CEDAR FALLS — Bryce Steiert had been a fixture in the Northern Iowa wrestling lineup since his first season on campus.
The former Waverly-Shell Rock stepped into the 157-pound spot as a freshman, forgoing a redshirt season to start. He had immediate success, qualifying for the NCAA tournament in each of his first two seasons.
Many expected more of the same a year ago, but were surprised when Steiert and UNI Coach Doug Schwab decided a redshirt year would be more beneficial midway through his eligibility.
“There are some things we wanted to see happen through that redshirt year,” Schwab said. “I know a lot of guys were like why would you redshirt him because he’s your best guy?
“There’s a way that guys grow. Sometimes guys don’t grow in the lineup. Sometimes they don’t grow because they won’t address certain things because they’re worried about the next thing. They’re not worried about the whole process, whole growth or whole picture. Sometimes they can only see a little snapshot because they’re getting ready for the next thing.”
Steiert will reclaim his role as the 165-pound starter for UNI this season, posting a 10-1 mark as an unattached competitor last season. He opens the season ranked eighth by trackwrestling.com after missing an All-American finish by one victory in 2017.
Nothing has varied from his approach, whether it was leading up to the redshirt or official competition.
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“I think I have the same excitement for the sport,” Steiert said. “Last year at this time he was ready to go. I felt that when I walked onto campus and every year following. I’ve gotten better every year.
“I think last year we kind of decided I have gotten better every year so let’s fully utilize my time here. It’s exciting. It’s always exciting.”
Steiert wrestled in three events last season, earning a runner-up finish at the Southern Scuffle. He reached the finals with a 3-2 decision over Lock Haven’s Chance Marstellar, who placed fourth at the NCAA meet.
The past year has been spent on improvement and believing in his skills. They worked on top, bottom and neutral wrestling, including hand fighting.
“If you look across the last year I think we pretty much covered every area of the sport of wrestling and kind of picked at it,” Steiert said. “Not really any certain position. Kind of covered a lot of them. Just continue to gain awareness in every position.”
The hardest part of sitting out of competition was not making a direct impact for the Panthers, tallying 45 total victories in his first two seasons. He wanted to be on the mat, helping the team to dual wins or contributing to team points in tournaments.
Instead, Steiert gained a new perspective as an observer that wasn’t consumed with his individual preparation.
“I had a different frame of reference now because of that because you take yourself out of it,” Steiert said. “You’re not inside of it. You’re not as concerned about what you’re doing. Now I feel like I can keep that same perspective, but now I’m in it and can help my teammates and have that experience but I’ve also sat back and watched it. That’s big.”
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Schwab has witnessed the growth he had hoped to see from last season. He said Steiert will be a force, if he doesn’t hold himself back.
“He’s had a great fall,” Schwab said. “I really think you better bring a baseball bat. I’m not lying. I know I need to bring a baseball bat, if I’m going to try to roll with him. And that’s how I hope everyone else feels. I hope everyone else feels what we see in the room. I hope that translates into competition.”
Schwab added, “Come Pittsburgh, man, he’s a guy you’re going to have to look out for. I can guarantee it.”
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