Iowa State hit the road for a quartet of duals on the West Coast and is returning to Ames having earned an even split. After dominating Utah Valley in the Big 12 opener 45-0, the Cyclones went 1-2 in Phoenix for the Sun Devil duals.
What was learned
Head Coach Kevin Dresser said he believes his team can become a top-10 team in the country. When the season started, it was easy to look around the room, see the talent that fit with the projected lineup and notice Iowa State can vault into that realm.
While the Cyclones still have ample time to wrestle well and the NCAA Tournament is still a couple months away, this weekend was a time when they needed to perform well.
And they fell just a bit short.
It was expected Iowa State would make life difficult for Utah Valley, and it did. If the Wolverines wrestled some of their ranked wrestlers, the score would've been closer, but the Cyclones were still favored.
What needed to happen on Saturday was for the Cyclones to really impose their will — something Dresser mentioned previously about his group — against a sneaky good Campbell team, Harvard and fourth-ranked Arizona State.
The dual scores don't really matter; what mattered were the individual matches that pitted two ranked opponents together, which helps with seeding for the NCAAs, and Iowa State went 2-6.
Alex Mackall (125 pounds), Todd Small (133), Sam Colbray (174) and Gannon Gremmel (heavyweight) all wrestled opponents they could see in Minneapolis. Only Small was able to grab a win against a fellow ranked opponent.
Those four are potential All-Americans in the Cyclones lineup. Can they win a blood-round match to get to the podium? Only time will tell.
Ian Parker (141) and David Carr (157) were the only two that went 4-0 on the weekend. Those two are legitimate NCAA semifinal contenders and All-American wrestlers.
Tale of two weekends for Gremmel
Winning the Southern Scuffle title was the type of confidence booster Gremmel needed going into this long stretch of duals and the challenges he faced as one of two wrestlers for Iowa State to wrestle a top-20 guy in each dual on Saturday.
He went 0-3.
The signs that maybe the redshirt junior was going to struggle came as early as the Utah Valley dual.
The regular heavyweight in the Wolverines lineup — Tate Orndorff — was held out due to an illness, thrusting Chase Trussell onto the mat.
Gremmel did what he did during the Bucknell dual — threw a smaller guy around and took him down way off the mat a couple times. Dresser has stated publicly the Dubuque native gets a little too excited during matches.
It nearly cost him, but the ninth-ranked wrestler was able to squeeze out a 3-2 victory.
Gremmel struggled to get his offense going all day against each opponent he faced at Chase Field. He managed eight total points — all escapes — against Campbell's Jere Heino, Harvard's Yaraslau Slavikouski and Arizona State's Tanner Hall.
Both Dresser and his No. 1 heavyweight know he'll get better the more matches he gets, but Saturday was a prime opportunity for Gremmel to prove he's one of the top-8 heavyweights in Division I that he was unable to take advantage of.
Leisure goes 3-1 in place of Degen
One of the more overlooked weights this weekend was at 149, where Ryan Leisure proved he is a solid backup to Jarrett Degen by grabbing a pin in the Utah Valley dual and going 2-1 in Phoenix.
The redshirt sophomore could have went 4-0, but in his dual against Campbell, he got put on his back in the second period and was pinned. Before that, he was leading 4-1.
Leisure came from behind against his Harvard opponent with five points in the third period to win 7-5. He followed up with a 9-4 win in the Arizona State dual, racking up four minutes of riding time and looking very good on top.
With another weekend to recover, Degen might return for the Cyclones next conference dual on the road against South Dakota State. If he doesn't, they have a capable backup in Leisure.