AMES — One man’s loss is another man’s gain.
By Matt Levins
The Hawk Eye
Iowa State University redshirt freshman Chase Straw certainly hopes that will be the case this season.
When Gabe Moreno suffered a second shoulder injury which required a second surgery, he decided to drop to 141 pounds this season. That left a void at 149, a hole Straw is hoping to fill for the Iowa State wrestling team.
Straw has been making hay with his opportunity. The three-time state placewinner for Independence High School is 8-5 thus far and is coming off an impressive eighth-place showing at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Open last weekend, where he went 3-3 to place eighth and knocked off a pair of seeded wrestlers along the way.
Straw is taking the bull by the horns and is trying to make the 149-pound spot his for the Cyclones.
“I’m excited to go out and show what I was training all of last year for. Now I can actually go out and represent Iowa State. I’m excited,” Straw said. “It’s been a long time coming. A lot of hard days. Now I get to go out and show what I’ve been doing.”
“It’s an opportunity. One-forty-nine is a weight class that we’ve been searching for the right person to step in there and really do the job for Iowa State,” Iowa State head coach Kevin Jackson said. “I think he’s a really tough kid. He’s built Iowa tough. Just a kid that trains hard. He loves the sport. He has a passion for it. He’s focused and he knows that this is a great opportunity for him. He’s cutting a little weight, which isn’t the funnest thing for him to do. But at the same time this is what he has to do to create this opportunity to be our starter and for him to perform to his full potential. I’m really happy with the work that he puts in each and every day. I’m excited about how he can compete against higher-level competition. We’ll find out right away.”
Straw spent last season adjusting to college life. After having a successful four years at Independence under head coach Michael Doyle and assistant coach Keith Donnolly, who also happens to be Straw’s cousin, Straw came to Iowa State where the wrestling season is a year-round commitment. Now, Straw is ready to show that he has made the jump to the NCAA Division I level and is ready to compete with the best in the country.
“It’s definitely a grind and the season is way longer than you think, compared to high school. It’s definitely a challenge. Now that I’ve done it before, I’m real excited about what this year has in store for me and the team,” Straw said. “I just wanted to go DI. A lot of people want to do it, but when it first started to become a reality and started getting in my stride, it was probably after my freshman year of high school. Everything started to click. Obviously I didn’t make it to state my freshman year, so I put in a lot more time to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“(Independence) have great coaches. I’m glad I went there. They have a family atmosphere, too. I talk to their assistant coach — Keith Donnolly. He’s my cousin. I talk to him basically every day. I talk to Doyle a lot, too. They’re so supportive. Anything I need, they can get it for me.”
“Straw is probably not the most talented wrestler on our team, but we know he’s going to fight, he’s going to battle,” Jackson said. “For me to see him do that is very encouraging.”
Straw is never at a loss for good workout partners at Iowa State. He is competing with Zemua Baptista, Blayne Briceno and Gavin DeWitt for the starting spot and there are plenty of other talented wrestlers at 141 and 157 he can work out with.
But Straw has developed a special chemistry with assistant coach Trent Paulson, who has helped Straw develop into a starter.
“Trent Paulson is my go-to guy right now. I’m pretty close with all the coaches. I see my roommates 23 hours a day. Luke Edsell, Brady Jennings and Hank Swalla. Luke and Hank are a little heavier than me, but we always work out. They’re two tough kids. I like that,” Straw said. “It helps that you don’t get an easy partner. Every partner, you are going to push and they are going to push you. The more people you surround yourself that are good, you become like the average of those people.”
Straw is looking forward to competing in the big duals for the Cyclones. He may get that chance on Saturday night when Iowa State travels to Iowa City to tangle with third-ranked Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It is the opportunity he has been waiting for. He is coming off a strong showing at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Two of his losses have come against 11th-ranked Cole Mendenhall of Wyoming. If he gets the nod, Straw will face his toughest opponent to date. Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen is ranked second nationally.
Either way, Straw is ready for the next challenge.
“I’m sure there will be a few butterflies. But after the first 30 seconds or so, I’m sure everything will calm down and it will be just like any other match,” Straw said. “The crowd will play a lot bigger factor. I’ve been in Fargo, so I don’t think it will have that much of an effect.”