Reader, Bolte & Garrett turning heads


Jon Reader, Iowa State’s 174-pound wrestler, is quietly chasing some personal glory. Ranked fifth nationally in the preseason, he has climbed to No. 1 with his perfect 28-0 record.

Reader’s spotlight match came Sunday when he defeated Cornell’s Mack Lewnes (the NCAA runner-up last year), 7-6. Two takedowns and a reversal by Reader set up the match-winning escape with 1:12 left in the third period.

He’s been singularly focused on "wrestling hard for seven minutes" each time out and his record includes seven major decisions, eight technical falls and three pins. His dominating performance to date has him tracking for significant national honors.


The women’s basketball coaching staff always leans on its senior class and that means the spotlight this year is on Kelsey Bolte. In league games only, Bolte is the only player in the Big 12 who ranks among the league’s top five in six different statistical categories (third in minutes, three pointers, 3-point% and scoring, fourth in FT% and fifth in FG%). Danielle Adams (Texas A&M) and Brittney Griner (Baylor) are listed in  four categories each.



Iowa State’s Diante Garrett is the only men’s basketball player in the Big 12, who ranks among the top five in five different statistical categories. Garrett is first in assists, second in minutes and fifth in scoring, steals and assist-to-turnover margin.

Justin Hamilton (Texas), Marshall Moses (Oklahoma State) and LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor) are among the five best in four categories.


Golfweek magazine, last week, listed five "surprise" women’s golf teams they’re tracking for the 2011 spring. The Cyclones were third on the list, which also included LSU, Colorado, Ole Miss and Florida International. The story suggested that Iowa State could challenge for the Big 12 crown this spring.

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Reaction from Johnny & fans made it all worthwhile


When the statue of Johnny Orr was unveiled at a ceremony earlier this month, there was a great sense of anticipation.

My focus was on Coach Orr’s reaction. That was because he had never seen the finished project up to that point.

Orr’s raw response was great. He seemed overjoyed.

“It’s just unbelievable to think they did this for me,” Orr said after the ceremony.

The level of detail in the finished piece is impressive. To prepare scupltors Lou Cella and Oscar Leon wanted as many photos of Orr as possible. The artists also watched videos of Orr.

On a visit to Chicago last fall, I saw a sculpture of former Cub Billy Williams in progress. The artists on that project had approximately 25 face shots to study in hopes of capturing all details. It seemed excessive, but I soon learned otherwise.

Because Johnny’s mouth is open in the pose we chose, his teeth were a critical element. One of the other sculptors at the Chicago studio is an oral surgeon. He was asked to review the teeth and make adjustments.

“It turned into a full day exercise (for the dentist) to make certain every detail of his teeth was correct,” Cella said.

Late in the process, the artists asked about the ring on Orr’s right finger. It was the team ring from his 1986 Sweet 16 team.

“Can we get a photo (of the ring)?”, Cella asked.

Not having a photo of his hand on file, we made arrangements to get a digital image taken and sent to the sculptors. The detail of the ring on the statue is amazing.

What’s interesting is that ring is visible only to people in Jordan Railey’s height bracket, because it’s more than seven feet in the air. But, no detail was left unstudied.

The statue is impressive. Coach Orr’s smile the day it was unveiled was priceless. The scene of fans waiting to pose with the statue (while camera phones clicked) that evening confirmed it was all worthwhile.

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Is online civility a possibility? You judge.

Jeff Pearlman writes about baseball for He also authored the controversial Sports Illustrated article featuring John Rocker’s opinions of playing baseball in New York .

Pearlman has opinions. And, so do his readers. The intersection of those opinions can, apparently, be a toxic place.

Recently, Pearlman shared some thoughts on whether supposed steroid users should make baseball’s Hall of Fame. He raised doubts about Jeff Bagwell’s candidacy. The most vicious passage I could find said:

"A handful of media types cite his staggering power numbers, his Randy (Macho Man) Savage physique as a player, his many years with a franchise that was known to be a hotbed for steroids" and question his Hall worthiness.

Several readers disagreed with Pearlman’s assertion and took him to task through Twitter. Pearlman contacted two of the disgruntled readers and, after trading messages, typed a thought-provoking column for

Here is the link.

We live in a world of social media, chat rooms and the like. The ability to share opinions anonymously is readily available. As Pearlman’s story illustrates, it can get out of hand.

Debate and discussion is healthy. Just remember that there is a person at the other end most times and online civility – as Pearlman calls it – is a good thing.

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For 25 years, he’s been mat-side

The names associated with Iowa State wrestling are a "Who’s Who" of the sport.


