We head into the 2016-17 season with a pretty firm grasp on what head coach Doug Schwab’s Northern Iowa lineup will look like, thanks in large part to the team returning four ranked starters from last year, and also gaining the advantage of several promising wrestlers looking to make their way into full-time status.
The strength of the UNI lineup will undoubtedly be their lightweights, which will be led by two-time All-American Dylan Peters (125). The next four guys in the lineup are all underclassmen but last year each was able to give us flashes of what could be.
125: #2 Dylan Peters (SR)
133: #16 Josh Alber (SO)
141: #19 Jake Koethe (SO)
149: #20 Max Thomsen (RFR)
157: #16 Bryce Steiert (SO)
165: #10 Cooper Moore (SR)
174: Taylor Lujan (RFR)
184: Jacob Holschlag (RFR)/Drew Foster (SO)
197: Jared Bartel (SR)
285: #20 JJ Everard (SR)
You already know the anchor of this lineup will be Peters, who comes into this season ranked No. 2 by Flowrestling at 125 pounds. Peters has had a large influence on the UNI lineup since he took over this role as a freshman and has climbed his way up the UNI career falls lists (top five) and is also Schwab’s first ever two-time All-American. Injuries have slowed Peters throughout his career, but if he can remain healthy he should be a lead contender for the MAC conference title, and potential finalist.
Next will be Alber, who managed to make the Midlands finals as a redshirt freshman and he finished the season with 25 wins. With a full season of starting under his belt Alber has established himself as one of UNI’s consistent performers and figures to play a big role in the success of this year’s team. Alber will begin the season as the third highest ranked MAC wrestler at this weight. Last season he was 1-1 against Ohio’s Cameron Kelly, who starts the season with the highest ranking among MAC competitors.
Back at 141 is Jake Koethe who didn’t get a whole lot of mat time last season before an injury in January caused him to miss the rest of the season. That said Koethe was largely successful establishing himself as the go-to guy and also notching wins over Vince Turk (Iowa) and Steve Bleise (Northern Illinois). Koethe will be one of the top wrestlers in his conference (Missouri’s Matt Manley the only other MAC wrestler to hold a preseason ranking) and will hopefully take another step forward for the Panthers this season.
The top recruit from Schwab’s top five recruiting class figures to be the starter at 149, and while he starts the season ranked No. 20 by Flowrestling the expectations are much higher. Thomsen was good enough to be the starter last season, but Schwab opted to leave the redshirt on Thomsen giving him the chance to adjust to the Division I scene. Coming into this season with a full year of competition under his belt, we’ll see how good Thomsen can be early with Virginia Tech’s Solomon Chishko being a great barometer to determine where Thomsen will be nationally. Not only that, but the MAC has three of the top 15 ranked wrestlers in Flo’s preseason ranking which will give Thomsen plenty of chances to prove his mettle.
Also from that banner 2015 recruiting class was Bryce Steiert, who became the first true freshman to start under Schwab in his head coaching history. Steiert took the job and ran with it posting 24 victories. His season highlights included knocking off two ranked opponents at the Cliff-Keen Invitational, reaching the MAC finals, and going 3-2 at the NCAA tournament. Steiert figures to be a title contender in the MAC conference and could be poised for a breakout season.
Cooper Moore joins Dylan Peters as UNI wrestlers looking to close out there careers as four year starters for the Panthers. A two-time MAC conference champion, Moore will begin the season ranked No. 10 and looking to get back on track after injuries slowed his junior season. Moore will face plenty of competition from the MAC with five total wrestlers from the conference in Flo’s preseason rankings, but a fully healthy Moore is not only good enough to contend for a MAC title, but also good enough finish on the podium this season.
Coming into this season the biggest question marks looked to be at 174 where UNI has a pair of redshirt freshman coming off fantastic redshirt years, but only one wrestler getting the opportunity to start. Some of that talk has now changed, with UNI’s roster officially changing Jacob Holschlag from 174 and bumping him up to now be listed at 184 pounds. That leaves Georgia prep Taylor Lujan as the favorite to take over UNI’s 174-pound spot. Both wrestlers put in solid redshirt seasons, including the pair both finishing one match away from placing at the 2015 Midlands tournament. It sounds as though two-time NJCAA champion Tyler Hoffman (listed at 197, but will likely be a 184) will redshirt leaving giving him a year to acclimate to Division I before contesting for a starting spot.
That leaves a pair of seniors to close out the lineup with SDSU transfer JJ Everard looking to step in for three-time NCAA qualifier Blaize Cabell at heavyweight. Everard was on redshirt last season which means he didn’t get to see a whole lot of action, but fans are hoping that the 2015 Western Wrestling Conference champion will provide little to no drop off. Bartel was the 197-pound starter for UNI as a freshman going 15-11, but has served as the back up in each of the last two seasons.