UNI good at Midlands but could be better

Panthers earn top-10 team finish; Hawkeyes dilemmas; Grand View's Lowman places less than a month after accident

K.J. Pilcher
Published: December 30 2013 | 7:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:28 am in
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EVANSTON, Ill. – University of Northern Iowa Coach Doug Schwab didn’t seem content with good.

Even though the Panthers did something they hadn’t in seven years, he couldn’t help but think of their potential for more and his challenge to get them to that level.

“We can compete much better than we showed,” Schwab said. “That’s what it comes back to.

“When you have guys capable of more, you have to figure out how to get that more out of them.”

UNI had three wrestlers place in the top six of their respective weight classes, including 133-pound finalist Joe Colon, and placed in the top 10 at the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Monday at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena for the first time since 2006.

The Panthers had tied Wisconsin for fifth with 62.5 points, leading into the final round. They experienced some growing pains that led to unfortunate shifts in matches, being on the verge of scoring to giving up big points and even pins.

At least 10 Panthers won a match and three more were within a match of reaching the awards podium. UNI was also without returning All-American Ryan Loder, who was originally the No. 3 pre-seed at 184.

“We left a lot of points out there,” Schwab said. “We have to be smarter in situations and build some more awareness for these guys.

“We can’t have those big of swings. We have to be much stingier with giving up points.”

The Midlands serve as a good measuring stick, identifying areas to improve. Schwab said that is the case for each competition, but the Panthers don’t have to gain knowledge from their setbacks.

“Every time we go out and compete it should be a learning experience,” Schwab said. “You don’t have to have learning experiences and they are always losses.”

UNI heavyweight Blaize Cabell received some praise from Schwab. Cabell, a former Independence prep, has transitioned from 197 to 285 for the Panthers. He went 3-2, reaching the round of 12 and losing to two medalists.

“He’s wrestled hard and giving himself some opportunities,” Schwab said of Cabell. “That’s what I like to see most out of him. He’s at least attacking and giving himself opportunities.”

Cabell is comfortable with the switch. He will have to fine-tune his shot selection and penetration, relying on his athleticism.

“I’m undersized for a heavyweight,” Cabell said. “I have to capitalize on the strengths that I have, which is my movement and quickness right now.

“I took some positives away from here. There are some things when we go back to Cedar Falls and work on. We will prepare for the last stretch of the season.”

Hawkeye happenings

A few questions surrounded the University of Iowa wrestling team Monday at the Midlands Championships.

Fourth-ranked 125-pound red-shirt freshman Cory Clark medically forfeited from the tournament, following a sudden-victory semifinal loss to Jarrod Garnett of the Bison Wrestling Club. He defaulted to sixth place.

“He dinged an appendage up,” Brands said. “The national tournament, of course, he is going. We say that all the time and we have to be smart here.”

Making things more interesting, Iowa’s Thomas Gilman advance to the 125-pound final and wrestled in the Penn State dual earlier this month. It is still unsettled as Clark will look to improve how he handles the short turnaround between weigh-ins and competition.

“I don’t look at it like all of a sudden it’s Gilman’s spot,” Brands said. “It’s similar to when it was Clark’s spot.”

“The main thing there is ironing out Cory Clark a little bit, and those one-hour weigh-ins. “t’s something that you’re going to have to work real hard on.”

The situation at 149 has not cleared up right now. Starter Mike Kelly failed to place, while Brody Grothus and true freshman Brandon Sorensen wrestled each other for third. Sorensen has been impressive, showing his potential with a win over Virginia Tech All-American Zach Neibert.

“What we see in the room, we see that,” Brands said. “We realize that’s why you recruit a guy like that. That is way you’re excited about the possibility.”

Brands said lifting the red-shirt is an option, but one that should be a conservative consideration. He has to identify the best team to win nationals, and then figure out the best wrestler at each weight.

“We’re not going to pull a guy without talking to parents, without talking to the kid, without everybody on board feeling good,” Brands said. “It’s not just our decision or his decision. It’s coaching, family and the kid.”

Grothus made a statement of his own, overturning an 8-point loss by pinning Edinboro’s third-seeded David Habat.

“He’s scrapping,” Brands said. “The difference is at Edinboro, we’re not fighting positions. We’re stalling down, guy’s going to us we’re giving up this and that without fight. Fight. Scrap. Battle.”

Nathan Burak wrestled his first matches of the season, competing unattached at 197. He placed in the top four. Brands said that situation is a little clearer but things will fall into place the next week or two.

Grand View’s Lowman places after accident

Grand View senior Chad Lowman placed eighth at 165 pounds Monday. The fight that led to an NAIA national title last season played a part in his battle after a concussion in a car accident less than a month ago that sidelined him briefly and forced teammate Isaiah Tatum off the mat for the rest of the season.

Lowman spent two nights in the hospital after another motorist rear-ended the car he was in with his dad and Tatum on Interstate 35, driving back to Des Moines from the Iowa and Iowa State dual in Ames on Dec. 1. He suffered bruises and aches and a few migraines after his hospital stay.

“I missed two weeks of physical activity,” Lowman said. “Then, we took it slow and went day-by-day.”

Lowman wrestled one match in Las Vegas before the Midlands. He keeps a healthy perspective on the situation, considering the result to Tatum, who was in the backseat in the crash, and the fatal car crash that killed Russia’s 27-year-old Olympic medalist and four-time World champion Besik Kudukhov on Sunday.

“I’m happy that I’m wrestling again,” Lowman said. “I’m very lucky to even be alive. Isaiah is going to have to take a year off, and I’m very lucky to be wrestling since Kudukhov just died.”

Lowman, who original went to Old Dominion after a prep career at Des Moines Roosevelt, said he won’t take solace with his performance against some of the country’s top wrestlers.

“I’m grateful,” Lowman said, “but I don’t train to come here and take eighth place.”

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