AMES (MCT) — In his first two seasons at Iowa State, Kevin Jackson didn’t mince words when it came to his expectations for the Cyclone wrestling program.
Jackson talked domination. He talked All-Americans. He talked national champions.
And for those two seasons, Iowa State delivered.
In 2010, the Cyclones finished a strong third at the NCAA Championships as Jake Varner and David Zabriskie won individual titles.
Jon Reader followed with an individual title for Iowa State to cap the 2010-11 season.
And although he knew he’d have a young team in 2011-12, Jackson spoke with swagger once again.
Then a series of unexpected issues set the Cyclones back almost before they got started.
Heralded redshirt freshmen Kyven Gadson of Waterloo reinjured his surgically repaired shoulder in the first period of his first collegiate match and was done for the season.
Junior Chris Spangler was well on his way to a breakout season before a reccuring concussion problem likely ended his career.
And once the season really got going, a lineup that featured as many as six freshmen was widely inconsistent as the Cyclones went 4-13 in duals and finished a dismal 35th at the NCAA championships.
It was a humbling experience for Jackson, but he believes he grew from it as a coach.
Jackson still has high expectations for Iowa State and spoke of those Monday during the Cyclones’ annual media day, but his tone was much tamer.
“I’m an optimist,” Jackson said. “I probably feel the same way, but I might not publicly say it because it came back to bite me a little bit.
“I don’t think my thoughts have changed, but I do recognize that it is a process and there is a process. Things change when you get injuries and you don’t get to put the guys on the mat that you thought you were going to have available to you.
“My thoughts are still the same. I think we are capable of doing some special things, I think we are capable of having quite a few All-Americans, performing at a high level. But like you know, I thought that last year, too, so the process has gotten pretty important to me.”
The Cyclones will be young again in 2012-13, but a year wiser.
Jackson will turn to Big 12 champion Matt Gibson and fellow returning NCAA qualifiers Ryak Finch, Luke Goettl and Boaz Beard.
Additionally, Gadson is healthy and expected to contribute, and there is a possiblity two of ISU’s top recruits — four-time Iowa state champion John Meeks and Gabe Moreno — could crack the lineup at 133 and 149, respectively.
Both Meeks (Shayden Terukina) and Moreno (Max Mayfield) have veterans in front of them, but Jackson said if they show they are capable of competing for a national title, he’ll be willing to pull their respective redshirts.
“Our philosophy is to redshirt our freshmen,” Jackson said. “If you are a freshman that is capable of being an NCAA champion and you believe that and I believe that and you are our best guy, then we will be willing to wrestle you.
“That is the way we look at both of those guys. I think both are really capable.”
Meeks, who was unavailable Monday, beat Terukina in the Cardinal-Gold intrsquad scrimmage Nov. 1, 10-5, while Moreno beat Goettl in overtime at 141, but is anticipated to go at 149 in his career.
ISU’s veterans have turned the page on last year’s disappointing season, saying the team came together over the summer and vowed to be a much better team that hopes to make some noise at the NCAA Tournament the Cyclones will host at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“Last year is over, I mean talking about it now doesn’t do us any good. We have to look to the future,” Finch said.
Asfor Gadson, the former Waterloo East star, he is chomping at the bit to get back in the lineup. He had surgery on the injured shoulder in December of last year and was recently cleared to go full-speed.
Gadson won’t compete at this weekend’s Harold Nichols Open in Ames, but has his eyes set on ISU’s home opener on Nov. 25 against Old Dominion.
“I haven’t wrestled much in the last 2, 2 1/2 years so I’m excited to get back on the mat,” Gadson said. “I feel pretty good. This will be my first live day, so I’ll be pushing my shoulder, and I’m excited to see where I’m at.”