CEDAR FALLS – Joe Colon is getting smaller for something bigger.
The University of Northern Iowa red-shirt junior was a match away from earning all-America status last season at 133 pounds, but the plan is for him to close this year at 125.
After a discussion with Panthers Coach Doug Schwab, Colon agreed with a plan that would have him drop to the lowest weight class to help strengthen the UNI lineup and possibly help his odds of a high national finish. Colon was 27-4 in 2011-12, winning 22 matches by major decision or better.
Colon was the 125-pound NJCAA champion and national tournament Outstanding Wrestler for Iowa Central in 2010. He’s controlled his weight and weighs around 134 after practice.
“That’s what we’re attempting,” Colon said during an interview for the team’s media day event. “I’ve been getting it done slowly.”
According to the descent plan, Colon will wrestle 133 until his expected 125 debut at the Midlands Championships on Dec. 29-30. He placed seventh there last year. Schwab has confidence in Colon at either weight class.
“I think he can be a damn good 125-pounder. He was a damn good 133-pounder,” said Schwab, who later added, “I’d put him up against anyone at 125. I look forward to seeing him there.”
Getting back to 125 will be more difficult than his freshman year. He has a strong strategy to drop and maintain his weight with calorie moderation, proper nutrition and necessary training regimen. Colon plans to avoid cutting the last day.
“It’s going to be completely different,” said Colon, a two-time state champion for Clear Lake. “I’m not going to just cut water weight. I’m actually going to do it right.”
Schwab said if anyone can overcome the drain from the loss it is Colon, who consistently pushes himself even when he isn’t at his best. His mental toughness was a factor in the decision.
“Some guys don’t feel well and they collapse, they’re done. They’re like a marshmallow. There’s nothing to them,” Schwab said. “He can still stay in there so I know he’s going to be able to handle it, even if he doesn’t feel very good.”
Colon entertained the idea last season, but it never materialized. This time, Schwab approached Colon about the idea, presenting a plan for Colon to move down and when he could expect to make and compete at the lower weight. Schwab said he thought it was best for both Colon and the team.
“Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little for the team,” Schwab said. “If I didn’t think he could handle it, then we wouldn’t make that call. I know he can handle it and be very successful.”
Colon embraces the chance to help solidify the team. He wants it to pay dividends for himself as well.
“Hopefully, get to the top of the stand,” Colon said. “I’m going to sacrifice a lot and want that high reward.”
Not only will the team as a whole benefit from the move, but Levi Wolfensperger, who was an NCAA qualifier last year at 141, should reap the rewards as well. Wolfensperger, a natural 133-pounder, was out-muscled at times at 141 and will cut down when Colon does.
“I think it will be a better fit for me,” said Wolfensperger, 13-8 last year. “I’m excited to get out there and compete. I want to compete out there at 133 and bang heads with those guys.”
Transfers return home
Some area recruits chose bigger programs over the University of Northern Iowa only to end up in Cedar Falls after all.
Waverly-Shell Rock three-time state champion Cody Caldwell originally committed to University of Wisconsin only to transfer back to UNI before ever officially donning Badger attire. Don Bosco four-time state champion Bart Reiter followed his brother, Mack, to University of Minnesota but recently transferred to UNI after officially competing two years for the Gophers.
“This is a good fit for them,” UNI Coach Doug Schwab said. “They fit in to what we’re doing. They fit with the coaches and other guys. It was a pretty easy shift for them.”
Schwab has known each wrestler and their families for a long time. They were familiar with him and the program. Schwab said the optimism surrounding the Panthers rejuvenation and their potential is attractive.
“They feel it,” Schwab said. “There’s nothing like being a part of something as it builds.”
University of Northern Iowa Coach Doug Schwab likes the team’s move to the Mid-American Conference for the 2012-13 season.
The Panthers recently announced the decision to leave the Western Wrestling Conference and join the MAC. The conference will have more automatic NCAA qualifiers with more and stronger programs. Central Michigan, Kent State and Missouri are top-20 teams, according to Schwab.
“Our aim and goal is the national tournament,” Schwab said. “When it prepares us more for the national tournament it’s better. We’re going to be sharpening against some of the best competition.”
The Panthers will compete in the MAC tournament Feb. 17 at Kent, Ohio, and will begin a conference dual schedule for the 2013-14 season. UNI will dual Missouri, which mirrored UNI’s move to the MAC, this season. Old Dominion also joined the MAC but won’t compete in duals or the conference tournament until next year.
Schwab said it won’t be hard to establish new rivalries with MAC programs.
“There are some competitive coaches out there,” Schwab said. “I’m sure they already don’t like me, and I’m sure I probably don’t like some of those guys. That’s the way it is when you compete.”