IOWA CITY — One of the University of Iowa’s good guys wants to be the bad guy in Iowa City one day.
Doug Schwab still expects affection from Hawkeye wrestling fans, but admits he would feel better about his job as University of Northern Iowa’s head coach if he generated some heat.
“I look forward to when they dislike us a lot more,” said Schwab, the 1999 141-pound NCAA champion and assistant coach for Iowa in his second year leading the Panthers. “That would definitely mean we’re doing things right. If you’re a threat, people like you a hell of a lot less.”
Schwab will return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time as a head coach Thursday as his Panthers (1-2) take on the top-ranked Hawkeyes (4-0), starting at 7 p.m.
Schwab was a three-time All-American for the Hawkeyes from 1998-2001, ranking 10th on the Hawkeyes’ all-time wins list with 130. He served as an assistant to Tom Brands at Iowa before replacing Brad Penrith as UNI coach in May 2010.
Schwab was unsure what kind of reception he would get Thursday.
“I don’t know. I’m sure there will be some applause but that quickly changes as soon as the match starts,” Schwab said. “I loved my time there. I love the fans. You know what? I’m a Panther now. We’re coming in and the way we’re looked at is we’re enemies.”
Brands helped mold Schwab, who was his assistant from 2005-06 at Virginia Tech. He is fully aware what Schwab brings to the table.
“I know Doug Schwab is capable,” Brands said. I love the man. he was a key component to a lot of what was accomplished. He’s a competitor and we have to be ready.”
Schwab emerged from Brands’ wing to attempt to rebuild the Panthers tradition. Schwab guided UNI to a 12-9 record, including a 5-0 mark in the Western Wrestling Conference, last year. The Panthers closed the season with four straight wins, reach 12 victories for the first time since 2003. This season they have one win and 184-pounder Ryan Loder is the only rated Panther, ranking as high as fifth nationally.
“When you’re trying to build anything that’s lasting and trying to make something that’s not just a top-25 program, there’s going to be some growing pains,” Schwab said. “There’s going to be some times where you may take some steps back but you just don’t compromise your standard and get the guys to live, train and breathe that standard and the results will follow.”
Schwab’s endeavor at re-establishing the UNI program and the time he spent with Brands as he made Virginia Tech relevant in wrestling has some resemblance. Schwab, assisted by his older brother, Mark, a former All-American for the Panthers, does have more tradition with UNI.
“I would imagine that there’s some similarities, but this is Iowa,” Brands said. “The University of Northern Iowa is a storied program. When we were at Virginia Tech you were in a wrestling environment that was basically non-existent. We had to create it from scratch.
“There’s a platform there. I’m not saying that alleviates the challenge or makes it easier, but it’s something to start on.”
The latest results have been a little more encouraging. The Panthers won their last dual — 27-12 over Bucknell — and received titles from 2011 NCAA qualifiers Loder and 157-pounder David Bonin and former Cedar Rapids Kennedy prep Cruse Aarhus was second at the UNI Open last Saturday. He said the Panthers wrestled with more effort and heart. Something that will be needed to compete against the Hawkeyes and avoid a result like last year’s 39-0 loss at West Gym in Cedar Falls.
“That’s all we want out of them,” Schwab said. “Compete with energy, passion, hustle and fight … give themselves the best opportunity possible.”
Schwab is excited for his team to compete in an atmosphere like Carver-Hawkeye Arena. UNI might need awhile before creating tension for Hawkeye fans, but Schwab said the Panthers have the desire to get to that point.
“We have a ways to go to get there, but that’s what we’re working to do,” Schwab said. “We’ve got a lot of guys in this room who want that to happen and they’re going to keep working until it does.”