Update: Arizona State is out of Sunday's duals because of COVID-19 protocols
Iowa State wrestling has its toughest competition of the young season so far, with the Arizona State Sun Devils and Missouri Tigers coming to Ames on Sunday.
“Well obviously it’s a really big weekend, it’s nice to be here in Ames to experience it,” Iowa State Head Coach Kevin Dresser said. “I know in my four years here we’ve never had back-to-back matches like this here at Hilton.”
No. 20 Northern Iowa will also be in Ames on Sunday, but only to face Arizona State and Missouri (Iowa State and Northern Iowa wrestle on Feb. 14).
All three teams are ranked in the top 12 in the NCAA in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll (NWCA).
Iowa State is ranked tenth, while Missouri is sitting at ninth and Arizona State is 11th. In the first two weeks of the season, Iowa State has had dominant victories over Wartburg, Loras and Nebraska-Kearney.
Despite facing opponents on Sunday that have more national recognition, Iowa State junior Julien Broderson says Dresser’s message to the team has stayed the same.
“Dresser preaches taking every match like it’s against the best guy in the country, you have to go into practice and think that you’re training for the best guy (to face him),” Broderson said. “You just have to wrestle every match like it’s the same.”
Missouri is 5-0 this season with wins over South Dakota State (33-9), North Dakota State (38-3), Oregon State (43-0), No. 21 Central Michigan (30-6) and Wyoming (29-3).
The Tigers have been dominant in their conference in the last nine years, winning nine Mid-American Conference (MAC) titles in a row.
The Cyclones have a 44-10 all-time record against the Tigers but have lost the last five duals, including a 27-6 loss on Feb 22. 2020.
Seven NCAA qualifiers return to this season's Tigers squad, including two-time All-American junior Brock Mauller.
The Sun Devils are 2-0 this season with a win over Little Rock (39-3) and No. 20 Oklahoma (20-12).
Last season, the Sun Devils finished with a 15-2 record and won the Pac 12 Championship. The Sun Devils return four of its five NCAA tournament qualifiers and Pac 12 Individual Champions
Two current Cyclones, Gremmel and Carr, face wrestlers they’ve faced before.
Last season, Carr defeated Teemer 4-1, while Gremmel defeated Zach Elam in sudden victory period two by a score of 5-2, two seasons ago.
Dresser said Sunday’s competition may be indicative of what they could experience at the NCAA tournament in March, having to face high-quality ranked opponents back-to-back.
For Gremmel, he says that Sunday will provide the first feel for what wrestling may feel like come the postseason.
“I could have these kids in the NCAA tournament back-to-back, so yeah it’s huge for me, I know these two guys are pretty good, two world medalists and so I’m ready to go,” Gremmel said.
So far this season, Iowa State has had to have five wrestlers make their first career dual starts, Kysen Terukina, Broderson (redshirt), Bastida, Redding, Robinson.
So far those wrestlers have a combined record of 12-1 but now face some tougher competition.
“Well we’ve always got some freshmen who are doing some really good things and so were going to have to lean on them this weekend and who knows, those guys could be the [starting] guys by the end of the year,” Dresser said. “I think that we didn’t get a lot of credit with our recruiting class, I think that all those guys definitely flew under the radar a little bit and have won some good matches for us.”
Dresser said the real proof (of team depth and how good the young guys are) comes against teams like Missouri and Arizona State.
Gremmel says this is the freshman’s “first real test and we’re really going to see how they hold up and handle the pressure when things get hard.”
Iowa State begins the day wrestling Arizona State at 2 p.m., with the Missouri dual following shortly after at 4 p.m.