After finishing the Big Ten season without a win, the MSU wrestling team hopes to get back on their feet when they take on Iowa State at 7 p.m. at Jenison Field House.
The Spartans (4-12 overall, 0-8 Big Ten) are coming off a 24-15 loss to rival Michigan on Sunday, and in the Cyclones’ last meet, they defeated Northern Iowa for the 11th-straight year.
“Iowa State’s a very well-known program, yet they’re not in the Big Ten, and they haven’t faced the level that we have,” head coach Tom Minkel said.
The last time Iowa State and MSU faced off on Jan. 19, 1997, the Spartans won 19-16 in Lincoln, Neb.
The highest ranked wrestler for Iowa State, No. 7 197-pounder Kyven Gadson, is 10-0 in duals, and is 7-2 on the year against ranked opponents.
After going through the rough and tumble Big Ten gauntlet, Minkel said this is a great opportunity for the team to catch their breath before the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
“The Big Ten is just a ridiculously strong conference and there isn’t any room for error,” Minkel said. “This will be a good change for us.”
He said sophomore 184-pounder John Rizqallah will be a game time decision after suffering a knee injury against U-M.
Junior heavyweight No. 7 Mike McClure defeated No. 19 Ben Apland of U-M last weekend after losing to No. 2 Anthony Nelsonof Minnesota two weeks ago.
He said his practice situation with freshman heavyweight Chris Nash will give him more of an advantage as he prepares to face off against Iowa State heavyweight Matt Gibson.
“He’s a taller guy, so I feel like that will be perfect because Chris is a taller guy, and they’re similar build,” McClure said. “I feel like I have that going for me with a good practice partner.”
The Cyclones and the Spartans have similar strengths.
The four wrestlers between 165 and 197 pounds for Iowa State all are ranked in the InterMat Top 25 and many of MSU’s strongest wrestlers, including Rizqallah and McClure, are in the heavier weight classes.
Senior 149-pounder Dan Osterman said when going up against tough Big Ten teams, it’s not always clear to how much the team is improving, and this weekend will be a good chance to really see where the team is at.
“It’s a good test to see how we fare against other teams and other conferences,” Osterman said. “It’s really good going into (the) Big Ten (Championships) having some out of conference matches because it kind of does give you a break. It is a rebound in a sense that it gives us a chance to prove ourselves and show that we have been improving every week.”
Osterman was pinned against U-M, and is fighting a knee injury, but said he feels much healthier going into the final couple meets of the season.
Minkel said he has high hopes for the meet against Iowa State, and the experiences MSU has had in the past will give them an important advantage.
“My hope and expectation is that we will be competing at a higher level because of the competition that we’ve been in and the challenges from the competition we’ve been facing,” he said.