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Thursday, October 22, 2015

No Holds Barred: Kevin Jackson on Iowa State Wrestling 2015-16, Mental Toughness, and Character 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Kevin Jackson, the Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion freestyle wrestler, who is starting his seventh season as head wrestling coach for the legendary Iowa State Cyclones.

The 2015-16 college wrestling season is about to start, with Iowa State having their first dual meet by hitting the road to face Virginia Tech Saturday, November 7, at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Virginia.

We spoke with Coach Jackson by phone Tuesday.

While 2015 NCAA champion Kyven Gadson has graduated, this season's Cyclone wrestling team has a number of holdovers. But there will be some changes, as redshirt senior Tanner Weatherman, a two-time Big 12 runner-up, will be moving down to 165 pounds, and redshirt junior Lelund Weatherspoon, a 2014 Big 12 champion, will be moving down to 174 pounds. Senior Earl Hall at 133 pounds, a 2014 All-American, is another wrestler expected to have an outstanding season.

"I would have to say it's not a rebuilding year anymore," Coach Jackson said. "We're past the rebuilding stage. I think we have everything in place to take the necessary steps to do what we're capable of doing," he said. "I think we have a lot of the pieces in place to really make some noise."

We also discussed the likely starting lineup at each weight, including those weights where the starter remains to be determined by wrestle-offs.

Wrestling is a unique sport, and in this highly quotable interview, Coach Jackson shared some of his observations on it.

"People think that wrestling builds character. I think that's been said several times. But really, wrestling reveals character. A wrestling match, especially a collegiate match, will tell who you really are, what you've really been doing every single day in your day-to-day life," he said.

"It is a direct reflection of life. That's the beauty of our sport, how it carries over to life."

A large part of wrestling involves mental toughness. We discussed that at length, with Coach Jackson explaining that skillsets can easily be taught, but that some of mental toughness is "ingrained" in people. The mind can control the rest of the body, he said, with success both on and off the mat being "based on the decisions you make in life."

We also discussed what lies in the future for Kyven Gadson as he trains to make the 2016 Olympic team, the expansion of the Big 12 Conference for wrestling, the proper equipment needed for new wrestlers, and much, much more.

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