UNI Panthers

UNI rides NCAA wrestling tournament's emotional roller coaster

Notes: 3 Panthers and ISU's Degen reached round of 12; Unseeded to All-American

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Northern Iowa head wrestling coach Doug Schwab disagrees with an official as Max Thomsen wrestles Binghamton's Frank Garcia in a 149 pound wrestleback at the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, March 16, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Northern Iowa head wrestling coach Doug Schwab disagrees with an official as Max Thomsen wrestles Binghamton's Frank Garcia in a 149 pound wrestleback at the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, March 16, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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CLEVELAND — Northern Iowa Coach Doug Schwab has ridden the emotional roller coaster that is unavoidable at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

He has won individual and team titles as a wrestler, was an assistant for championship teams and as the Panthers’ head coach. Schwab still is getting right back in line for the thrills and ills of it all.

“It is ups and downs, and it’s all over the place,” Schwab said. “You go from the high of highs, jumping out of your seat to wanting to crawl.

“If I could dig up this floor, I’d get underneath this floor. You get those moments and everywhere in between.”

Schwab experienced the spectrum of emotions Friday, during the second day of the national tournament at Quicken Loans Arena. When Taylor Lujan dropped a 174-pound quarterfinal match, the Panthers were out of the winners’ bracket and three were clinging to All-American hopes.

“I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in our guys and our guys are more than their results, too,” Schwab said. “It is a wrestling match. It is a big deal. Don’t get me wrong. We have a lot of people here who are excited about this tournament.”

Schwab has learned to be a model, attempting to keep a level head. Excitement has to be tempered with each victory and morale has to be maintained with each setback.

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The tournament has been tough. Balance can be hard to manage, enduring the heartbreak of Lujan’s loss and the elimination of 2017 All-American Drew Foster at 184 with four straight consolation wins posted by former Union Community preps Max Thomsen (149) and Jacob Holschlag at 197.

“It’s like a captain of a ship,” Schwab said. “The seas get rocky. You have to keep a steady hand.

“It’s hard sometimes to not get caught up in that. I can’t let that happen. I’m here to serve our guys. It doesn’t matter if this guy’s heart just got ripped out. Well, I have to be able to put that on the back burner.”

The Panthers, specifically Thomsen and Holschlag, clawed their way through the consolation rounds, falling in the first two rounds Thursday.

Thomsen, an All-American who placed fifth last year, scored 25 total points in two matches before his round of 12 match with Missouri’s third-seeded Grant Leeth. Holschlag earned two decisions, avenging an earlier loss to North Carolina’s Danny Chaid.

Schwab said Holschlag demonstrated the toughness and grit with which the program has been built.

“That’s who we are,” Schwab said. “That’s who they are. That’s how they’ve been raised. That’s what this program is about.”

Party crashers

Upsets are inevitable at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. This year is no exception.

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The only question is who and what weight will they happen. Kent State 197-pounder Kyle Conel and North Carolina State’s Tariq Wilson provided the answers for the 2018 tournament.

Both entered the tournament unseeded and secured All-American honors before Friday night.

Conel (28-10) stormed through his side of the bracket, hip-tossing Ohio State’s top-seeded Kollin Moore to his back and pinning him in 1:30 of the quarterfinal. Conel started the tournament in a pigtail match just to get in the 32-person bracket, knocking off the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds to reach the quarterfinal.

Interestingly, the new crowd favorite was not on Kent State’s roster last season and had stepped away from wrestling. He’s glad to be back.

“It’s awesome,” Conel said. “I feel amazing. This is the greatest feeling in the world. I’m so glad I have pretty much everyone here supporting me. I feel that just drives me.”

Wilson (25-9) was unseeded at 133 and reached the semifinal with a win over Oklahoma State’s fourth-seeded Kaid Brock, who had beat Wilson by technical fall earlier this season. Wilson avenged the loss with a wild 13-5 major decision. Wilson also opened the tournament with a win over Missouri’s No. 5 seed John Erneste.

Degen reaches round of 12

Iowa State’s Jarrett Degen produced a couple victories in the third session Friday and moved into the round of 12 at 149 pounds.

Degen (23-10) is the Cyclones' lone qualifier and has helped Iowa State surpass its point total from a year ago (3-1). The redshirt freshman posted two straight consolation victories with much different finishes.

Degen won a scramble for the winning takedown in sudden victory to edge Minnesota’s Steve Bleise, 9-7. Degen trailed by two in the third and scored a takedown in the final 10 seconds of the third period to force overtime.

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In his second consolation bout, Degen handled Virginia’s Sam Krivus, 8-0, to move a win away from All-American status.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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