Cael Sanderson won 159 consecutive college matches and four NCAA titles.

Dr. Harold Nichols coached the Cyclones to 456 dual wins – second most in Division 1A history – and six NCAA championships.

It includes Olympic gold medalists Sanderson, Glen Brand, Kevin Jackson, Dan Gable and Ben Peterson as well as three-time NCAA champs Nate Carr and Larry Hayes.

And, for a quarter century, the man who has chronicled much of that history is
Tom Kroeschell, the media contact for Iowa State wrestling for the last 507 duals.

Kroeschell joined the Cyclone Athletics staff in August of 1985 and his consistent presence mat-side has been remarkable and underappreciated.

One of the foremost followers of college wrestling today, Kroeschell was recently and rightfully profiled in a story on the NCAA’s web site.

Kroeschell’s affection for the Iowa State wrestling team is genuine and it’s neat the NCAA has recognized it.

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Hoiberg pushing simple math


Fred Hoiberg believes in simple math and, right now, his Cyclones are minus one.

"If you lose a home game, you get a minus," the former finance major at Iowa State said Monday. "If you win on the road, you get a plus."

A loss to then third-ranked Kansas on Jan. 12 left the Cyclones minus one in Hoiberg’s equation. Two near misses on the road in Lincoln and Stillwater prevented Iowa State from reaching break even.

Protecting home court is a must in Hoiberg’s game. Two league foes – Texas Tech and Oklahoma – visit Hilton Coliseum this week.

"With three of the next four (Big 12 games) at home, we need to take care of business and not get too far behind in the plus/minus game," Fred said.

Although it’s natural to pick apart rebounding margins, shooting percentages and other measures, Hoiberg’s simple approach is to win all your games at home and try to steal a couple on the road.

That is easier said than done. Home teams have a 23-7 record in Big 12 play thus far. Texas and Kansas are both 2-0 away from home. Texas Tech is the only club with two home court losses.

But the equation falls out of whack if you don’t hold serve at home. Neither the Red Raiders nor Sooners have won a road league game and the challenge is to keep those trends going.

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Good semester in the classroom for Cyclones

It’s easy for college sports enthusiasts to focus on results, championships and top ten plays. That’s what we’re fed round-the-clock. Iowa State’s winter sports slate has included many of those type of stories.

The men’s basketball team is one win shy of last year’s victory total. The women’s basketball squad is ranked nationally. The wrestlers feature the nation’s top-rated 174 pounder in Jon Reader. Gymnastics is one spot from entering GymInfo’s Top 20. It’s been a good winter.

Our student-athletes also had a great fall semester in the classroom. Consider that …

*  75 percent of the teams had a cumulative team GPA over 3.0
*  16 student-athletes recorded perfect 4.0 grade-point averages in the fall
*  nearly one-quarter (23%) of student-athletes made the Dean’s List
*  student-athletes had a higher fall semester GPA than ISU undergrads

We often applaud the Cyclones for game-winning catches, spikes, baskets, matches, races or routines. That’s great. Remember, too, they are doing good things in the classroom and that matters more.

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Shortest rebounder & tallest long-range shooter


The 2010-11 Iowa State men’s basketball team is developing a reputation.

Most college basketball fans would agree that this season’s Cyclones are improved (just one win shy of last season’s total with at least 13 games left), balanced in scoring (ISU is one of four schools in the nation with five double-figure scorers) and limited in available players (all five starters average more than 28.4 minutes).

The not-quite-so obvious facts about the team include that …
*  its leading rebounder (Jake Anderson) is the shortest starter
*  its hottest three-point shooter (Jamie VanderBeken) is its tallest starter, and

*  its leading scorer (Diante Garrett) is one of the nation’s most-improved players

Standing just 6-feet-2, Jake Anderson tops the club and ranks tied for 88th nationally in rebounding at 8.0 rpg. Several guards and guard/forwards nationally are averaging more boards per contest, but all of them are at least three inches taller than Anderson. He’s the shortest player listed among the national rebound leaders.

Six-foot-11 Jamie VanderBeken is shooting 46.9% from three-point range (ranking 65th nationally) and has made 13-18 his last two games. VanderBeken is the tallest player nationally in the Top 100 players for 3-point percentage. Richmond’s Justin Harper, at 6-10, is the lone player in the rankings close to his size. But, Jamie is the tallest on the list.

Garrett has increased his scoring norm 8.7 points from his average of last season. The only players among the NCAA’s Top 75 scorers, who have improved more are UConn’s Kemba Walker (up 9.9 points), Texas’ Jordan Hamilton (9.7), South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters (9.3), Providence’s Marshon Brooks (9.2) and Wagner’s Tyler Murray (9.1). Each of those players – except for Walker – is receiving at least seven-and-a-half more minutes of playing time in ’11.

