AMES, Iowa â€“ Iowa Stateâ€™s David Zabriskie doesnâ€™t like getting pushed around. Cyclone fans have agonizingly shifted in their seats all season attempting to will â€œBig Zâ€ to victory in his many close matches. Itâ€™s very rare the relatively diminutive Cyclone heavyweight is on the losing end of a wrestling match. Zabriskie has worked and grinded his way to the No. 1-overall ranking this season, while standing in the physical shadow of many of his larger opponents.
â€œI still get a lot of big guys that are huge compared to me,â€ Zabriskie said. â€œI really donâ€™t even see it anymore. Iâ€™m pretty much used to it. At this point, Iâ€™m almost positive guys are going to be larger in size than me, so it doesnâ€™t bother me when thereâ€™s a huge guy out there. Iâ€™m still going to wrestle him the same way.â€
While being outmatched in size by nearly 50 pounds in some cases, the 6-0, 230-pound Zabriskie still finds ways to outpace all of his competition. He currently leads the ISU team in career victories with an 87-18 all-time mark. Shortly into his senior season, Zabriskie will likely join the 100-win club at Iowa State, where some of the biggest names in all of collegiate wrestling history reside.
â€œBig Zâ€ stands at 30-2 in his junior campaign heading into next weekâ€™s NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo. Zabriskie isnâ€™t letting either loss or anything else hang over his head this season.
â€œI had those two losses,â€ Zabriskie said. â€œThose were at least a month or so ago. They helped put things in perspective. They both helped me realize a couple of things I needed to work on. I need to believe in myself and I need to get more points.â€
Zabriskie just won his second Big 12 Conference heavyweight title and will be taking that momentum with him to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis next week. ISUâ€™s heavyweight is helping lead the charge alongside all nine of his teammates. The Cyclones are the only team in Division I to send all of its varsity competitors to the NCAA Championships.
â€œWhen we get down there itâ€™s just like every other meet that weâ€™re at,â€ Zabriskie said. â€œOur whole team is there so itâ€™s not like thereâ€™s anybody or anything missing. It certainly feels just like any other meet and thatâ€™s pretty important for scoring points. You get ten guys down there scoring points for you; thatâ€™s huge. There are other teams there that only have six, seven, eight, maybe nine guys so thatâ€™s pretty good.â€
After earning All-America status last season, nothing has seemed to slow down Zabriskieâ€™s rise to the top of the heavyweight pile. The tough competition in the Big 12 hasnâ€™t hampered Zabriskie. The top three heavyweights in the nation call the Big 12 Conference home, but Zabriskie has turned away both Mark Ellis of Missouri and Oklahoma Stateâ€™s Jared Rosholt this season.
â€œCoach and I have planned out a couple of things that Iâ€™ve been able to work on,â€ Zabriskie said. â€œJust picking up tiny things that kind of improved my style out has helped quite a bit. Certainly my competition is probably one of my tougher schedules that Iâ€™ve had. Over the last two or three years it has seemed just about every time I was going out there, I wrestled a ranked opponent of some sort. That helps with the difficulty of the schedule.â€
Way back when the Branchville, N.J. native first became a wrestler, the intent was the have fun. Zabriskie hasnâ€™t lost sight of that ideal as he heads into the most important meet of the season.
â€œI donâ€™t put a whole lot of pressure on myself,â€ Zabriskie said. â€œI just try to be as easy going and as stress free as I possibly can. I donâ€™t get myself extremely worked up over any competition so that makes it fun. It makes it easier too. The season goes well when everythingâ€™s relaxed and youâ€™re not constantly putting pressure on yourself that you donâ€™t need.â€