Iowa State wrestling finished third at the Big 12 Championships on the strength of five finalists, including two champions. Paniro Johnson became just the 5th freshman to win a Big 12 Championship for the Cyclones. David Carr became the second 4-time Big 12 Champion in program history with a sudden victory pin in the main event of the tournament. Runner-up finishes from Zach Redding, Marcus Coleman, and Sam Schuyler made it Iowa State’s most finalists since 2015 when the conference had just four wrestling teams. The Cyclones also qualified eight wrestlers for the NCAA tournament in two weeks. Corey Cabanban and Julien Broderson await Tuesday’s announcement of at-large bids to see if their season will be extended.
Carr. Champ. pic.twitter.com/L6NhppuQbW— Iowa State Wrestling (@CycloneWR) March 6, 2023
Corey Cabanban made his return to the lineup at 125. He briefly took over the spot after Kysen Terukina was injured, but shortly after found himself sidelined for all of January and February. All that missed time left him unseeded entering the tournament. In his first match, he mounted a comeback against Northern Colorado’s eventual Big 12 Champion Stevo Poulin to force overtime but fell short 7-5. Cabanban then avenged an early season loss to SDSU’s Tanner Jordan to place top 8. Wyoming’s Jore Volk beat Cabanban 7-3 before Utah Valley’s Kase Mauger pinned him in a back-and-forth 7th-place match. Cabanban now waits for an at-large selection, which should be announced on Tuesday. He’s certainly not a sure thing, but Cabanban does have a couple of wins on his resume that help his case.
At 133 it was Zach Redding competing for the Cyclones after splitting the spot with Ramazan Attasauov all season. Redding is wrestling really well right now. In the quarterfinals, he used a third-period reversal to pull ahead of California Baptist’s Hunter Leake 4-2. In the dual meet, Leake had pinned Redding. In the semis, Redding scored a decisive 4-1 win over UNI’s Kyle Biscoglia. That sent him to his first Big 12 finals match against the face of OSU’s program, Daton Fix. Fix took his 4th Big 12 title with a 10-2 win over Redding.
Casey Swiderski was unseeded in a loaded 141 bracket after an up-and-down season. The true freshman had a rocky start, losing 6-3 to SDSU’s Clay Carlson. It felt a lot like the matches in the run of losses Swiderski took mid-season. On the backside, however, we saw Casey Swiderski at his best. To get into the top 8 he absolutely got after it, scoring three takedowns to avenge his previous loss to UNI’s Cael Happel. He kept it rolling with a 3-1 win over Wyoming’s Job Greenwood — a win that qualified him for NCAAs. OSU’s Carter Young was unable to compete in the consolation semifinals, so Swiderski won by injury default. It was a rematch against Carlson in the third-place bout. The Cyclone looked much better but was unable to finish the single legs he got deep on. After two rounds of tiebreakers, Carlson won the match by 1 second of riding time. After the 4th place finish, Swiderski is poised to be a dangerous man in the NCAA bracket.
The other freshman in Iowa State’s lineup, Paniro Johnson, started his tournament with a solid 3-2 win over OU’s veteran Mitch Moore. In the semifinals, he took out UNI’s Colin Realbuto by the same score. One takedown and one escape. That’s what you can count on from Paniro Johnson. That set up the rematch against Mizzou’s Brock Mauller. In their first meeting, Mauller won in OT. Off the rip, it was obvious Johnson had a different game plan for this one. He shot off the whistle and Mauller quickly scored an opening takedown. But Johnson stayed tenacious and evened the match before the period was over. Trailing 4-3 with short time in the second period Johnson connected on another attack to take the lead. Up by two with short time, Mauller had to attack and Paniro made him pay. If he wrestles like that he’s going to have a great time on his next trip to Tulsa.
