Panthers Welcome Big Red in Home Opener

Who: #13 Cornell (2-0) vs #18 UNI (1-1, 1-0 Big 12)
Where: Cedar Falls, Iowa | West Gym
When: Sunday December 16th, 2PM
Watch: Flowrestling (Subscription required)

This Sunday the Panthers take the mat for the first time at home as they welcome in the 13th-ranked Cornell Big Red. Cornell comes to Cedar Falls after UNI went to Ithaca last season and dropped the dual 30-10.

UNI comes into the dual on Sunday ranked 18th by The Open Mat, having won their Big 12 opener against West Virginia but dropped a dual meet against Pittsburgh last month. Cornell comes in 1-0, also with a win over West Virginia.

The most intriguing matchups for the dual are 141, 174, and 184. Starting off at 141 pounds, it’s not often that a returning NCAA Champion makes their way to the West Gym but that’s what fans will get when Yianni Diakomihalis takes the mat. UNI’s Josh Alber will probably have to pull off the upset to help his team win the dual. The two faced off twice last season, once in the dual meet and once at the Cliff Keen Invitational with Diakomihalis taking both matches, 5-2 and 8-2.

Alber TurkAlber is coming off a 4-0 win over Iowa’s Vince Turk and a championship at the UNI Open. The senior has been consistent over his three-plus years of starting but just hasn’t been able to get that signature win. An upset over Diakomihalis at home would certainly be that.

At 174 pounds fans will get to see a rematch of just a few weeks ago as #8 Taylor Lujan will take on #16 Brandon Womack. Lujan defeated Womack a few weeks ago in Las Vegas, 16-9, and was one of only three Panther’s to win in the dual meet with Cornell last season. Lujan has looked solid this season and there’s no reason to think that this result would be any different than the one in the desert.

What I think is the most interesting match comes at 184 where we have a pair of All-American’s facing off in Drew Foster and Max Dean. Foster and Dean wrestled three times last season, with Dean coming away with two wins and Foster just one. The Panther dropped the dual match and lost to Dean at the NCAA Championships in a meeting of the 8/9 seeds, but won out in (you guessed it) Las Vegas, 9-5.

Dean earned his first All-American status last season by placing 8th at the NCAA Tournament. Dean placed 6th this season at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas, dropping matches to Zack Zavatsky and Lou DePrez, both of whom lost to Foster in the tournament.

It’s the most interesting match of the dual in my eyes because the two seem to be even in nearly all respects. Dean was able to get the early-season win last season when Foster was (in my opinion, obviously) not in wrestling shape yet and we saw that result flip around right away. However Foster’s loss at the NCAA tournament was a little more head-scratching. Having seen Foster look very good this season I like him to flip that most result.

The other three matches where UNI will be favored come at 125, 149, and 165. Jay Schwarm, Max Thomsen, and Bryce Steiert all need to come away with wins, and preferably wins by bonus points, if UNI hopes to pull off the upset. Schwarm majors in winning by pinfall, scoring three of them in six matches on the season, and it wouldn’t hurt to get the home crowd into it and putting UNI up 6-0 early in the dual.

The other interesting thing about the dual is that Bettendorf’s three-time State Champion Fredy Stroker will come back to Iowa for the first time in a dual meet. Stroker was teammates with Panther’s Schwarm and Jack Wagner, and faced off at least three times with Max Thomsen, UNI’s #11 149 pounder, winning two of the three.

Another thing to watch for is heavyweight Carter Isley’s left knee. The Panther injured it last Saturday during the UNI Open and had to default out of the tournament. UNI Head Coach Doug Schwab said on Monday that Isley was having it checked out, but we haven’t heard anything since then. Isley is listed on the UNI lineup, and without him the Panthers have only true freshmen at heavyweight, which would mean pulling a redshirt off of either Bryce Esmoil or John McConkey.

We’ll bring you all the results from the West Gym Sunday afternoon so make sure you come back and check it all out.

#13 Cornell
125: Dom LaJoie
133: #12 Chas Tucker
141: #1 Yianni Diakomihalis
149: Hunter Richard
157: Fredy Stroker
165: Milik Dawkins
174: #16 Brandon Womack
184: #11 Max Dean
197: #20 Ben Honis
285: Jeramy Sweany

#18 UNI
125: Jay Schwarm
133: Jack Skudlarczyk
141: #7 Josh Alber
149: #11 Max Thomsen
157: Pat Schoenfelder
165: #9 Bryce Steiert
174: #8 Taylor Lujan
184: #6 Drew Foster
197: Izaak Shedenhelm
285: Carter Isley

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