Cheektowaga to the Cyclones: National Champion Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer Picks Iowa State

Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer took his official recruiting visit to Iowa State last weekend not knowing what to expect.

He left Ames as a Cyclone, after giving head coach Kevin Jackson a verbal commitment before returning home.

“I just liked everything about it,” he said. “I liked the workout they had and the football game was fun.  I felt really comfortable.  The coaching staff is great and I really like the campus – it wasn’t too big where it was overwhelming.  I thought it was perfect for me.”

The Cheektowaga senior, who projects as a 141 pounder at the next level, said he was also considering Buffalo, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina State and Ohio State.

Rodriguez-Spencer with future coaches Kevin Jackson and Troy Nickerson, courtesy of Todd Rodriguez-Spencer

It’s easy to see why Rodriguez-Spencer, currently ranked #37 in the Class of 2014 by Intermat and #89 by Flowrestling, was highly sought after by schools around the country.

He has medaled at tough tournaments numerous times over the years, including at the Pan American Games in 2010 and at Fargo (third at 132 pounds in Greco Roman) in 2012.

He followed up that All-America performance last summer with a 48-0 junior campaign for Cheektowaga, winning 42 matches by bonus points.  After a runner up finish as a sophomore at the New York state tournament, Rodriguez-Spencer returned to the Saturday night finals this February at the Times Union Center and topped Tristan Rifanburg of Norwich 2-1 at 132 pounds to earn his first state crown.

“I was very excited about the way last year went,” he said. “I wrestled the way I wanted to most of the time. I wanted to go through the season without getting taken down. [He said he was taken down once]. I was really happy to win the title.”

It wasn’t long before he climbed to the top of the podium again.  A few weeks after the high school season concluded, Rodriguez-Spencer nabbed a national championship at the NHSCA tournament in Virginia Beach.  He cruised through his first five matches at 138 pounds before facing Maryland’s Alfred Bannister, a two-time title winner at the event.  Trailing by a point late in the third, Rodriguez-Spencer executed the “flying squirrel” to pick up the winning takedown just before time expired.

“He was pretty low and I couldn’t get to a shot,” Rodriguez-Spencer said a day after that event. “The obvious option was to go over the top. Once I decided to do it, I knew I had to hit it hard and do it strong.”

He stayed strong while transitioning into the international styles, taking fifth at the FILA Juniors in Las Vegas before representing Team New York well at the Junior Duals in Oklahoma.  In the Sooner State, he went 15-1 combined in Freestyle and Greco, and was ready to make some noise at the national championships at Fargo.

It started out well in Greco for Rodriguez-Spencer in North Dakota, as he captured victories in his first five bouts.  However, in his next contest, he suffered an injury.

“I hurt my elbow in the last few seconds of the match,” he said. “I couldn’t move my arm, so I had to drop out of the tournament. It was really hard to do.  I worked so hard getting prepared and went out there to do some big things. To get hurt like that was really tough.”

So, his pursuit of Fargo gold was put on hold.  But Rodriguez-Spencer has his sights set on more trophies as a senior before heading to Iowa State.  He said he will likely begin the 2013-14 campaign at 145 pounds and move to 138 after Christmas.

“I want to win another state title, go undefeated and not get taken down at all this time,” he said.


Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer wanted to thank his mom, dad and family as well as his coaches and everyone else who has supported him.

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