Jason Kraisser had perhaps the most surprising tournament for the Cyclones. The 157-pounder was seeded one spot out of qualifying for nationals. Things looked dim when the bracket was busted. OSU’s Kaden Gfeller knocked Kraiser to the backside with an 8-3 win. Kraisser then majored West Virginia’s Alex Hornfeck. Needing a win to qualify for NCAAs, Kraisser took on Mizzou’s Jarrett Jacques. He started off hot with the opening takedown and didn’t look back from there. The 5-2 upset moved Kraisser into the top 6. He moved to the top 4 by riding out SDSU’s Cael Swensen the whole third period to earn a 3-2 win. Kraisser dropped the third-place match against Jacob Wright due to a late takedown, but he is clearly peaking at the right time.
In the toughest weight in the tournament, David Carr looked SHARP. He cruised to a tech fall over UNI’s Austin Yant in the quarterfinals. Against West Virginia’s All-American Peyton Hall in the semis, he wrestled a very savvy match that reminded me of his all-star matchup against Quincy Monday. With the match tied 1-1 and thirty seconds to go, Carr connected on the winning takedown. That set up the highly anticipated rematch against Mizzou’s returning National Champion Keegan O’Toole. That championship match closed the night Sunday and with good reason. O’Toole nearly scored a takedown on the edge in the first period but was denied. O’Toole then took the lead with a quick escape in the second period. Carr evened it with an escape of his own in the third period and secured what looked like the winning takedown with a minute left. He was warned for stalling, though and O’Toole earned an escape and another stall call to send it to sudden victory. Carr said after the match he didn’t realize he got the first warning. In overtime, Carr was on the attack. He got to O’Toole’s leg again, pulled him in bounds, and locked up a cradle for the pin. What a finish. Carr was named the outstanding wrestler of the tournament.
Julien Broderson entered the tournament unseeded at 174 and earned 8th place. He was dealt a first-round loss by Mizzou’s top-seeded Peyton Mocco. Broderson bounced back strong, though, to win two in a row. First, he racked up a trio of takedowns to win 9-0 over Wyoming’s Hayden Hastings. Then he used a first-period takedown and second-period assassin for four near-fall to take out UNI’s Lance Runyon. SDSU’s Cade DeVos defeated Broderson with a second-period takedown. West Virginia’s Scott Joll used two third-period takedowns to win the 7th-place match. Broderson earned an allocation for the conference, so he’s got a reasonable shot at an at-large berth to NCAAs, but there’s a crowd of others in the same boat. He’ll be on edge until Tuesday.
At 184 Marcus Coleman made his first Big 12 final. He scored 7 takedowns in his quarterfinal tech fall win over Air Force’s Noah Blake. In the semis, it was a convincing 5-2 win against past Big 12 Champion Travis Wittlake of OSU. Returning Big 12 Champion Parker Keckeisen was Coleman’s finals opponent. For the fourth time in their careers, Keckeisen won the matchup. That’s a tough opponent. Coleman should find himself as a top 5 seed at the NCAA tournament.
Yonger Bastida was perhaps the only down spot of an otherwise great tournament for the Cyclones. He simply is not wrestling like himself right now. After giving up the opening takedown against Utah Valley’s Evan Bockman, he rallied to get three of his own and win the match 9-5. In the semis, it was all Rocky Elam of Missouri. The eventual Big 12 Champion won the match 6-0. Bastida then faced NDSU’s Owen Pentz. Bastida got a second-period takedown and entered the third period tied at 2. But it was Pentz who got the winning takedown with just 8 seconds left in the match. In the 5th place match Bastida saw Bockman for the second time in the tournament. Bastida couldn’t break through Bockman’s stance and dropped the match 3-2.
Heavyweight Sam Schuyler started his tournament with a great quarterfinal win over UNI’s Tyrell Gordon. The 6-0 win was even more dominant than in the dual meet. In the semis, Schuyler showed his growth by earning a second win over Mizzou’s Zach Elam for the season. After dropping the first three in the series, Schuyler has now won 2 in a row. His run came to an end against the NCAA’s most dominant wrestler, Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force. It was a 3-1 match heading to the third when Schuyler chose down. That’s when Hendrickson broke open the match with a turn. I’ve got questions on the strategy there, but nevertheless, Schuyler is a serious podium contender at NCAAs.