Courtesy: UNI Athletics Communications –
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The University of Northern Iowa spoiled the perfect dual records of five wrestlers from Air Force but ultimately fell to the Falcons in team scoring, 19-18.
No one on the Air Force squad had lost in a dual meet until wrestling UNI. The Panthers won half the matches, but came up short for a team win.
“It was a gut check for our team,” said head coach Doug Schwab. “We just need to respond in the right way, and they will. You just have to figure out how to get their best performances each time out. We have to figure it out as coaches.”
Cody Caldwell’s late takedown put the Panthers on the winning path. He beat Tyler Mergen, 6-3, in the 174-pound weight class.
Devin Hightower got an early takedown against Ryan Loder, but those would be the only two points he scored. Loder escaped quickly and dominated the remainder of the match to win 12-2. Loder has lost just three matches season, giving up just nine points to opponents.
UNI lost its next three matches at the 197-pound, 285-pound and 125-pound weight classes to put Air Force ahead 12-7.
Levi Wolfensperger closed that gap in his match at 133 pounds with a win by decision. Wolfensperger got three takedowns in the first period to lead 6-2 at the start of the second period. Air Force’s Dylan Hyder countered with a takedown and escape. Wolfensperger continued to lead in the third and went on to win 7-5.
In the 141-pound match, Joey Lazor came out tough and nearly pinned Carter McElhany in the first period. He continued to be aggressive, scoring on his second takedown and near fall in the match to win by a major decision.
Lazor’s 11-1 win put the Panthers back on top in team scoring, 14-12.
“Lazor is wrestling well right now. He’s fun to watch,” said Schwab. “He is being aggressive. We need to more of that. He goes out and takes what he wants. We need others to follow that lead.”
The momentum continued with UNI and Bart Reiter in the 149-pound weight class. Reiter scored a couple of near falls before Logan Burch got an escape. Reiter extended his lead to win with a technical fall, 19-3.
David Bonin, looking to build on UNI’s 19-12 lead, went scoreless in the first period of the 157-pound match. He was the first to score with his escape and led 1-0 going into the third. However, he ended up losing to Josh Kreimier, 9-1, allowing Air Force to come back in team scoring, 19-16.
“Bonin got caught in a position,” said Schwab. “The match score looks like a blowout, but it really came down to one position.”
The meet’s fate was determined in the final match at 165 pounds, where Jarrett Jensen faced Jesse Stafford. Jensen lost by decision. UNI lost a point for unsportsmanlike conduct from the bench.
Air Force went on to win 19-18.
“We didn’t win the close matches when we needed to,” said Schwab. “Now we look to Friday against Oklahoma.”
UNI will return home to host Oklahoma at 7 p.m. Jan. 18. Former Panther and Olympic gold medalist Bill Smith will be on hand to be recognized for his achievements in wrestling.