By Patrick Crawford
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Mitch Mueller remembers when he first thought, as an elementary school student, that he had a future in wrestling.
“I was wrestling this older, bigger guy in practice,” Muller said. “I sent him home crying. I distinctly remember that practice. I think a lot of wrestlers have had days like that.”
Mueller has had the upper hand for most of his wrestling life. His career record stands at 76-39.
Mueller had a stellar prep career, forging a 177-7 record and winning both state and national freestyle titles in his teens. He was a part of one of the greatest recruiting classes in Cyclone history. Coming to Ames the same season in the fall of 2005 were Mueller’s teammates Nick Fanthorpe, Nick Gallick, Cyler Sanderson, Jake Varner and Dave Zabriskie.
“These guys have been my friends since I came to Iowa State,” Mueller said. “It seems like just yesterday that we all got here. They will be my friends the rest of my life. It is part of what has made this such a great experience for the last four years. When you go through the things we have gone through together it brings you even closer together.”
Five years later, Mueller and his fellow senior Cyclone wrestlers have earned a lot of hardware, including an unprecedented three straight Big 12 Conference titles. ISU was second at the NCAA Championship in 2007, fifth in 2008 and third last season. Now, under an intense, vocal coaching staff led by Olympic gold medalist Kevin Jackson, the Cyclones are ready for a successful run up through the 2010 NCAA Championships next March in Omaha, Neb.
Mueller has had the opportunity to learn from three wrestling legends, Bobby Douglas, Cael Sanderson and Jackson. According to Mueller, each imparted their coaching in different ways.
“Coach Douglas teaches technique like no one else,” Mueller said. “He loves to coach and could go on for hours about it. I don’t know if there is anyone who knows all he does.”
Cael Sanderson, Iowa State’s four-time undefeated NCAA champion, moved up to head coach as Mueller started his redshirt freshman season for the 2006-07 season.
“Coach Sanderson had his own ways of doing things,” Mueller said. “He was very focused. Still there were many things that you could see he had learned from Bobby Douglas so it wasn’t entirely different.”
Under Sanderson, Mueller was a two-time Big 12 runner up. He was surprised like everyone else when Sanderson opted out of Ames to coach at Penn State.
“I didn’t see that coming,” Mueller said. “But when coach Jackson came on board, my focus was on listening to him and learning. Coach Jackson isn’t just coaching you for college. He was the U.S. national coach in freestyle and a gold medalist himself. You are learning things that will help you compete after college.”
Mueller doesn’t let any crowd get him wound to tight.
“Once the match begins you hear nothing,” Mueller said. “You want to save your energy for the match so you can’t let your emotions get you tired before you even wrestle.”
Mueller’s parents are often in the sea of Cyclone fans where ever he wrestles.
“I have put them through more than enough through wrestling over the years,” Mueller said. “I have learned I can’t let my dad video the match because he ends up pacing around when I’m wrestling.”
An ocean of ISU fans have high hopes for Mueller and his fellow seniors. He is ready.
“We’ve made a run at the national title and come close,” Mueller said. “There are still things left to do on the table.”