By ABE MILLS
It’s not likely that BYU head wrestling coach Mark Schultz was reading the Bible when he scheduled tonight’s match with Iowa State. But it just so happens that the rosters for the match-up read like a remake of the Old Testament’s account of David and Goliath.
The Cougars and the No. 4 Cyclones will square off at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.
BYU wrestling was a program on the verge of extinction a few years ago, before athletic director and former BYU All-American wrestler Rondo Fehlberg grasped it from the jaws of death and set it on the straight and narrow. Since then, the program has steadily improved.
This year, BYU hit the top 25 for the first time in 11 years and was as high as No. 21. The Cougars are currently No. 26 and have won three dual meets in a row.
Compare that to Iowa State, a program that spends so much time in the top 25 its mail is sent there. The Cyclones are 14-5-1 in dual meets and have six wrestlers ranked in the top 10.
Schultz said nothing has changed as far as the team’s practice or preparation for this meet. He said he sees tonight’s match as an opportunity for his wrestlers to gain experience.
“It’s good for the guys to wrestle in front of a big crowd against some tough competition,” he said.
“When I won my first NCAA Championship, I beat a fifth-year senior and I was only a sophomore. My age didn’t really matter because I was used to wrestling in high pressure situations.”
Many of the Cougars will face high-pressure matches tonight.
The most anticipated match of the night will occur at the 165-pound weight class when BYU’s Rangi Smart, ranked No. 3 in the nation, faces No. 1 Joe Heskett. Heskett, a freshman, is undefeated at 23-0.
Smart lost to Heskett last summer in a freestyle wrestling match, but said that match doesn’t have any effect on what will happen tonight.
“I’ve got to win because my brother beat this guy in high school once,” he said. “If I lose, I’m going to be hearing it from my brother for a while.”
Smart isn’t the only one who will be challenged tonight. Freshen Scott Coleman, at the 184-pound division, and Aaron Holker at 133 have the best records on the team and will be facing the No. 2 and No. 3 wrestlers in their classes, respectively.
Even though most of his wrestlers will be facing their toughest challenges of the year tonight, Schultz said that every single wrestler has a chance to win if they keep their focus.
“They shouldn’t focus on winning or losing so much as doing their best, just wrestling,” he said.