-second takedown, capping off an 11-4 win.
Here is that takedown from Degen to seal the win over Mauller! pic.twitter.com/pywOBkZQIb— Iowa State Wrestling (@CycloneWR) February 25, 2019
"Little bit more confidence, I needed that one after UNI, especially," Degen said about the win. "I'm ready to go, so [I'm] looking forward to Big 12s."
While Degen stopped the bleeding before intermission, making the team scores 11-9 in Missouri's favor, the struggles continued out of the break.
Iowa State dug a deeper hole with Missouri rattling off three wins to ice the dual before Miklus's match.
Come March, Iowa State individually could double its total from last season's NCAA Tournament with Miklus and Degen alone.