Upper Iowa’s wrestling lineup might be its strongest all season.
It comes just in time to flex its muscle on a national stage.
The Peacocks are seeded fifth in the NCAA Division II bracket for the National Wrestling Coaches Association/Cliff Keen National Duals this weekend at Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill. Upper Iowa (1-0) opens with Kutztown (Pa.) in the first round Saturday at 9.
Two-time NCAA champion Trevor Franklin has only had one competition, joining the team for second semester. Mitchel Schultz, an All-American at 184, is expected to return after missing time to a concussion. The Peacocks will field their most complete squad, progressing daily and using time to get healthy.
“I think we’ll have more of a complete lineup,” Upper Iowa Coach Heath Grimm said. “Will they be clicking on all cylinders? Probably not.
“That’s OK, especially guys like Trevor, Schultz and guys who have been there, done that. They can handle the situation better, even if they’re not at full strength.”
The Peacocks posted their best performance at this event last year. Upper Iowa advanced to the semifinals, losing a close dual to eventual champion St. Cloud State (Minn.), and beat University of Nebraska-Kearney for third with a 3-1 mark. Expectations and confidence are heightened due to the previous performance.
“What we did last year holds some merit,” Grimm said. “There are a lot of guys from last year’s team that are a big part of this year’s team. It’s definitely important. Standards have been raised.”
Since moving to D-II, Upper Iowa has ascended the ranks. The Peacocks have finished in the top-10 at the national tournament the last four years and five of the last six, tying for third in 2010. They are focused on taking that extra step to bring a title to Fayette.
“It’s been a fun journey. It’s been a fun climb,” Grimm said. “We feel we’re right there, knocking on the door. We’re not going to stop knocking until the door opens. We have a good attitude and guys are excited to challenge themselves.”
Upper Iowa has six ranked wrestlers, including top-ranked Franklin at 133 and Carl Broghammer at 197. Bryce Lumzy is second at 157, 165-pounder Wade Gobin is fifth, Blake Sorensen (174) is seventh and Schultz is sixth. If they advance, they will face a daunting challenge against No. 4-seed St. Cloud State and then possibly No. 1 UNK to reach the finals. Kutztown and its numerous Pennsylvania wrestlers with a knack for big moves comes first.
“We’re going to push the pace,” Grimm said. “We’re going to challenge their conditioning as much as possible. We’re going to challenge their bottom position.”
Wartburg is top-seeded, attempting to defend its title. The Knights will face Johns Hopkins in the first round.
Coe owns the No. 8 seed and faces No. 9 Ithaca (N.Y,) in the opening round with the winner taking on the Wartburg/Johns Hopkins winner.
Luther is the 12th-seed, wrestling Centenary College in the first round, and University of Dubuque opens with University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Grand View is the top-seed in the NAIA field. Iowa Central is the No. 2 seed in the NJCAA bracket.