Small College Sports

Upper Iowa wrestling team looks to keep making progress

College notes: Peacocks 'are starting to peak at the right time'

Upper Iowa's Maleek Williams drives back Seton Hill's Vincent Distefanis during their 125-pound quarterfinal match at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Upper Iowa's Maleek Williams drives back Seton Hill's Vincent Distefanis during their 125-pound quarterfinal match at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

FAYETTE — Upper Iowa wrestling coach Heath Grimm is excited for the final six weeks of the season.

The Peacocks’ 19-year head coach has witnessed the training plan kick in and the benefits reaped.

“We’re starting to peak at the right time and that’s by design,” Grimm said. “I feel every one of these guys has their best wrestling still ahead of them and that’s exactly how we want it.”

The 19th-ranked Peacocks returned to their winning ways with a 25-8 victory over Southwest Minnesota State on Friday at Marshall, Minn. Upper Iowa is 5-4 overall and 2-1 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, hitting the road for weekend duals at Minnesota State-Moorhead and Augustana (S.D.).

Upper Iowa finished eighth at the National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals earlier this month. It returned two All-Americans from last year’s squad that tied for fourth at the NCAA Division II Championships.

National finalist Maleek Williams and Nick Baumler, who was seventh last season, help lead the way with NCAA qualifier Dalton Hahn.

“They are holding their own,” Grimm said. “Maleek is hot again. He is a little streaky. Baumler has been rock steady.

“Hahn’s looking real good. He’s one of the top guys in the region.”

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The Peacocks have bolstered the lineup with Brock Benitz’s acclimation up a weight to 165 and heavyweight Triston Westerlund stepping in after wrestling behind All-American Logan Hopp. Westerlund took over for the second semester and has a win against one of the higher-ranked wrestlers in the region.

Grimm isn’t one for predictions, but expects each of them to continue to improve. They have already started to reverse results to wrestlers from earlier in the season.

“I know they will be a version of themselves each week,” Grimm said. “That is encouraging.”

Upper Iowa junior Justin Folley has made an immediate impact, transferring after two seasons at Ellsworth Community College. Folley earned NSIC Wrestler of the Week honors after an impressive 13-5 win over Minnesota State NCAA finalist Farmah at 133.

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Folley (24-4) had a message for his teammates leading up to the big personal win. He was going to take advantage of the opportunity and he capitalized. He closed by playing “catch and release” with a national runner-up.

“He sure did cash in,” Grimm said. “He wasn’t taking a back seat to anybody, mentally. He was well prepared.”

Grimm said Folley is strong in every position. He is getting closer to being the complete package.

“It’s a pretty good formula,” Grimm said. “You can attack, throw, shut down shots, can’t be ridden and can ride the heck out of guys, if you want to.”

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Folley has been just as impressive off the mat as well. Grimm said he lives a lifestyle that is conducive to wrestling success. Folley is serious about nutrition, getting enough sleep and maintaining strong spirituality, according to Grimm.

“He does everything right,” Grimm said. “He’s a healthy influence to everyone around him.”

DeSanto shares B1G honor

Iowa sophomore Austin DeSanto was named Big Ten co-Wrestler of the Week, sharing the honor with Indiana 157-pounder Jake Danishek on Tuesday.

DeSanto beat Rutgers NCAA runner-up Nick Suriano, 6-4, Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The win was his second over a ranked former national finalist.

DeSanto has climbed to fourth in the national rankings at 133. He is 12-1 this season and has won eight consecutive bouts. DeSanto is the second Hawkeye to be honored by the conference, joining 157-pounder Kaleb Young.

ISU, UNI switch in rankings

Iowa State and Northern Iowa flipped positions in the latest NWCA NCAA Division I Coaches poll released Tuesday.

Iowa State defeated West Virginia, 36-3, and moved up one spot to 15th. The Cyclones are 6-1 overall.

UNI fell to No. 5 Missouri last week and then handled Air Force, 29-9, at home Sunday. The Panthers dropped one place to 16th with a 3-4 mark overall.

Iowa (8-0) remained fourth.

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

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