Dresser ready to roll up his sleeves and restore the luster at Iowa State

By Matt Levins For The Predicament
2014 -  IWCOA Convention - Kevin Dresser of Virginia Tech, Humbolt native and Iowa Hawkeye All-American

2014 - IWCOA Convention - Kevin Dresser of Virginia Tech, Humbolt native and Iowa Hawkeye All-American

ST. LOUIS — Kevin Dresser knows all about the history of Iowa State University wrestling, one of the most storied and historic programs in the country.
He also realizes how much work he has in front of him to get the Cyclones back to that level.
The Kevin Dresser officially started on Friday afternoon at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the Scottrade Center, right after Iowa State senior Lelund Weatherspoon lost his 174-pound consolation match, putting the final nail in the coffin of an Iowa State season that Cyclone fans would like to bury forever.
Moments later, Dresser rolled up his sleeves and was ready to get down to the business of restoring the luster to one of the nation’s elite programs.
“Obviously there’s work to be done right now. I don’t want to take anything away from the three guys that competed this weekend. Obviously they didn’t have great weekends, but all I can really do as the new coach is control what I can control. We’ve got to get back to work and that means that all of the underclassmen at Iowa State need to be ready to go Monday morning,” Dresser said in a back tunnel as Weatherspoon and interim co-head coach Travis Paulson walked by to head to the hotel, pack their bags and make the long drive back to Ames. “I got a chance to have a team meeting last week, just with the underclassmen, and told them the expectation and told them it’s about going to work and it’s about bringing back the history of Iowa State history. That’s got to be the goal. We’ve got to get it back to where it was when I was an athlete, when I competed. We’ve had a lot of great coaches in the history of Iowa State. We’ve obviously had a lot of great wrestlers in the history of Iowa State. It’s pretty simple. That’s the goal.”
Dresser won a national championship at Iowa in 1986. One year later, the Cyclones, led by head coach Jim Gibbons, won the last of their eight national team champions, just two years after Gibbons took the reins from legendary coach Harold Nichols.
Walk into the Iowa State wrestling facility on the second floor the Lied Recreation Center and the history oozes from the walls. The list of national champions and All-Americans lines the walls. It is that history that Dresser not only wants to tap into, but add to. And he doesn’t want to wait.
“The difference between Virginia Tech and Iowa State is that at Virginia Tech there really wasn’t a ton of wrestling taken there,” Dresser said. “There were some great kids, but not the talent that Iowa State has right now. But talent doesn’t do you anything if it’s not put in the right vein. We were 81st my first year at Virginia Tech and then we were 79th and then I think we were 38th. I’m not that patient. Not with what we’ve got. Obviously we’ve got more to see at Iowa State than we did 11 years ago at Virginia Tech. Iowa State has tradition to see. This is where Dan Gable wrestled. This is where Cale Sanderson wrestled. This is where Nate Carr wrestled. This is where Jim Gibbons wrestled. This is where Joe Gibbons wrestled. I could go on and on and on. Those guys are all superstars and legends. I know there are kids out there who want to be in that same conversation. They want to be mentioned with those great Iowa State wrestlers.”
Dresser knows what it takes to take a team from mediocrity and build it into a national championship contender. He spent the last 11 years doing just that at Virginia Tech, where, oddly enough, he followed in the footsteps of Iowa head coach Tom Brands. It was a long, slow process at Virginia Tech, but Dresser doesn’t anticipate Iowa State fans will have to wait nearly that long.
“Next season would be my goal. I said that when I got hired at Virginia Tech. It’s going to take some time. This tournament is incredibly tough. The level of coaching here is incredibly tough and competitive. There’s a lot of suds wrestling, but there’s a lot of studs sitting in the corner, too. We’ve got to match all of that,” Dresser said.
Dresser has spent the last few weeks meeting with the underclassmen on the team, laying the foundation for a championship program to get back to the level it once was. And that includes talking to recruits. With 11 seniors on the roster — seven of them starters — set to graduate, there are plenty of holes to fill. To Dresser, that means plenty of opportunities for young wrestlers to step up and have a chance to put their names up their with the greats in Iowa State history.
“A lot of recruiting. I haven’t been in the room, period. We had a team meeting and a team meal at a different facility on campus. But it’s all been recruiting. Obviously we’ve got to build that team back up. Recruiting is obviously a very big component of that,” Dresser said. “We’ve got to figure out what’s going on first. I’ve got to figure out what we need to fix and then start fixing things. It’s being with your athletes, seeing how everybody gets along. Seeing how everybody doesn’t get along. So culture is important. You follow it up with work once you figure out what’s going on.
“I’ve met with a lot of the guys on the team. We had a great team meeting a week and a half ago. I’ve met with a lot of the team. I haven’t been in the practice room yet. Just kind of setting the table. They know the kind of workouts they’ve got to do and stuff like that.”
Dresser said his next task is to fill out his coaching staff. He has narrowed his list to a select few, and did not rule out keeping Travis and Trevor Paulson on board. He realizes that the Paulsons were put in a tough spot when Kevin Jackson stepped away from the program after going 1-12 in dual meets, leaving the Paulsons to pick up the pieces for the Big 12 Championships and the NCAA Championships.
“That’s my next priority. I wanted to get done with this weekend. I don’t have any hot leads on that yet. But I’ve got a short list of guys that I’m looking at. That’s going to be important. Our staff is really important. Our regional training center and our regional training center staff that we’re going to put in place here real soon are going to be important. All of that is to be determined and coming soon,” Dresser said. “It’s not even a fair situation. You can’t evaluate guys being in charge for two weeks. I know the Paulsons have not only meant a lot to Iowa State as athletes, but their commitment and just the meetings I’ve had with them, those guys are super passionate about Iowa State wrestling. My heart goes out to anybody who, as a coach, doesn’t have the weekend they wanted to have. They obviously didn’t have the weekend they wanted to have. This is a gut-check business. I’ve been in this in the bowels of this before and had bad tournaments. There’s nothing that’s worse. As an athlete you get beat and you’re pretty miserable. But as a coach, if the majority of your team underperform, it hurts times three, times four, times five.”
Dresser knows all about the history of Iowa State wrestling. He’s anxious to get started in rebuilding the Cyclones to their former glory, restoring the luster which has faded from the program in recent years.
That job started Friday afternoon.
“I think they’re excited. They were listening and that’s what you’ve got to do,” Dresser said. “I wasn’t preaching a lot, but you’ve got to start preaching. You’ve got to start serving the Kool-Aid, so they got their first dose of Coach Dresser’s Kool-Aid. We’ve got to keep feeding it to them, keep feeding it to them, keep feeding it to them and make it a part of who they are. We’ve got to go to work.”