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Pat Downey, Earl Hall, and Lelund Weatherspoon pose for photos during wrestling media day on Oct. 18 in the wrestling room at Lied Recreation Center

All three of Iowa State’s returning All-American wrestlers will contend for national titles this season.

That’s what wrestling coach Kevin Jackson said at Tuesday’s media day in Iowa State’s wrestling room at the Lied Recreation Athletic Center.

Earl Hall and Lelund Weatherspoon are returning for their senior season, and Pat Downey is returning for his junior year.

“They’re going to have to be better than they were last year, and they’re going to have to continue to improve throughout the year,” Jackson said. “But I think having those three leading the team is strong.”

Downey had the best finish of any Iowa State wrestler at last season’s NCAA Championships, finishing fifth in his weight class. He wrestled at 197 pounds. 

This season, Downey is moving down to his natural weight of 184 pounds. He's expecting success.

“Everyone expects to be a national champion, but no one else is working as hard to do it,” Downey said. “I want to win. I want to dominate. I want to be the best version of me this year and do what I think I’m capable of doing.”

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Pat Downey poses for photos during wrestling media day on Oct. 18 in the wrestling room at Lied Recreation Center.

The key for Downey to improve on his last season’s performance is diversifying his offensive attack.

“You have to keep evolving your skill set, and that’s a big thing in the offseason — working on a lot of different setups to my power positions, my throwing positions. Like [Kevin Jackson] said, you have to have great leg attacks.”

In the past, Downey has relied on throwing people. This season, he recognizes he needs to go for the legs — whether it’s a single leg, double leg, outside step or a High-C.

"The scouting report is out,” Downey said. “Guys know the throws are coming. I go out there, and the first 15 seconds, I’m looking to put somebody on the their head. It’s going to scare them away. It’s going to make it harder to throw guys."

Lelund Weatherspoon is another Iowa State wrestler who isn’t afraid to go "upper-body" on a guy and try to throw them.

Weatherspoon had one of the more remarkable postseasons last year. He won the Big 12 Championships and proceeded to be the only unranked wrestler in the NCAA Championships’ semifinals.

“It’s about being consistent with Lelund,” Jackson said. “I don’t really look at Lelund as an unranked wrestler getting to the semifinals because realistically, he should’ve been in the top eight. He lost a couple of matches that he shouldn’t have lost [earlier in the season] — and there in lies that consistency.”

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Lelund Weatherspoon poses during wrestling media day on Oct. 18 in the wrestling room at Lied Recreation Center.

Jackson and Weatherspoon are working on defending some positions on the mat, being more explosive when he tries to get off of the bottom and being explosive when he shoots his attacks.

“He knocked off the No. 2 guy in the first round last year at the NCAA Championship,” Jackson said. “We didn’t finish that tournament the way we wanted to finish it. I know where his mind is at, and I know the kind of preseason that he’s had. He’s ready to roll, and he’s ready to lead.”

The third of three All-Americans is Iowa State’s only two-time All-American – 133-pounder Earl Hall.

Hall was granted an extra year of eligibility for this season. He plans to make the most of it.

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Earl Hall poses during wrestling media day on Oct. 18 in the wrestling room at Lied Recreation Center.

“Earl, being a two time All-American, and with the physical abilities that he has, the potential he has to really contend for a national championship is strong for us,” Jackson said. “I think he solidifies our lineup.”

In the preseason, Hall was ranked No. 5 by both FloWrestling and InterMat. Iowa’s Cory Clark was ranked No. 1 in both of them.

Hall believes the NCAA Championship will go through the state of Iowa – one-way or the other.

“It’s either him or me,” Hall said. “That’s just the way I see it. Of course there’s other tough competition out there, but it’s him or me.”

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