As the brackets for the Big 12 Championships were released Wednesday, Iowa State wrestling Head Coach Kevin Dresser and some wrestlers spoke with media members about the upcoming championships, practice simulations and wrestlers who have the opportunity to earn back-to-back Big 12 Championships.
Big 12 Championships brackets are out
In a press release Wednesday, the Big 12 Conference announced the brackets for the Championships.
Four Iowa State wrestlers, including freshman (No. 7 seed) Kysen Terukina at 125 pounds, freshman (No. 7 seed) Zach Redding at 133 pounds, redshirt senior (No. 1 seed) Ian Parker at 141 pounds and redshirt sophomore (No. 1 seed) David Carr at 157 pounds, begin the tournament with an opening-round bye.
In this week's InterMat Top 25 poll, there are five Big 12 teams and six teams overall, including Oklahoma at No. 25, Wyoming at No. 23, Northern Iowa at No. 22, Utah Valley at No. 16, Iowa State at No. 9 and Oklahoma State at No. 4.
Iowa State has three wrestlers that are the top seed in their bracket: Carr, Parker and redshirt senior Gannon Gremmel.
The Cyclones have nine wrestlers that are seeded seventh or better, with the only wrestler not seeded being redshirt freshman Julien Broderson at 174 pounds.
Dresser said he has no problems with the seedings.
“We actually as a coaching staff decided we were going to quit arguing and fussing and fighting this year … and I thought [the Big 12’s five-person seeding panel] did pretty good considering it's such a crazy year,” Dresser said. "… And yeah, you could say, well, maybe I deserve to be seeded here a little bit higher, but I'm like, well, then you gotta go wrestle and get it if you think you deserve a higher seed. And I know that's [Broderson's] mindset right now.”
Broderson begins the tournament with a match against two-seeded Hayden Hastings of Wyoming.
Three Iowa State wrestlers could have a rematch against someone they faced in the finals last year: Carr, Parker and Gremmel.
Carr defeated Wyatt Sheets of Oklahoma State 6-4, while Parker defeated Dom Demas of Oklahoma 4-2, but Gremmel lost to Brian Andrews of Wyoming 3-2.
Demas is the two seed at 141, Sheets is the sixth seed at 157, while Gremmel is the top seed, and Andrews is on the opposite end of the bracket as he is the two seed.
Gremmel said that’s where he wants him and that he hasn’t dwelled on his close loss to him in last season’s final.
"I didn't think about it much. I kind of thought about it last year, kind of ending the year on that sucked, but I'm excited now,” Gremmel said. “He's on the other side of the bracket, which is right where I want him, the only place I want to see him is in the finals. So I want to kind of give him something he gave me last year. So it’ll be fun.”
Carr and Parker aiming for back-to-back titles
Two Iowa State wrestlers, Carr and Parker, have the chance to repeat as champions at the Big 12 Championships.
Both wrestlers have been successful this season as Carr is ranked third in the NCAA (InterMat) at his weight class and has a 15-match winning streak that started at the 2020 Big 12 Championship.
Parker is ranked fifth in the NCAA (InterMat) and has an 11-1 record, with his lone loss coming against Missouri’s Allan Hart (currently ranked seventh) by a 7-4 decision.
Carr says winning matches by more than just a decision is key for the team's success in a tournament.
“When you get bonus points, in a tournament situation, it's like you have another guy out there,” Carr said. “… So I think getting bonus points is just as important in duals as it is in tournaments and really expecting the best out of yourself.”
Saturday marks the beginning of Iowa State’s first tournament of the 2021 season since COVID-19 protocols called for teams to only wrestle in duals.
To give his team a feel for what the Big 12 and NCAA Championships might feel like, Dresser has previously said he scheduled multiple duals against non-Big 12 teams for Iowa State to face (Missouri and Arizona State, for example).
Parker said the team practices also contained simulations of what these tournaments might feel like.
Simulating the tournament feel
In preparation for the Big 12 Championships, Parker said the coaching staff tried to simulate a tournament feel in the practice room.
“We've actually done like, different simulations of just dual meets and practice scenarios, where it's on weekends, or during our practice, like starting practice at different times … I think they all play into it,” Parker said. “Everyone on our team has been wrestling since they were a little kid; they know how a tournament works. So while we haven't had them in a while, I think we'll get used to them right away.”
Parker said while the coaches did their best to simulate that tournament feel in practice and in the way they scheduled duals this season, it isn’t the same as actually wrestling a tournament.
“Our coaches tried to do the best job they could as stimulating rounds of a tournament with our multiple dual meets in a day, but you know, it's not the same," Parker said. "The weigh-ins are a little different, the way everything's structured is different."
Iowa State had a 7-2 record in duals that were wrestled on the same day of at least another dual.
The 2021 Big 12 Wrestling Championships begin with session one at 11 a.m and session two at 5 p.m. Saturday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Session three of the Championships begins at 11 a.m. Sunday, and the finals are set for 5 p.m.
The first three sessions are being live-streamed on ESPN+ while the finals are being broadcasted on ESPN2.