The Iowa State wrestling team wrapped up its regular season on Feb. 16 with a road victory, holding off No. 9 Missouri 17-16 in Columbia, Mo. The win meant that the No. 5 Cyclones were now the Big 12's regular season champions at an undefeated record of 8-0, a mark that the program has not reached in over a decade.
Add that to their overall dual-meet record of 15-1, and the Cyclones have the second-longest winning streak in the country with 13 consecutive matches won, ranking only behind No. 1 Penn State. Over the past 16 matches, they have outscored their opponents by a margin of 387-132, including registering four shutouts.
Behind the Cyclones' wealth of success have been the performances of a few wrestlers that look to ultimately make their mark on the national stage over the next few weeks.
The defending national champion and consensus top-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds, David Carr has remained as the individual to beat over the course of season.
The redshirt junior has not lost a match so far this season, notching his 50th consecutive victory by landing a major decision over Missouri's Jarret Jacques, 14-2.
That win moved Carr's season mark up to 17-0, as he retained his No. 1 ranking in Intermat's final polls of the season published on Feb. 22. Carr has lost just twice in his career as a Cyclone, with his most recent defeat occurring in December 2019, when he fell to Ryan Deakin of Northwestern 8-6 in the Cliff Keen Invitational out in Las Vegas.
Deakin, like Carr, also boasts an undefeated record of 10-0 this year, and is ranked second in the nation. A rematch between the two was denied at last year's NCAA Championships in St. Louis as Deakin, the overall top seed, was pinned by Rider's Jesse Dellavecchia in the semifinals. Carr blanked Dellavecchia 4-0 in the title match the next night to earn his first national championship.
This season, Carr has racked up many of his victories on bonus points and registered a four-match span that saw him pin all of his opponents.
The Perry, Ohio, native is joint-first for the Cyclones in bonus point wins, currently tied with Yonger Bastida with 12. Carr's dominance this season has been statistically measured as well, as he was ranked as the eighth "most dominant" wrestler across all weight classes by the NCAA in their award standings from Feb. 23.
Carr is looking to become Iowa State's 16th individual wrestler to win three conference titles, joining a list that includes names such as Dan Gable and Kyven Gadson, the latter of whom was the last Cyclone to win a national championship when he took the 197-pound title in 2015.
A win at the Big 12 Championships would also give Carr one more conference title than his father Nate, who won three consecutive national championships as a Cyclone from 1981 to '83.
Carr's road to that third conference crown will have to run through a handful a fellow ranked conference opponents, of which the Big 12 has six in the national polls.
Parker made his season debut in the Cy-Hawk matchup back on Dec. 5, when he lost to Iowa's Max Murin 3-2 in the 149-pound division.
Since moving back down to his original weight of 141 pounds, Parker hasn't fallen, taking his last nine matches by a combined score of 71-19. The redshirt senior's stock has climbed steadily, as he now ranks fourth in the country.
A few of Parker's wins have acted as a catalyst in the Cyclones ultimately getting dual wins, including a 10-2 major decision win over Missouri freshman Ethan Turner as part of a four-match swing by Iowa State. He responded again in their 17-16 win over Northern Iowa, this time taking down No. 24 Cael Happel 9-5 to register the Cyclones' first points of the match after falling in the opening two matches of the dual.
The reigning runner-up at the Big 12 Championships, Parker captured top honors in the 2020 edition when he scored a takedown to earn a 4-2 sudden victory over Oklahoma's Dom Demas.
Both conference campaigns also awarded Parker bids to the national tournament, as he looks to become a four-time NCAA qualifier alongside teammate Jarrett Degen.
Parker ranks first among Big 12 wrestlers in the national polls but will have to battle opponents that the Cyclones did not face in the conference season. That bracket may include No. 7 Clay Carlson of South Dakota State, who currently sits at a record of 27-3 and has won seven out of his last eight matches.
Perhaps the surprise package for the Cyclones this season, the No. 7 Bastida has seemed to be a boost of energy for his team in crucial situations at 197 pounds.
Having posted a 4-4 record during his freshman year, Bastida has blossomed as a sophomore, recording five technical falls and three pins on his way to posting a 17-3 mark in the regular season.
All three of those losses have come against fellow ranked opponents, as Bastida has had to contend with the likes of Wyoming's No. 2 Stephen Buchanan, who was able to get a 6-4 sudden victory after a tense first seven minutes of action.
Despite the losses, Bastida's wins have ultimately decided the result for Iowa State, namely in their most recent couple of encounters against UNI and Missouri. Trailing 15-9 with two matches left, Bastida recorded one takedown after another, tallying 10 in all, as he took a major decision over John Gunderson 21-8 and denied the chance for the match to go to tiebreakers.
It was Bastida again in a similar case against Missouri, as the Cyclones were trying to hold off a surge by the Tigers, who at that point had won the last three matches before the 197-pound matchup. Bastida once again won in dramatic fashion, trading shots with No. 8 Rocky Elam before finally landing the winning takedown in overtime for the 8-6 victory.
Bastida wrestled in freestyle back in his native Cuba, even taking bronze at the World Junior Championships. That experience has translated well into the folkstyle world of collegiate wrestling, as Bastida often uses his size to overpower his opponents and record takedowns, leading the Cyclones in that category with 77.
Iowa State returns to the mat for the postseason on Saturday, when they will compete in the Big 12 Championships at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.