The Iowa State Daily first broke the news on Saturday that Kevin Dresser would be the next Iowa State Wrestling coach. But over the weekend it became clear that Dresser didn’t want to confirm anything until coaching Virginia Tech in their last dual meet of the season. With that now in the rear window Virginia Tech announced this afternoon that Dresser would be leaving immediately for Ames.
The details of his contract aren’t yet available, but reportedly the deal is for 7 years at a little over $300k a year. That puts Dresser in the top tier of coaches in D-1 wrestling.
Kevin Dresser’s Bonifides
Dresser was a two time Iowa high school state champion for his native Humboldt before committing to wrestle for Dan Gable and the Hawkeyes. At Iowa he was a 2X Big Ten champion and All-American. He culminated his competition career with a national championship at 142 pounds in 1986. After college he moved to Virginia and spent 1988-2006 as a high school coach, with his teams reaching as high as a #4 national ranking. In 2006, he took over a Virginia Tech program that was in shambles following the departure of Tom Brands to Iowa and quickly turned the program into a national contender. In fact, it’s safe to say that in the current college wrestling landscape, Virginia Tech is on the same level or perhaps even a bit higher than Iowa State.
On the topic of Brands - in each of the last two seasons, the National Duals selection criteria has paired Iowa and Virginia Tech. And in each of those seasons Tom Brands has refused to accept that pairing. Dresser hasn’t been shy about throwing shade at Brands about this decision. He even went out of his way on Sunday after beating Nebraska to make sure he brought that up.
Dresser: "I take my hat off to Nebraska. Thanks to coming. When a lot of teams are finding ways not to make this happen, they did." #Hokies— Ryan Dye (@Ryan4VT) February 20, 2017
That same press conference turned into an impromptu farewell to Virginia Tech as Dresser addressed questions from the press about the possibility of him accepting the Iowa State job. It’s a great watch if you want to get a feel for Dresser and how much respect he commanded from those who were assembled for his comments.
What Will Dresser’s First Priorities Be?
It’s likely that keeping the current recruiting class together was a big reason why Pollard moved to hire Dresser before the season was over. Several members of the class have decommitted, and other than Aller almost certainly going to Minnesota, the other recruits might be able to be talked into re-affirming their commitment. In addition to that, he’ll meet with Iowa State’s underclassmen to convince them to stay in Ames. Expect the focus to be on key guys like Simmons, Storr, and Downey.
He’ll also have to deal with a delicate situation if any of Virginia Tech’s recruits or current wrestlers want to follow him. Dresser walked into a Virginia Tech program that had been totally gutted by Tom Brands due in large part to transfers, so I expect him to approach that diplomatically. There are two names in particular to watch for that - Solomon Chishko is a current sophomore at VT that is ranked #6 at 149 pounds and would likely be able to walk into the starting spot at Iowa State if he chose to transfer. And David McFadden - who beat Tanner Weatherman last March in the R12 to AA as a true freshman - is redshirting this year and would have three years left at 165 if he made a transfer. Both of those two wrestlers placed 6th at NCAAs last season. Zack Zavatsky is also an underclassman but is at 184, so if he transferred he would likely sit behind Downey next season if Downey remains on the team. That makes him a less likely transfer target.
What Are Dresser’s Weaknesses?
There are two things sticking out that Dresser will need to have an answer for when he goes to recruit. The first is that while he’s coached multiple All-Americans and shown an ability to develop guys up and down the lineup, he has never coached a national champion. This is largely due to a combination of luck and the type of guys he was able to recruit at VT. But he’ll need a story that convinces recruits and even current guys on the team like Kanen Storr that he can take them to the top of the podium.
The second is freestyle. Elite recruits generally have freestyle aspirations, and Dresser doesn’t have the type of freestyle accolades that the coaches he’ll be recruiting against have. For all of Jackson’s issues as a coach, he could walk into a living room and plop an Olympic gold medal on the table. Tom Brands, John Smith, and Cael Sanderson can do the same. Dresser will need to address that deficiency with at least one assistant coach that has hardware to show off.
How Good Is This Hire?
Pollard really stepped up to the plate on this one. Dresser was the best realistic candidate available.