116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
One tournament was canceled. Two others originally formed in its place.
According to Northern Iowa Coach Doug Schwab, only the wrestling community could attempt the event mitosis in less than a week.
When the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships was canceled out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of participants, organizers attempted to create the Illinois Matmen Open and Hawkeye Open to replace the annual midseason competition.
The Matmen Open will be held Wednesday and Thursday at the NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill., while the Hawkeye Open decided to cancel the Jan. 2 tournament at Xtream Arena in Coralville.
UNI planned to compete in both.
“I’m grateful for that and so are our guys, who will get an opportunity to compete,” Schwab said. “It would have been easy for guys to let it go. Both tournaments have put a lot of work into making this thing happen.”
Schwab reacted immediately to the announcement on Dec. 22, contacting UNI Athletics Director David Harris about the possibility of hosting an event and reaching out to Iowa City Area Sports Commission Director and former University of Iowa Director of Operations and NCAA finalist Luke Eustice, who worked with local groups to form the Hawkeye Open.
Then, Schwab found out Tournament Director Israel “Izzy” Martinez was planning the Illinois Matmen Open at the same time and place as the Midlands. Teams from across the country still had airplane tickets and hotel accommodations. Schwab wanted to be part of the fix.
“If you can be part of the solution, we certainly would,” Schwab said. “I’m glad they took it on and are providing opportunities.
“I made phone calls right away. We want to compete. We need to compete. We have guys, who need this chance. You don’t want to lose out. Unfortunately, we’ve missed out on quite a few opportunities in the last couple years. You want to limit that as much as possible.”
The Hawkeye Open was initially set to be a two-day event. It was changed to one. Tournament organizers posted a news release on its official Twitter account, announcing the event was canceled. Plans are being developed for a permanent competition for next season.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed in our efforts to get this done but the short turnaround was just too much to overcome,“ Eustice said in the release. ”I am not one for letting down the best fans in the world. But, one thing is for certain, there is incredible demand for another option this time of year. I am looking forward to continuing work with our larger team to have that option available by next season.”
Josh Schamberger, President of Think Iowa City and the Iowa City Area Sports Commission, praised both groups for swift work in attempting an option for competitors.
“First things first, kudos to the team behind the Matmen Open who were able to salvage the cancellation of Midlands and to have it occur in the same venue,” Schamberger said. “This news came as tremendous relief to programs and their existing travel arrangements. Wille Saylor and Izzy Martinez deserve tremendous credit for their hard work and we wish them all the best over the next few days.
“That stated, I deeply appreciate the work of Luke Eustice, Sally Roberts, and Nathan Eichorst in their reactive efforts to assist. Their commitment to wrestling and our community continues to shine and I couldn't be prouder to support each of them.”
Among the UNI wrestlers competing the next two days are freshmen Kyle Gollhofer (125), Julian Farber (133), Ethan Basile (141), Garrett Moll (141), Adam Allard (149) and Kaleb Olejniczak and Evan Yant at 157 pounds. Jack Skudlarczyk and Jack Wagner will wrestle and 141-pounder Gable Fox will also compete.
Any changes to the entry list for UNI was not immediately known after the announcement.
“Both of these groups stepped up,” Schwab said about his original plans to support both tournaments. “We look forward to having guys compete well.”