Positioning

Kevin Dresser on Iowa State's 2022-23 wrestling lineup, recruiting – Des Moines Register

future-dyanmics

The Iowa State wrestling program lost a lot when Jarrett Degen’s eligibility expired after this past season.
Degen was a key part of Kevin Dresser’s first few Cyclone teams. He was Dresser’s first All-American as Iowa State’s coach, back in 2019. He ended his collegiate career as a five-time NCAA qualifier with 92 career victories. He will be missed.
But Dresser is pretty excited about the guy he’s expecting to replace Degen in next year’s lineup.
It’s time to meet Paniro Johnson, an incoming freshman for the Iowa State wrestling program. He is projected to be the Cyclones’ starter at 149 pounds next season. He is competing at USA Wrestling’s U20 men’s freestyle world team trials this weekend.
► RELATED: A way-too-early look at Iowa State wrestling’s 2022-23 starting lineup
“That dude can wrestle,” Dresser said Wednesday during a wide-ranging, 30-minute conversation with The Des Moines Register. “He might be the most athletic kid I’ve ever coached. David Carr kids around, like ‘Paniro is faster than I am,’ and he might be right.”
That’s some high praise for a guy who spent last season in grayshirt, but consider Johnson’s résumé thus far:
“He’s definitely the front-runner, right now, at 149 pounds,” Dresser continued. “He’s had some really good outings over the past year.”
More recently, Johnson went 6-1 and took second at the U20 men’s freestyle national championships last month in Las Vegas, positioning him as a serious contender for this weekend’s world team trials event. It will be another chance for him to showcase the impressive wrestling ability that has Dresser excited for next season.
“Paniro is super talented, and a super special kid,” Dresser said. “Part of the reason we went the grayshirt route is because he was so young. He graduated high school when he was 17 and just turned 18 when he moved to Ames last fall.
“When we toughen that guy up, he’s going to beat some really good guys right away. He’s only going to be a freshman, so he’s going to lay an egg or two — or three — but he’s capable of beating anybody in the nation right away. He’s that talented.”
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Johnson’s potential entry at 149 pounds is one of a few key lineup changes Dresser is anticipating ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Let’s start with the big one: Dresser believes Carr, Iowa State’s two-time All-American and 2021 NCAA champion at 157, is leaning toward bumping up to 165 next season.
Carr has long had designs on taking over the 74 kilogram (163 pounds) world team spot once he fully begins his Senior-level freestyle career. He won a Junior men’s freestyle world title at 74 kilos in 2019 and took third at the Senior world team trials challenge tournament at the same weight just two weeks ago.
This Friday, Carr will wrestle Joey Lavallee, a past NCAA finalist for Mizzou, for a spot on USA Wrestling’s national team as part of Final X, the final step of the Senior world team trials process. A win means Carr would be third on the ladder at 74 kilos for USA Wrestling, which would open up training and competition opportunities.
Dresser said Carr has shown impressive resilience since his upset loss in the second round of the NCAA Championships last March. Carr responded that weekend by winning six consecutive matches and finishing third, running his collegiate record to 66-2 overall.
“How he handled that upset, he showed an amazing amount of toughness to do what he had to do,” Dresser said. “When you’re the returning champ and you get beat, it’s really easy to put your head down, and he fought back and got his hand raised.
“We know the skill is there, but toughness is something that you have to acquire on your own. That will bode well for him going forward.”
► FROM 2019: David Carr is ready to write his own Iowa State wrestling story
Carr’s decision to wrestle 165 next year means there’s now an available spot in Iowa State’s lineup at 157.
Who will fill it?
Dresser believes a fierce battle between as many as four or five guys will unfold next season. He mentioned Isaac Judge and Grant Stotts will both likely drop to 157; redshirt freshman Cam Robinson will bump up from 149; and Jason Kraisser, who transferred in from Campbell ahead of last year, will contend as well.
“I don’t know who will be the guy,” Dresser said, “but we’ve got a lot of options, and I like that.”
Judge has spent the bulk of his career at 165, but did go 19-10 at 157 while in redshirt during the ’18-19 season. Stotts began his college career at 149, then wrestled 157 in ’19-20 before bumping to 165. Robinson is 24-8 over the last two seasons at 149. Dresser said Kraisser, who went 25-12 at 149 for Campbell, is the “sleeper” contender.
That’s the weight to watch for Iowa State early on when the ’22-23 season arrives.
► MORE: Tom Brands on Iowa wrestling’s future, new facility, Real Woods, more
Iowa State’s 2022 recruiting class was ranked No. 2 nationally by both MatScouts and InterMat this spring. The Cyclones reeled in five top-100 prospects, a four-time Iowa state champ in Carter Fousek, and recently flipped Dowling Catholic’s Frost twins, too.
Dresser believes this class, which includes 12 known commitments, will be the group that lifts Iowa State back into serious NCAA trophy contention — and the results could come quickly, too.
With Johnson expected to man the spot at 149, the only other major hole left in Iowa State’s lineup ahead of the ’22-23 season is at 141. Dresser believes Casey Swiderski, an incoming signee from Dundee High School in Michigan, could go right away.
“Casey, he’s going to be special,” Dresser said. “He’s got the right mentality, the right toughness, and obviously the right skill-level to be a heck of a college wrestler. I know he’s excited.”
Swiderski was Iowa State’s first 2022 commitment, in November 2020. Since then, he’s capped his high school career with four state championships, made the Junior men’s freestyle national finals last summer, and won Flowrestling’s Who’s Number One showcase event. He was considered the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2022 class.
Dresser said Swiderski will battle Zach Redding for the spot at 141. Redding started as a true freshman in 2021, where he took third at the Big 12 Championships and qualified for the NCAA Championships at 133. He bumped up to 141 last season and was slated to be the starter until Ian Parker dropped down from 149.
Swiderski might be the only one from Iowa State’s 2022 recruiting class to go immediately, but Dresser believes that class — which includes California natives MJ Gaitan and Ethan Perryman, another Michigander in Manny Rojas, and Ohio star Connor Euton — will help elevate the program sooner rather than later.
“It’s going to be a really competitive room right away, and I like that,” Dresser said. “You have to have a tough room if you want to make a run at a trophy.
“We’re going to start seeing some of the results of the build coming this year in the room. These young guys will develop quickly because they’re all really good right now.”
► MORE: Cedar Rapids to host women’s college national wrestling championships
Dresser also mentioned that Gabe Greenlee, a two-time state finalist for nearby Ames High, recently left the wrestling program and joined the football program. He was considered the No. 132 overall prospect in the 2021 class, per MatScouts.
Greenlee was one of four wrestlers who deferred enrollment after graduating in 2021 and gray-shirted during the ’21-22 season (the others: Johnson, Caleb Helgeson, Nate Schon). Dresser said a rough year led to him choosing a new college sports adventure.
“Great kid, great family,” Dresser said. “Different path for him.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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