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Who Should ISU Hire?

Breaking down the ISU's coaching vacancy and potential candidate


With the recent news that Iowa State’s Head Wrestling Coach Kevin Jackson will be stepping down at the end of the year to take an administrative role, Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard will now need to find a replacement in what might be the biggest coaching decision in Iowa State’s wrestling history.

First Let’s start with why ISU needs to make a big move.  ISU is wrestling royalty.  They have 8 NCAA wrestling titles, 3rd most all-time. Since 1962, ISU had placed in the top 10 at the NCAA championships all but 3 times before KJ became the head coach in 2009-10 season and had 34 top 5 finishes over that span (KJ added 3 more top 5 finishes his first 3 seasons).  But they haven’t been in the top 10 the last 6 years and heading toward a 7th unless the 1-9 Cyclones have a stellar performance in St. Louis this March. 

ISU needs to reverse the downward trend and not just hire a good coach but a coach that will get them back in the national championship conversation on a regular basis.  Wrestling is better when ISU is good.


Chris Bono – The former ISU National Champion and current Head Coach at SDSU will no doubt be mentioned as a likely candidate.  Bono has turned the Jackrabbits into a top 25 team and was a successful head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga for 3 seasons prior. 

Casey Cunningham – Arguably the best assistant coach in wrestling and should probably be considered for every head coaching job that opens.

Doug Schwab – The former Hawkeye and now head coach at UNI recently took his team into Ames and defeated the Cyclones. His success at an in-state school certainly should have Pollard's attention.


Speaking of Schwab and Hawkeyes, let’s address this issue. No question, the comfortable hire will be someone with ties to the Cyclone program.  However, ISU needs to find the best coach for their program, not just one with ties to Ames. Iowa and ISU are in-state rivals and typically it would seem unlikely for alumni to take the head coaching gig at their biggest rival, but this is where Jamie Pollard has an advantage… Danny Mack Gable!  Reach out to your greatest alum, Dan Gable, who has an extensive coaching tree and unquestioned interest in growing the sport.  How poetic would it be for a Dan Gable disciple do what he did, coach the enemy, and bring them back to national relevance.  A Hawkeye winning at ISU after he attended Iowa and learned under a Cyclone. 

Splash hires

First, let me just say that I have no idea if either of the below are interested.  I just think they could be interested, especially if Gable were to call on ISU’s behalf. Getting ISU back in contention will only be good for wrestling, another non Big 10 contender that can battle Oklahoma State in the Big 12 and of course Iowa.  An ISU/Iowa rivalry in wrestling is good for the sport, period. 

Kevin Dresser – Dresser was born in Ft. Dodge and attended Humboldt High School, 90 minutes from Ames, IA. Last year, his team captured a team trophy, ahead of the Hawkeyes.  He made news last year when he called out Tom Brands for trying to avoid his team so going toe to toe with the Hawks and Brands could be a welcome challenge.  Of course, Dresser has a good thing going at VT and my not want to leave.  However, the possibility to bring a coach whose team just finished above the Hawkeyes should be tempting for ISU. Dresser v. Brands every year, yes please. 

Speaking of rivalries, how about sibling rivalry.

Terry Brands – Brands v. Brands! Let that sink in wrestling fans. Think of the possibilities.  Twin brothers coaching against each other for hated in-state rivals, that is a headline that will go beyond the wrestling media. Brands v. Brands is much watch TV.  Watching the coaches yell at each other could be just as entertaining as the wrestling on the mats, especially after they recruit against one another for the same kids.   Terry recently said he was interested in taking over a program of his own in a TrackWrestling interview and would have no problem leading a team into Carver Hawkeye Arena so you have to at least inquire. See if he wants to go head to head with his brother, see if he wants to show he is a better coach, see if Brands v. Brands interest him, see if he thinks it will grow wrestling, but least of all, see if Brands v. Brands is a possibility. 

Whether Terry Brands or Kevin Dresser are interested is separate matter, but ISU should aim big with this decision and go after a top head coach.