Gomez looks to play key part in rebuilding Cyclone legacy

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Dec. 06, 2018, 5:25 p.m. (ET)

Iowa State’s Austin Gomez is making it clear to the rest of the nation that he can be one of the top folkstyle wrestlers in the NCAA.

Gomez and the rest of the Cyclones stunned the crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena a couple of times last Saturday, taking the Iowa Hawkeyes to the brink in the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series. The Hawkeyes went on to win, 19-18, but Gomez secured a significant win over top-10 ranked Austin DeSanto, a recent Hawkeye transfer.

With Iowa leading 19-15 with one match left, the 133-pound bout was the final match of the day, featuring unranked Gomez against No. 9 DeSanto.

Gomez, a native of Carol Stream, Ill., came out on top with a 14-9 win after an exciting exchange that saw the Cyclone put the Hawkeye to his back.

“It was a crazy crowd. Being able to wrestle in Carver-Hawkeye, a really historic venue, was special. It was so loud,” Gomez said. “Coming out with a W over a tough wrestler was even better because now my name is out there, and people are starting to realize that I can wrestle folkstyle. I’m not just a freestyle wrestler. It felt good to get a win like that in a tough, hostile environment.”

For Gomez, this opportunity has been a long time coming.

As a junior in high school, Gomez committed to Iowa State while Kevin Jackson was still at the helm of the program. Shortly after, Jackson was hired as the USA Wrestling Freestyle Developmental Coach, leaving Gomez with doubts of staying committed to the Cyclones.

“I had my thoughts about leaving and I was going to leave,” Gomez said. “I was committed with the old coaching staff, so the vision that they had for the program was what drew me in.”

Enter Kevin Dresser, who was announced as the next head coach of Iowa State.

Dresser is a well-respected coach in the NCAA, taking Virginia Tech from a 60th-place finish in 2007 to a fourth-place finish in his final season as head coach in 2016.

Looking to hold onto one of Iowa State’s most promising recruits, Dresser visited Gomez and his family to make his case.

“Dresser came and talked to me and told me everything that was going to happen and I believed him and trusted him 100 percent,” Gomez said. “He had the same vision and wanted to bring back Iowa State wrestling, and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re bringing back Iowa State wrestling.”

Last year as a redshirt, Gomez went 8-0 competing exclusively in open tournaments. Now finally able to suit up for the Cyclones, Gomez has found a new sense of motivation.

“I think it’s a little different this year because I’m the guy now,” Gomez said. “I’m working harder and I’m pushing myself harder. I’ve got to be living the right lifestyle 24/7 because this weight class is so deep. I can’t be living the right lifestyle only on the weekdays at 3:30. Coach Dresser talks about making 3:30 important every single day, but I’ve realized that you have to make every hour of every day count. Sleep, school, nutrition. All of that has to be handled perfectly at all times.”

The 133-pound NCAA field is arguably one of the deepest weights this season, featuring the returning NCAA champ, three past NCAA runners-up, a Junior World champion and multiple past All-Americans.

In order to navigate his way through this gauntlet, Gomez said it’s more important than ever to stay the course and keep his eye on the prize.

“I just have to keep doing the things I’m doing and work even harder now,” Gomez said. “A win is a win and it’s a step in the right direction to where I want to be in March, which is on top of the podium. The win over DeSanto is a good confidence booster. Every weekend is going to be tough, so you have to be ready to go every time you step on the mat.”