OKLAHOMA CITY – The Northern Iowa wrestling program continues to climb new heights at nationals.
The "Panther Train" closed out the final day of the NCAA Division I wrestling championships in Oklahoma City on Saturday with a second straight top-15 finish and 40 team points, the highest number in four years under coach Doug Schwab.
"I'm happy with where we're at. We've just got to continue to raise that bar," Schwab said. "We really have to have guys that lead when they step in there. It's not all, you know, 'We're UNI.' It's, 'WE'RE UNI.' That has to mean something when we've got to go compete and we've got to believe and we'll continue to build our guys to do that."
The highest individual honors for the Panthers belonged to the top seed at 133, Joe Colon, who lost the semifinal Friday but rebounded with a pair of Saturday consolation wins. A 1-0 decision over Edinboro's A.J. Schopp sent Colon (35-2) to the third-place podium.
"My last year, I wanted to come back and I wanted to finish with two wins and that's what I had to do," Colon said. "I got knocked off yesterday. I had to bounce back and get back up and do what I had to do today."
After his dismissal from the team midseason last year, the third-place finish caps a comeback season for the UNI senior.
"I'm proud of him because of a lot of things," Schwab said. "How he responded to that challenge, how he's come back and grown as a man, personally how he came back and got third place. That shows a lot about our guy and the kind of grit and character that they have. I'm proud of him, I proud of what he's done. He's a great model for our team for a lot of reasons."
Red-shirt freshman Dylan Peters (34-7) lost both of his 125-pound consolation matches and fell to sixth. The fifth-place match came down to Peters and Iowa's Cory Clark, which Clark won by decision, 8-1. Schwab wasn't sure if Peters' loss in the Friday semifinal bled into Saturday and affected his performance.
"The last match you've got to compete more," Schwab said. "I don't feel like he competed anywhere near where he's capable of. I'm not sure what that reason is."
Senior 141-pounder Joey Lazor (20-8) was briefly knocked unconscious during a consolation loss to North Carolina's Evan Henderson. Lazor finished the 11-8 decision, but took a medical forfeit in the fifth-place match against Zain Retherford from Penn State and finished sixth.
Colon, Peters, and Lazor each were All-Americans for the first time in their careers.
With the amount of team points and All-Americans growing at nationals by the year, Schwab finds difficulty in savoring the incremental strides his program has made in favor of pushing for even bigger and better results."It is hard to be patient," Schwab said. "Because you understand how they want it, and they want it right now, too."