This Cyclone team sure has a lot of interesting storylines to follow the next two-plus months. Stay tuned.

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Coaching stability a league strength


Most college football coaches would suggest that continuity on their staff is an important component for sustained success.

It appears that Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads will welcome his entire cast of full-time assistants back for the 2011 season. That is a strong foundation.

Much like an individual school, coaching stability within a conference is key for league success. With a look towards next season, the only BCS conference that will not have a head coaching change is the Big 12 (recall that Colorado will have a new address in the Pac-12 in 2011).

Among the BCS leagues, here are the coaching changes for next year:

ACC – Maryland (Ralph Friedgen to Randy Edsall), Miami (Randy Shannon to Al Golden)
Big 12 – none
Big East – Connecticut (Edsall to Paul Pasqualoni), Pitt (Dave Wannstedt to Michael Haywood to Todd Graham)
Big Ten – Michigan (Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke), Indiana (Bill Lynch to Kevin Wilson), Minnesota (Tim Brewster to Jerry Kill)
Pac-12 – Colorado (Dan Hawkins to Jon Embree), Stanford (Jim Harbaugh to David Shaw)
SEC – Florida (Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp), Vanderbilt (Robbie Caldwell to James Franklin)

What conference in Division 1A had the more turnover? The MAC, with changes at Ball State, Kent State, Miami, Northern Illinois and Temple.

It may be a new look for the Big 12 this fall with 10 teams competing. But, you’ll recognize all of the head coaches returning to their posts. That stability is a league strength.

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Garrett slighted for point guard award


Diante Garrett was overlooked by the selection committee for the 2011 Bob Cousy Award, which is given annually to the "top collegiate male point guard".

The award’s selection committee recently released its list of 20 finalists and DG was a pretty glaring omission if the award is based upon on-court productivity.

Garrett began this week ranked in college basketball’s Top 100 nationally in scoring (72nd), steals (37th), assists (18th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (96th).

The list of semi-finalists includes a number of great players with familiar names like Kemba Walker (UConn), Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Nolan Smith (Duke), Jacob Pullen (K-State), Kalin Lucas (Michigan State) and Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech).

Garrett’s numbers and impact on his team stack up favorably with all of them. I’m not saying he should win the award, but I can’t understand how he didn’t make the final 20 candidates.

I ranked the 20 finalists plus Garrett in seven categories: scoring, assists, points accounted for, assist-to-turnover ratio, minutes played, steals and rebounding. One player ranked in the Top 10 in every one of those categories.

Diante Garrett.

A cumulative top five using all of categories would read like this: 1. Walker, 2. Garrett, 3. Tu Holloway (Xavier), 4. Norris Cole (Cleveland State) and 5. Nolan Smith (Duke). And, then there’s a huge drop-off after them.

Nearly all of the finalists play on winning teams. So does Garrett, whose club is 14-4.

Point guards supposedly make their teammates better. Check out the increases in scoring average for Scott Christopherson and Jamie VanderBeken this season. Part of the reason for those increases is getting the ball in good scoring positions, often times courtesy of Garrett.

It’s too bad that Garrett didn’t get extended time on the list of those being considered for a point guard’s top honor. If Garrett can continue his strong overall play, perhaps he can find a seat at the table of Big 12 honorees at season’s end.

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Big 12 suffers fewest underclassmen departures

The deadline to apply for the 2011 NFL Draft was Saturday, Jan. 15.

It is an interesting time of the year as subtractions from team rosters at this point in the year can have a dramatic impact. With signing day only a couple of weeks away, it’s tough to fill holes if your school suffers important departures.

A quick survey of the list of underclassmen announcing their intent to leave shows that the Big 12 Conference suffered the fewest departures among BCS schools. Only three  (Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith and Texas’ Aaron Williams) Big 12 players declared for the draft.

The SEC will lost the most underclassmen with 14 players declaring. Additionally, the ACC is losing 10 players, the Pac-10 eight, the Big Ten seven and the Big East five.

Both Alabama and Auburn lost Heisman Trophy winners. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have three players each who’ve declared. Illinois and Pitt are the other schools to lose a trio of players.

Among Cyclone opponents next fall (beyond league members Missouri and Texas, whose losses are listed above), Connecticut lost a significant player in Jordan Todman, the Big East Player of the Year. Iowa won’t have safety Tyler Sash in its secondary next fall.

If a player is ready to go to the next level, you wish them luck and move forward. But, the holes they leave in the depth chart can be problematic.

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