Iowa State Club Hits the Mats
By Alex Halsted...
Since its inception, the ISU wrestling club had always been just talk. But after finally hitting the mats, the members are now ready to begin competing for the first time.
While the club was founded in 2006, with no facility available to use on campus, the group simply talked about getting things going and occasionally got together to work out.
“They got together and did some weight-lifting, some conditioning and talking about wrestling, but nobody actually wrestled until the end of last spring semester,” said Zach Byrnes, club president and ISU senior.
After several years of no actual practices and no wrestling on mats, the club finally took a big step forward last spring when it began renting out the wrestling room at Odgen High School.
With a 30-minute drive each way to practice and with rental fees to use the facility, the move was not perfect for the club. But with Byrnes’ eyes set on the club joining the National Collegiate Wrestling Association for competitions this fall, it was a necessary move.
“We started wrestling over at Odgen and had a few practices just to kind of get some faith built up in everybody,” Byrnes said. “So they knew we were actually going to be competing this year.”
The club held a few practices in Odgen during the spring semester before having discussions with personnel at Ames High School in the summer. Those talks led the wrestling club to its most recent home in the Ames High School wrestling room.
“After some meetings with the Ames High athletic director and wrestling coach, we finally hashed out a deal,” Byrnes said.
With travel for practices now less of an issue, the club holds four weekly practices and has around 35 members. After many years of talking, they finally are ready for competition.
This year, the wrestling club will be a part of the NCWA, a network of club wrestling teams from across the country. Many of the schools in the league have lost their Division I wrestling teams because of financial constraints or Title IX, and the league aims to allow those schools to continue to compete.
But there is also room for other schools, and as Iowa State continues to maintain its NCAA Division I wrestling program, that is where the club will fit in.
“There are two different divisions within the NCWA,” Byrnes said. “We’ll be Division II because we have an NCAA Division I team. Any team that doesn’t have that in front of them is classified as a Division I school.”
Byrnes said that as of now the club will take part in around seven different meets this year. The club’s first one will be the Winona State Club Invitational on Oct. 29.
Ryan Kooiker, junior in animal ecology and club member, has long been interested in moving from the meetings to the mat. For him, it is an exciting moment.
“I was just expecting to have wrestling practices,” Kooiker said. “Having the competition aspect just makes you that much more competitive.”
While the club will now be competing for the first time, Byrnes said the club is keeping track of its every move to focus on improving.
“We can’t do everything in the first year,” Byrnes said. “But as long as we get established this year, we can keep building every year.”
One of those building blocks is a move to a facility on campus.
While the club has cut down on travel by moving to Ames High School, it still pays rental fees that it hopes to cut soon.
“It costs us to go [to Ames High], and if we got on campus, there wouldn’t be any annual cost,” Byrnes said. “That’s our main goal and where we’re looking to head next semester.”
With State Gym now on the brink of opening, the ISU Recreation Services may be able to help push that goal forward.
“We hope to have plenty of space for all of the clubs and organizations that want to utilize more space for practice time,” said Garry Greenlee, associate director of Recreation Services. “The wrestling club has been with us for a few years now, so I think it’s important that we look for a place they can wrestle on campus instead of driving off campus.”
Until then, the club will focus on its newfound competition.