Iowa News



In its one-hundredth year, college wrestling has been beset with a host of problems: programs being slain because of the use of the 'proportionality' clause of Title IX; widening budget cuts in a worsening economy; lack of support by school administrations; inability to compete with other sports; and bad marketing and promotion. Now add growing rowdiness, both on and off the mat, to the list.

The latest in an increasing number of reports of such rowdiness took place last Friday, when Iowa was upset by Michigan State. That meet, held in East Lansing, MI, ended in a 19-19 tie, but Michigan State won by the criteria of which team most pins, which was one, for them. Many observers felt that Iowa's top-ranked and undefeated heavyweight, Steve Mocco, did pin his opponent, John Wechter, the backup for Michigan State, but the referee did not call a pinfall. Mocco did win by a 27-11 score, making it a technical fall, but that only gave his team five points, to tie the score at 19-19.

Bad and controversial calls by officials happen each and every day, but it was what happened at the conclusion of this match that caused this latest brouhaha.

According to numerous reports, which include several variations on the facts, tapes of the match showed that as it ended, Wechter threw a punch at Mocco, who then kicked back. Iowa coach Jim Zalesky was also said to have berated the referee right after the match, and to have in some way touched him, some say pushing the ref. Michigan State fans have been accused of throwing water bottles towards the Iowa wrestlers.

All this has led to action by University of Iowa officials. On Thursday, Feb.. 13, University of Iowa Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby announced that Mocco and Zalesky would be suspended for Iowa's meet with Minnesota on Friday, Feb.. 14. Here is Bowlsby's statement:

'It has come to my attention that recent incidents which occurred at Iowa's wrestling match with Michigan State have violated the Big Ten's Agreement on Sportslike Conduct. After consultation with Big Ten and University of Iowa officials, and in accordance with the Big Ten policy, we have decided to take appropriate disciplinary action by suspending Head Coach Jim Zalesky and heavyweight wrestler Steve Mocco from one competition. Thus, both will be suspended from Iowa's competition tomorrow (Feb. 14) night against Minnesota. Coach Zalesky's touching of an official constituted inappropriate and unacceptable physical contact and will not be condoned or tolerated in any way, shape or form. In addition, his comments to the media further violated the league's agreement on the inappropriateness of publicly criticizing game officials. Steve Mocco's altercation with his opponent outside the bounds of competition was inappropriate and will not be tolerated. We as a University, apologize to all those involved or affected by these acts of misconduct. Incidents like these have no place in college athletics and will not be tolerated.'

Thus far, Michigan State has not announced whether or not it is taking any action.

However, it is unusual for a university to announce publicly any disciplinary action against either an employee or a student. For employees, it is a personnel issue. For students, it is a confidentiality and privacy issue. Thus, the gravity of this situation has led the Iowa officials to make this public announcement. A spokesperson at the Iowa Athletic Director's office also declined to state whether or not any coaches and/or students on the wrestling team have ever been suspended previously by Iowa, citing precisely these confidentiality concerns.

Zalesky in particular appears to be in increasingly hot water. This is the second time this season he has been hit with a one-day suspension. He was suspended from Iowa's Jan. 24 meet with Wisconsin because he and Minnesota coach J Robinson had violated a rule last season that mandated that the starting weight for each meet be randomly selected. That rule was amended this season to allow a meet to start at the lowest weight, 125, if both coaches agree to do so. But the suspension stood, and now looms as more significant given this second suspension for Zalesky for a far more serious allegation.

Iowa will thus face Minnesota tonight without its top heavyweight on the mat.. It remains to be seen how this will affect the outcome of what may be a close meet. This will be the third dual between Iowa and Minnesota this season, with Iowa winning the previous two meetings, 24-11 on November 15 in St. Paul, MN, and 18-18 on criteria on January 19 at the National Duals in Columbus, OH. Minnesota's lineup has also been strengthened of late, with the addition of mid-season transfer Derek Phillips at 141, and the recoveries from injuries by Damion Hahn at 197 and Garrett Lowney at heavyweight. Mocco's absence will definitely increase the chances of a Minnesota win, since Lowney, an All-American and a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist in Greco, will likely face one of Iowa's relatively inexperienced backups.

There are several ways to follow this meet, if you cannot be in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Iowa City's AM-800 KXIC will broadcast the meet live, beginning at 7 PM CST, as well as Sunday's Iowa-Purdue meet. These broadcasts are also simulcast on the Internet. Windows Media Player is required.

To listen to the broadcasts online, go to: will be posting results in real-time, at:

Iowa Public Television, which is in its 27th season of televising college wrestling, will air a same-day, tape-delayed telecast of Friday's dual with Minnesota at 9 PM CST. Announcers Tim Johnson, Jim Gibbons, and former Iowa Wrestling Coach Dan Gable will call the action.