Northern Iowa nearly had a perfect morning as they went 5-1 in their six matches in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Josh Alber, Max Thomsen, Bryce Steiert, Taylor Lujan, and Drew Foster will all wrestle in the second round later tonight. Jay Schwarm was the only Panther to fall to the backside of the bracket.
Josh Alber got things started with a 10-7 victory over Army’s Corey Shie. Alber used two takedowns through the first two periods to take a 5-1 lead into the third period, where he scored another pair of takedowns to push his lead to 10-3 and secure his win. He’ll wrestle Lehigh’s Kyle Shoop in the next round, who defeated Utah Valley’s Matt Findley 8-7 this morning.
Max Thomsen had a come from behind victory over Navy’s Jared Prince, 9-8. Thomsen gave up the opening takedown before the pair traded reversals, and they went to the second period tied at 5. Taking the second period to rest and recharge, the Panther put his energy into scoring the deciding takedown in the third period, and added two escape points for the final 9-8 decision.
“No one remembers how you win the first match,” UNI head coach Doug Schwab said. “It’s just kind of win, get the ball rolling and then get strong as the tournament goes.”
Thomsen will wrestle the 2nd seeded Micah Jordan in the second round tonight.
In the Battle of the Bryce’s at 165 pounds, Bryce Steiert didn’t waste any time, winning by pinfall in just 2:35 over Indiana’s Bryce Martin. I’m not sure how Steiert got the takedown that eventually led to the fall (because I was taking photos) but here’s a picture of the fall:
Taylor Lujan and Drew Foster both won their matches by major decision, Lujan winning 15-7 and Foster 10-0. Both men looked dominate on the mat; Foster obviously not giving up a point, and Lujan only giving up escape points. Lujan had the tougher of the two matches, but he never seemed out of control or unprepared. Foster used a tough top game to control Brown’s Christian LaFragola for over 4 minutes of riding time.
“Like how guys went out and attacked, scored points and then kept on trying to build leads,” Schwab said. “That is what you are going to have to be able to do, not just continue, advance in the tournament, but win the tournament.”
In tonight’s session, Lujan will see the 9th seeded Devin Skatzka from Minnesota, who also won by major decision, 15-3 over Lorenzo De La Riva from NDSU. Foster will wrestle Binghamton’s Lou Deprez, who was also a major decision winner, 11-2 over Mason Reinhardt from Wisconsin.
Overall the Panthers sit in 9th place, tied with Virginia Tech with 9 points each.
“Bonus points are huge just to get momentum going,” Schwab said. “No one remembers how you win the first match. It’s just kind of win, get the ball rolling and then get strong as the tournament goes.” The second session of the tournament starts tonight at 6PM CDT.