116 3rd St SE
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DETROIT — Lance Runyon was inside Enterprise Center last March as an NCAA wrestling qualifier.
Runyon, the Northern Iowa redshirt freshman, never took to the mat in St. Louis.
An injury in the Big 12 Championships two weeks prior had put Runyon’s appearance in St. Louis in jeopardy, and although there was hope he could make a go of it, Runyon ended up being a late scratch.
That is why Thursday at Little Caesar’s Arena, Runyon embraced the bright lights of the NCAA Division I championships. Then, he went out and won.
In a tight match with Oklahoma’s Anthony Mantanona, an opponent who had already beaten Runyon twice this season, Runyon locked up a nearside cradle and rolled Mantanona to his back for a pin in 4 minutes, 14 seconds.
“Yeah, there was hope, but I had two torn labrums, and a grade three AC joint separation,” Runyon explained of last year’s withdrawal from the championship. “I couldn’t really lift my arm above my head. Obviously, there was hope, and (UNI head coach Doug Schwab) is big believer things were going to get better.
“It was just not my time.”
On Thursday, Runyon fell behind 4-2 in the first period as Mantanona scored a pair of takedowns. But twice, Runyon forced penalty points against Mantanona, and then an escape with 1:10 left in the second. A scramble followed, and Runyon hit the nearside cradle and registered the pin.
Mantanona and Runyon exchanged words following the match, and Mantanona had to be held back by Oklahoma coaches.
“It feels great,” Runyon said. “Especially after last year getting the tournament taken away from me. It was just seizing the moment, having fun, enjoy the experience, and being ready to go.
“It was just about wrestling through every position. I think one thing we talk about leading up to this match was trusting yourself. Trust your wrestling, and then go take risks. That leads to good things for me. I’ve never been a guy who could sit back, wrestle not to lose.”
Runyon’s victory was one of several highlights for the Panthers, who went 6-4 during the opening session, and stood in a tie for fifth in the team standings with 11 points. Penn State led with 15.5, Iowa and Michigan were tied for second with 12.5.
UNI had two pins, Kyle Biscoglia decked Brayden Palmer of Chattanooga in 2:35 at 133, and returning All-American Parker Keckeisen scored a major decision over Wisconsin’s Christopher Weiler, 13-4.
Brody Teske won his opening match at 125, while Derek Holschlag (157) and Tyrell Gordon (285) won pigtail matches.
“We’ve got to keep doing what we are doing. Don’t change a single thing,” Keckeisen said. “We’ve got to go out and do exactly what we’ve trained to do all season. Just go out and take risks.”
The five bonus points scored matched the total the Panthers earned in 2021.
“We’ve got to continue to build on it and make some hay on the backside,” UNI head coach Doug Schwab said. “We have to start beating people we aren’t supposed to beat. That is what it comes down to.”
Two of UNI’s four losses came to undefeated returning national champions — Holschlag to Iowa State’s David Carr, and Gordon to Olympic champion Gable Steveson of Minnesota.
Austin Yant dropped his first-round match to returning All-American Anthony Valencia of Arizona State.
And like always, there was one loss that Schwab felt they let victory slip through their fingers.
Colin Realbuto led Penn State’s Beau Bartlett late in a 149-pound match, with riding time secured when Bartlett scored a takedown in the final eight seconds, allowing him to pull out a 5-4 victory.
“That one I won’t be able to let go easily,” Schwab said. “Felt like we had a good chance to win and get taken down in short time. But overall, all our guys competed well. We got bonus points. Those are huge.”