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2023 Iowa State Wrestling Season Preview: Part 1

Catching Up on the Offseason and Wrestle-Offs

Syndication: The Des Moines Register Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Iowa State’s depth was on full display in Thursday night’s wrestle-offs. On one hand, competition is a good thing. On the other, fans now may have even less of an idea who will be stepping on the mat for the Cyclones. These results aren’t the end all be all when it comes to setting the lineup, but they are a factor. They also offer fans an early look at the squad, beyond just the starters. Results in competition will also be a big factor in deciding who gets to wrestle in the big-time matches – of which Iowa State will have many.

The Cyclones are set to once again wrestle in the most electric duals in the country. They start their season November 5th against Cleveland State. Home duals include Davidson, #8 Iowa, Utah Valley, #15 Pitt, #27 West Virginia, #20 UNI, and #3 Mizzou. They also host #25 Wisconsin in Humboldt. On the road the Cyclones will see #11 Arizona State, Cal Baptist, #13 Oklahoma and #12 Oklahoma State. Returning to the schedule after a lengthy hiatus is the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite, which is the toughest in-season tournament these days. Iowa State also heads back to the National Collegiate Duals where they will see #15 Pitt (yes there are two of these this season), Little Rock and #2 Cornell. That tournament is in Nashville this year for anyone looking for a mid-December trip. The Big 12 tournament is once again in Tulsa and NCAAs take place at Hilton South.

Key departures for the Cyclones are 2x All-American Marcus Coleman and Big 12 Runner-Up Sam Schuyler, who graduated. Schuyler is on staff as a graduate assistant and training at the Cyclone RTC. Coleman will return to town as an assistant coach when Davidson visits Hilton in a couple weeks.

Iowa State spent the offseason acting like a trophy-winning program. Wrestling has its own collective, the Cardinal and Gold collective. Ames was always mentioned as a potential landing spot whenever a high-profile guy hit the transfer portal, with Dresser bringing in All-American Will Feldkamp at 184. The Cyclones also nabbed highly touted recruit Cody Chittum. Chittum was actually committed to Iowa and training with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, but the situation soured and he moved west. The Cyclones also announced a $20 Million wrestling training facility which will hold 6 full mats among other amenities. It is expected to be ready to go for the 2025-26 season.

Programs across the country are dealing with college wrestling’s biggest rule changes in a long, long time. Most notably, takedowns are now worth 3 points. Rule makers state the idea is that it will incentivize wrestlers to be more aggressive. I’m not sold on that, but I do think we will see more matches where the major decision and tech fall are in play. It will take some getting use to. Previously wrestlers could earn 2 points for holding someone on their back for two seconds and 4 points for four seconds. This year wrestlers can also earn 3 points for three seconds. It’s logical enough, but I think it will lead to more ticky-tacky reviews and slow-down events.

Some familiar faces will be in new weight classes. Zach Redding, Casey Swiderski and Yonger Bastida each moved up a class to 141, 149 and Heavyweight respectively. Julien Broderson moved up two weight classes to 197, closer to where he wrestled in high school. Iowa State has a logjam of talent in the middle weights. Paniro Johnson awaits decision from the NCAA on the gambling probe. I’d expect him to redshirt this season. Cyclone fans did not get to see big-name newcomers Cody Chittum at 157 or Will Feldkamp at 184. Word is they will be in action in November.

Wrestle-offs started out with some tightly contested bouts and a few surprises. Kysen Terukina returned from injury with an 8-2 win over redshirt freshman Ethan Perryman. He locked up the match by winning a scramble for a late takedown. In a battle of redshirt freshman at 133 it was Evan Frost defeating Virginia transfer Garrett Grice 9-3. Grice scored the opening takedown, but Frost tallied two escapes, two takedowns and a riding time point after that. Both had solid redshirt seasons, so it’ll be exciting to see how they progress.

At 141 it was the other Frost twin, Jacob, who upset returning NCAA blood round wrestler Zach Redding. A takedown in the third period and two back points at the end salted away the impressive win for the freshman. This spot is far from settled, but Iowa State has good options. 149 was the most anticipated match of the night. It pitted returning Casey Swiderski, another NCAA blood round wrestler, against Anthony Echemendia. Echemendia converted a single leg for an early takedown then fended off Swiderski for the 4-3 win. It looked like Swiderski had a takedown at the end, but you’re not going to get a full review in a wrestle-off situation. This spot in the lineup will be up for grabs all season long.

So who is this Anthony Echemendia guy? I thought Casey Swiderski was that dude? Buckle up, because there’s a long answer to that question. Echemendia became the hottest recruit in the country when he won Fargo freestyle and Greco-Roman titles for Team Arizona in 2019. During this ascendant run it came to light that Echemendia was an accomplished wrestler in Cuba who defected to Tucson in 2018. A few months after Fargo he committed to Iowa State and was set to wrestle for the Cyclones, but just before the season started he left for Ohio State.

At Ohio State, Echemendia spent two seasons fighting for the starting spot and battling injuries. Then in November 2021, he was charged with felonious assault after a domestic dispute with his then wife. NBC4 in Columbus reported at the time “the victim testified, asking the judge for leniency”. The story fizzled out, but Echemendia was no longer welcome at Ohio State. Fast forward to 2022 and Iowa State has Echemendia’s high school coach Fernando Villaescusa on staff. Fellow Cuban expat Yonger Bastida was becoming a superstar for the Cyclones. Echemendia began training with the Cyclone RTC and working his way to eligibility. This fall Coach Kevin Dresser officially added him to the roster.

I’d rather focus on the on-the-mat product, but I don’t want to pretend this isn’t a thing. Iowa State fans have had thoughts on similar situations at other schools. If wrestling wants to be a big-time sport it should be treated as such. Iowa State sees itself as a big-time program in that sport. When an athlete with this background is added to a premier college sports team, it should be noted.

With no Chittum at 157, NCAA qualifier Jason Kraisser put on a show. He won by 15-0 tech fall over Christian Stanek. David Carr kept the scoreboard lit up at 165 with a 17-3 win against Connor Euton. Despite the lopsided outcome, I hope to see Euton get some shots against quality competition this year. He’s got a bright future.

MJ Gaitan wrestled in a lot of big-time matches last season, but ultimately preserved his redshirt. Ready for his freshman season Gaitan looked great on his feet en route to a 20-6 win over Carter Schmidt at 174. True freshman Tate Naaktgeboren won the 184 bout 7-6 over Caleb Helgeson. Naaktgeboren will redshirt this year, but I expect him to use his five freebie dates that don’t burn his shirt. Helgeson could see the mat when Feldkamp is not available as well.

Julien Broderson took on Nando Villaescusa up at his new weight class of 197. Offense was scarce in this one. Broderson walked away with a 2-0 win, scoring on an escape and riding time. Yonger Bastida closed out the by doing what he does to many of his opponents – completely overmatching them. It was a fun wrinkle to see him use a chicken wing to get the first-period pin against Xavier Bruening.