photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com
A new feature that we have had on TOM is the “All-2000’s Team” for a respective school. We will go weight-by-weight to feature the best lineup that a team could put together comprised of wrestlers that were in action from the year 2000 to now. Their career could have started in the 1990’s; they just need to have one year of competition in the 2000’s. Each wrestler that is mentioned must have competed for one postseason at their weight class (even if it wasn’t the weight they were most known for).
This is an impressive group that features eight NCAA Champion in ten spots. All eight of these wrestlers won NCAA titles as seniors, and for six of them, it was their first and title NCAA Championship.
125 – Andrew Long (Creston, IA) 2009-10
2010 NCAA runner-up, 2010 Big 12 runner-up
This selection may be controversial since Long only had one season where he competed officially for Iowa State and was dismissed from the team before his sophomore season. However, since 2000, only one other Cyclone earned All-American honors at the weight class. As a freshman in 2010, Long upset future NCAA Champion Anthony Robles (Arizona State) and 2008 NCAA Champion Angel Escobedo (Indiana) to make the NCAA finals.
Second Team: Earl Hall
133 – Zach Roberson (Overland Park, KS) 1999-04
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2004 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2004-1st; 2003-4th; 2002-7th), 2004 Big 12 runner-up
A big part of Zach Roberson’s game was his trademark snap and shuck, for my money, one of the most aesthetically pleasing moves in recent memory. Zach started his career at 141 lbs but moved down to 133 for his sophomore year where he would remain over the next three seasons. He would get on the podium each season he competed at 133 lbs, which was capped off with an NCAA title in 2004. Here’s his semifinal match with returning NCAA champion Travis Lee, featuring the shuck as mentioned above.
Second Team: Cody Sanderson
141 – Nate Gallick (Tucson, AZ) 2002-06
Three-time NCAA Qualifier, 2006 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2006-1st; 2005-2nd; 2004-5th), Three-time Big 12 Champion
Nate Gallick is probably best remembered for his series of matches against conference rival Teyon Ware (Oklahoma). The pair met in the 2005 NCAA finals, and Ware was victorious though, at the time he was 0-4 against Nate. A year later the tables had turned, and Gallick finished an undefeated season in style, beating the Sooner for his NCAA Championship.
Second Team: Aaron Holker
149 – Bill Maldonado (Hammond, IN) 1998-02
Three-time NCAA Qualifier, 2002 NCAA sixth-place finisher, Two-time NCAA Round of 12 finisher, 2002 Big 12 runner-up
This is the only weight class where the Cyclones have not had an NCAA finalist since 2000. Maldonado was a fixture in the middle of the lineup for ISU, twice getting a match away for AA status, before breaking through as a senior. He was also seeded in the top ten at the NCAA Championships on two occasions.
Second Team: Mitch Mueller
157 – Trent Paulson (Council Bluffs, IA) 2003-07
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2007 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2007-1st; 2006-4th, 2005-4th), Two-time Big 12 Champion
Trent and twin brother Travis formed a formidable back-to-back tandem for Iowa State in the middle part of the first decade. The smaller twin, Trent, twice earned a top-seed at the NCAA Championships. During his first opportunity as the one-seed, Paulson settled for a fourth-place finish. His senior year, however, he would wrestle up to his ranking and come away with his title. In the semi’s Trent avenged a regular season loss at the Midlands to Mike Poeta (Illinois), shutting out the offensive juggernaut 4-0.
Second Team: Cyler Sanderson
165 – Joe Heskett (Cuyahoga Falls, OH) 1998-02
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2002 NCAA Champion, Four-time All-American (2002-1st; 2001-2nd; 2000-2nd; 1999-3rd), Three-time Big 12 Champion, Four-time Big 12 finalist
One of the best rivalries of the early 2000’s was Joe Heskett and Donny Pritzlaff (Wisconsin). During Heskett’s sophomore and junior seasons, the duo met in the NCAA Finals. On both occasions, Pritzlaff got the victory in extra time. Joe was back in the finals as a senior and finally brought home the elusive gold medal and was one of three NCAA Champions for a Cyclone team that took second place. Heskett sits in third place on the Cyclones all-time wins list with 143.
Second Team: Travis Paulson
174 – Jon Reader (Davison, MI) 2007-11
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2011 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2011-1st; 2009-4th; 2008-7th), 2011 Big 12 Champion, Two-time Big 12 finalist
Like many others on this list, Jon Reader completed his decorated collegiate career with his only NCAA Championship, as a senior. In his only season at 174 lbs, Reader went undefeated and also earned his first Big 12 crown. Jon was the lone All-American and a bright spot during a down year in 2010-11.
Second Team: Lelund Weatherspoon
184 – Cael Sanderson (Heber City, UT) 1998-02
Four-time Undefeated NCAA Champion, Four-time Big 12 Champion
The easiest decision of any wrestler on any of these teams. Cael’s 159-0 career mark is one of the most sacred records in collegiate wrestling. He also earned three Hodge Trophy’s and was named the NCAA’s Most Outstanding Wrestler in each of his four seasons.
Second Team: Kurt Backes
197 – Jake Varner (Bakersfield, CA) 2006-10
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time NCAA Champion, Four-time All-American (2010-1st; 2009-1st; 2008-2nd; 2007-2nd), Two-time Big 12 Champion, Four-time Big 12 finalist
Along with Sanderson, Jake Varner is the only other four-time NCAA finalist in Cyclone history. As an upstart, sixth-seeded freshman, Varner knocked off the returning NCAA runner-up Roger Kish (Minnesota), to make the finals in 2007. The next season he was favored to win it all and was upset by Mike Pucillo (Ohio State). After moving up a weight to 197 lbs, Varner won the next two NCAA titles, his second coming on the strength of an undefeated season.
Second Team: Kyven Gadson
285 – David Zabriskie (Long Branch, NJ) 2006-10
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2010 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2010-1st; 2009-5th; 2008-6th), Three-time Big 12 Champion, Four-time Big 12 finalist
After a run of large 285 lb NCAA Champions that included Steve Mocco (Oklahoma State), then Cole Konrad (Minnesota) and Dustin Fox (Northwestern), David Zabriskie helped bring back the trend of small, agile heavyweights. Zabriskie earned a top seed at nationals in each of his final two seasons in Ames. To make the NCAA finals as a senior, David needed to defeat both of the returning finalists in the quarters (Mark Ellis – Missouri) and semis (Konrad Dudziak – Duke).
Second Team: Trent Hynek