Sunday morning marked the beginning of the wrestling season for Iowa State and it started off with a bang.
Iowa State hosted the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open, which saw competitors from a variety of schools surrounding Iowa and inside the state of Iowa. The list includes schools like Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Nebraska and fellow Big 12 representative Northern Iowa.
The Cyclone Open gave Iowa State fans their first true taste of what to expect from the team for the rest of the season. It gave the Cyclones a chance to evaluate some of their talent looking to make an impact and it provided the first big test of the season for some.
The Open Division saw eight Cyclone finalists: Alex Mackall (125-pounds), Todd Small (133-pounds), Jarrett Degen (149-pounds), Chase Straw (165-pounds), Isaac Judge (165-pounds), Marcus Coleman (174-pounds) and Gannon Gremmel (285-pounds).
For Mackall, Degen and Colbray, the Cyclone Open gave them their first big test of the season throughout the open division finals in the form of Northern Iowa, with all three matches including top 15 ranked wrestlers.
“I think that’s what we needed, I’m glad you get a quality team and then we had a few quality individuals that showed up,” said coach Kevin Dresser. “To get a quality team in here like UNI, it gives us a good feel for what we got to do going forward.”
The first big matchup came in the open 125-pound finals where No. 13 Mackall off with No. 8 Jacob Schwarm.
Schwarm started out strong in the match after taking a 4-1 lead with an early reserve and takedown. But from there on out, it was all Mackall.
Mackall rattled off 18 unanswered points, including three near falls awarding him four points each and a couple takedowns. Mackall won with a 19-4 technical fall and gave the Cyclones their first open finals win of the day.
“I didn’t think he looked that great, but then in the finals, he really wrestled smart and wrestled solid against a dangerous guy,” Dresser said. “Looks like he’s going to have pretty combination of the Iowa dual and [Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational], he’s going to have some pretty tough competition, so good for him.”
The next big test came right afterwards with the open 184-pound finals between No. 7 Colbray and No. 8 Taylor Lujan. Unlike the dual between Mackall and Schwarm, Colbray and Lujan was a battle.
Things looked up for Colbray to start off the match, racking up two takedowns and an escape, posting a 5-1 lead early on against Lujan. Lujan, much like Mackall, turned the match around from then on.
Lujan proceeded to posted a few escapes, a reversal and a late takedown to put up six unanswered points to claim the title.
The loss in the finals doesn’t deteriorate the progression in the eyes of Dresser.
“If you look at Sam Colbray last year, the same weekend versus now, you’re like ‘wow, it’s a totally different guy,’ so we made a lot of progress from last year to this year,” Dresser said. “He did a really good job of progressing throughout the season, if we get that kind of progress from Sam, like we did last year, he’s going to be lights out.”
The last big, ranked matchup between Iowa State and Northern Iowa was in the open 149-pound finals between No. 3 Jarrett Degen and No. 7 Max Thomsen.
Thomsen took the lead to start the match with an early takedown on Degen and refused to let Degen take the lead at any point.
If Degen got an escape, Thomsen answered with a reversal or a takedown. Degen looked like he would take the lead with an escape and takedown, but Thomsen responded with a reversal.
Degen brought the match within one point with a reversal, bringing the score to 8-7 in the third period. Thomsen responded by icing the match with a four point near fall and claiming the title.
In the case of Degen, Dresser mentioned he had a surgery following NCAA tournament and had only been wrestling for a couple weeks, but there seems to be no worries on Iowa States end.
“One thing I’m never worried about is Jarrett Degen when it counts at the end of the year, because he’s a gamer and he just keeps getting better and he’ll clean all that up,” Dresser said.