Future Forecast: Northern Iowa Panthers

Photo: Nic Ryder | IAwrestle

As we finish our series of future forecasting each of Iowa’s Division I team’s lineup, we come to Northern Iowa. Unlike Iowa and Iowa State, the Panthers aren’t expected to see any changes to their lineup going back to our March wrap up. As we’ve noted, the squad returns all ten of its 2018 postseason starter and also returns two-time NCAA qualifier Bryce Steiert who was a redshirt this past season.

Of the group returning three wrestlers have earned All-American status and half of the wrestlers on the team ended last season with a top 20 ranking. The team also benefits from the transfer of Oklahoma State upper weight Keegan Moore, who will join the squad with all three years of his eligibility remaining.

2018-19
125 Jay Schwarm (Jr)
133 Jack Wagner (So)/Jack Skudlarczyk (RSFr)
141 Josh Alber (Sr)
149 Max Thomsen (Jr)
157 Logan Ryan (Sr)
165 Bryce Steiert (Jr)
174 Taylor Lujan (Jr)
184 Drew Foster (Sr)
197 Jacob Holschlag (Jr)
285 Carter Isley (So)

As we mentioned, our expected lineup for this season remains unchanged from March. The biggest potential threats to changes are at 133, 157, and then wherever Moore ends up. In an interview with Jim Nelson of the Waterloo Courier, Moore stated he believes he can wrestle anywhere from 174 to 197 for the Panthers.

The problem of course is UNI returns All-Americans Drew Foster and Jacob Holschlag at 184 and 197 respectively, and Taylor Lujan narrowly missed the podium in 2018. Moore will certainly have his work cut out to break into the lineup, but at minimum he provides an excellent depth option. Not many teams boast an 18 match winner and NCAA qualifier to come off of their bench.

Speaking of Moores, Keegan’s older brother Paden will be a factor once again at 157. Last season saw Logan Ryan come on late to win the spot from Moore, but we expect Paden to be in contention for the spot once again.

Finally, freshman Jack Skudlarczyk could be an option at 133 after last year starter, Jack Wagner, failed to cement himself as a legitimate option going forward. Skudlarczyk came into Cedar Falls a projected 125-pound wrestler, but spent all of last year up at 133. There is also the fact that winning the spot from Wagner may prove to be an easier task for Skudlarczyk versus knocking off Jay Schwarm.

2019-20
125 Jay Schwarm (Sr)
133 Jack Wagner (Jr)/Jack Skudlarczyk (So)/Drew Bennett (RSFr)
141 Triston Lara (So)/Michael Blockhus (RSFr)
149 Max Thomsen (Sr)
157 Paden Moore (Sr)
165 Bryce Steiert (Sr)
174 Taylor Lujan (Sr)
184 Keegan Moore (Jr)
197 Jacob Holschlag (Sr)
285 Carter Isley (Jr)

Moving forward one year the senior laden 2015 class enters their last year of eligibility with the opportunity to reward their coaches with the most successful season in the Schwab era. This class was considered the #4 overall class back in 2015 thanks in large part to a strong crop of instate talent. This was the group that was supposed to bring UNI forward as a program and so far much of the promise remains from their high school expectations.

But while the class of 2015 is expected at full strength in 2019-20, the team will lose the talents of Josh Alber who has been a true workhorse for the team since starting as a freshman. Right now the competition for his replacement is dependent on a couple of factors. Both Triston Lara and Keaton Geerts projected at 141 out of high school and while getting down to that weight is possible, both spent time at 149 last season. Additionally the team’s top recruit in the class of 2018, Michael Blockhus, could also be a factor come this season.

The easy plug into the lineup option will be Moore at 184 pounds with Foster graduating after this coming season as well. Over the past few seasons there is no denying UNI’s ability to develop the upper weights, so after spending a full year with the likes of Randy Pugh and Lee Roper there could be little to no drop off once Moore steps in.

After landing a haul of Iowans in 2015 Schwab tapped into Iowa’s 2018 class pulling several big instate names. Blockhus is the most likely wrestler from the group to challenge for a spot, though many will be watching to see how Kyle Biscoglia, Drew Bennett, and Bryce Esmoil perform during their redshirt year.

2020-21
125 Kyle Biscoglia (So)/Jack Skudlarczyk (Jr)
133 Jack Wagner (Sr)/Drew Bennett (So)
141 Triston Lara (Jr)/Michael Blockhus (So)
149 Keaton Geerts (Jr)
157 Patrick Schoenfelder (Jr)/Cayd Lara (So)
165 Lance Runyon (RSFr)
174 Parker Keckeisen (RSFr)
184 Keegan Moore (Sr)
197 Justin Guilliams (Sr)/Tyrell Gordon (So)/Bryce Esmoil (So)
285 Carter Isley (Sr)

Obviously this season (2020-21) will be a big year with the team expecting to lose six of their starters. With UNI (hopefully) coming off some of their most successful years as a program it will be important to maintain the momentum and keep that Panther Train chugging down the tracks. The good news is that UNI could get some key contributions from the class of 2018 which should be making their presence known by this point in time.

Biscoglia looks like a lifer at 125, which leaves us feeling very confident that he will still at this weight three years from now. As for Skudlarczyk 2020 is a bit of a ways off to feel rock solid that he won’t outgrow college wrestling’s smallest class.

The key losses UNI will experience will come at the heart of the lineup where Thomsen, Ryan, Steiert, and Lujan all currently reside. One potential replacement for Thomsen is New Hampton prep Keaton Geerts, who was a top 100 recruit in the class of 2017. Taking over at 157 could be Patrick Schoenfelder or Cayd Lara, a couple of under the radar recruits in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Moving into 165 and 174 the Panthers are a bit more thin in terms of prospects they already have in the room that will still be eligible by 2020-21. That may lead to early opportunities for Lance Runyon and Parker Keckeisen, who are the two early verbals in the Panthers’ class of 2019. Both rate as top 100 recruits.

UNI will also lose All-American Holschlag in 2020-21, which will lead to a new face in the lineup at 197 for the first time in four years. Justin Guilliams will lead the way in terms of experience, but Tyrell Gordon and Bryce Esmoil were both great additions in the class of 2018 that could push for the starting spot by this season.

Its also worth mentioning that even UNI expects to have Carter Isley starting his fourth straight season they will also have great depth in Atlantic’s John McConkey, another big get in 2018.

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