After getting trounced by Oklahoma State inside Hilton Coliseum, one could argue Friday's dual on the road against Fresno State was going to be a turning point to Iowa State's season.
Win, and the Cyclones remain a threat to win the Big 12 Championships. Lose, and the questions are plentiful.
Iowa State was rewarded with the former in its 34-9 beatdown of the Bulldogs where all seven of its wins were by bonus point at the Save Mart Center.
It almost felt too perfect.
Days after Kevin Dresser called for the micromanaging of his team, they completely rolled to their third conference dual away from Hilton.
Todd Small was dominant, something that was missing from the redshirt junior over the last few matches. Ian Parker did Ian Parker things, racking up riding time while also being more offensive even when he had the match locked up.
Gannon Gremmel had eight takedowns in his most complete performance since winning the Southern Scuffle. Jarrett Degen made his triumphant return to the lineup while Marcus Coleman and Joel Shapiro looked good.
All of this without David Carr.
Which should say something about Iowa State. Even without arguably its best wrestler, it still was able to beat the last undefeated team in the conference handily.
At 3-1 in the Big 12, a chance to win the regular season dual meet title is still in reachable distance. The biggest roadblocks will be in two weeks when Northern Iowa comes to town and also its loss to Oklahoma State on Jan. 26.
Oklahoma and West Virginia will be tough, but the depth of Iowa State should be enough. Following the dual against the Sooners next Sunday, the final three in conference will be at home.
The Cyclones are in prime position to get at least a share of the dual title. They can't afford another setback.
Degen returns to offset Carr's absence
It was dropped 50 minutes before the dual started that Carr would not wrestle due to a dinged up knee injury he suffered in the final 20 seconds in his bout against the Cowboys.
The redshirt freshman ranked third at 157 pounds stayed back in Ames to rest. Dresser said in a short statement that he'll be evaluated next week to see when they decide to put him back on the mat.
Iowa State didn't miss a beat. Degen's return to the lineup for the first time in nearly two months with a shoulder injury was met with a second period pin to give the Cyclones a 20-0 lead. It was the final of four straight bonus point victories.
Donning a black shoulder protection shirt underneath his singlet, Degen — not surprisingly — gave up the first takedown, but responded well and got the fall at 4 minutes, 27 seconds.
These next two matches — on the road against Oklahoma and at home against West Virginia — will get him warmed up for an opponent he has yet to beat.
Northern Iowa's Max Thomsen has had Degen's number throughout their college careers. Thomsen beat him in the finals at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open to begin the season. Then, Missouri's Brock Mauller could be waiting in Iowa State's final non-conference dual meet. Mauller, a sophomore, is 20-1 on the year and ranked fifth by InterMat.
Degen is getting thrown into the fire, which will serve him well come March to get these matches under his belt. He's 0-2 against top-20 guys this season, he'll get at least two more chances before the conference tournament.
Coleman, Shapiro get back on top
If it has felt like awhile since Marcus Coleman and Joel Shapiro have had their hand raised in victory, it has been.
Coming into Friday's dual, Coleman hadn't won since the Sun Devil duals while Shapiro could not get in the win column since the Big 12 opener against Utah Valley.
Both were victorious in dominating fashion Friday night.
Coleman racked up eight second period points on two near falls and picked up a reversal and another takedown in the third to defeat Hunter Cruz at 184 by a 13-2 major decision.
It was a far quicker match at 197 for Shapiro, piling up 10 points in the opening three minutes on a pair of tilts before reversing Isaiah Perez and finishing the pin at 4:18 in the second period.
These two have struggled to get into any offensive groove. The 13 match points Coleman had is the highest since his last win, an 18-1 tech fall win against Harvard.
Things don't get any easier for the two Iowa natives. Coleman will soon be facing Northern Iowa's Taylor Lujan while Shapiro gets two straight top-20 matches against Oklahoma's Jake Woodley and West Virginia's Noah Adams.
If Coleman and Shapiro want to make noise in March, they'll need to put together a signature win, and they both have opportunities to do just that.