IOWA CITY – They have compared their respective careers in the past.
University of Iowa NCAA champion Derek St. John could take another step in the footprints of his Iowa City West Coach, Mark Reiland, a former Hawkeye NCAA champion.
St. John will wrestle in the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic on Saturday at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., beginning at 6:15 (Iowa time). If he wins, St. John and Reiland might be the first former Iowa prep and Iowa high school coach tandem to earn victories in the annual college exhibition event.
St. John, a three-time All-American and defending 157-pound national champion, will face Boston University’s Nestor Taffur. St. John was less than four months old when Reiland beat West Virginia’s Mark Banks, 9-8, at 167 in the 1991 all-star meet.
“I never really thought about it at all,” St. John said. “It’s pretty neat you can share that with a coach without even realizing it.”
Reiland helped guide St. John to two state titles and two third-place state finishes at West. He remains locked into St. John’s career, but hadn’t given the all-star meet much thought.
“Obviously, it would be an honor,” Reiland said. “It would be a neat trivia question.”
Their college careers have had some similarities. They earned All-America status before winning NCAA titles as juniors. Even more interesting is how their title postseasons transpired. Now, they can share another distinction with the all-star dual.
“We’ve joked about it a couple times,” said St. John, who already has one more All-American finish than his old coach. “He got beat at the Big 10 (Championships) at Illinois and he won it (NCAA title that season) and I did the same thing. It was kind of weird and kind of funny also.”
What isn’t weird or funny is the respect that St. John has for Reiland. The two remain in contact with Reiland readily available for advice, if needed, and St. John even going back to West to help with wrestling club practices.
“He’s been a great mentor and a great family friend,” St. John said. “Over the years he’s helped me out a ton in and outside of wrestling. You can’t replace a guy like that.”
Reiland appreciates what St. John has accomplished and his willingness to spend time with younger wrestlers. St. John is an example of hard work and toughness that Reiland can share with aspiring wrestlers.
“It’s neat he’s right here in town, obviously,” Reiland said. “It’s neat these younger kids and even our high school kids can rub shoulders and be in the presence of Derek, (Iowa 165-pound wrestler) Nick (Moore)…”
St. John has been asked to participate in the all-star meet in the past but things did not work out. He welcomes a chance for action on the mat before most of the country. St. John will be able to set the tone for himself and show opponents what they will face this season.
“It’s probably a good thing to get a little start,” St. John said. “Get a match under your belt before the Iowa City Duals.
“Also, you have to be ready to go. It doesn’t matter who you’re wrestling. I’m going to have to be ready to go. He’s going to be ready to go. You have to start it off right.”
Season preparation has not been affected by the early match. St. John said his weight is under control and is not an issue now or the rest of the season.
“Training hasn’t changed,” St. John said. “What we’re trying to do right now isn’t going to change because I have a match three weeks before anybody else.”
Reiland won’t be making the trip East to the meet. It is a safe bet he will be receiving updates.
“I was pretty excited to see that he was actually going to compete,” Reiland said. “I think that’s good and we’re looking forward to him competing anywhere.”
St. John will join Hawkeye teammate Tony Ramos in the event. They are the first Hawkeyes in the All-Star Classic since Dan Dennis beat Maryland’s Steve Bell, 9-8, in the 133-pound match in 2009. Ramos will face Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter and owns a 2-1 edge in previous matches. Ramos, the 133-pound NCAA runner-up last season and preseason No. 1 this year, is moving up a weight to 141 for the event. He has won the last two matches against Carter, who had an overtime win in the 2011 Midlands Championships 133 final.
Ramos and Carter will be co-main event with the 149-pound match, featuring Ohio State’s Logan Stieber and Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple in a battle of NCAA champions.
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