Bryce Esmoil was too young to remember the first wrestling meet he attended at the University of Northern Iowa.
So, it isn’t like the West Liberty senior envisioned himself as a Panther wrestler during those trips, but a recent visit to campus brought his future into focus.
Esmoil confirmed that he has verbally committed to wrestle for UNI and head coach Doug Schwab. He made the announcement Sunday night on Twitter
“I went on a visit there and fell in love with it right away,” Esmoil said in a phone interview with The Gazette on Monday afternoon. “I liked all the guys and coaches. Pretty much everything about it.”
Esmoil is well connected to the program. He is the cousin to Panthers assistant coach Randy Pugh, who was a 2000 All-American placing fourth at 174. Esmoil trained in a local club that included current UNI wrestlers, including 149-pounder Max Thomsen, who was host for Esmoil’s official visit.
“All the guys up there were awesome to me,” Esmoil said. “They know what they’re talking about.”
The coaches made an immediate impact, leaving a strong impression during a home visit.
“I like all of them,” Esmoil said. “They all have different styles and know not every person is the same, but their intensity levels are all pretty high. I respect that.”
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Esmoil owns a 133-10 career mark for the Comets. He went 42-2 as a junior, winning the Class 2A 195-pound state title in February. Esmoil is a three-time state medalist, finishing third as a sophomore and seventh as a freshman.
Esmoil took an official visit to South Dakota State and had considered the University of Iowa, Grand View and Coe College. UNI finished 18th with two All-Americans at the 2017 NCAA Championships.
“I went to practice and watched them,” Esmoil said. “I liked the intensity of the practice. Just about everything.”
Esmoil earned West Liberty’s seventh state individual title and will turn his focus toward becoming the Comets’ second two-time state champ. Nick Marin won titles in 1994 and 1996 for West Liberty.
“Now, I have a clear path to the end,” Esmoil said. “I can see it. I just have to execute and learn how to take my skills to the collegiate level and go get them there.”
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