CEDAR FALLS – UNI Athletics announced on Friday that UNI Wrestling will host all of its dual meets in the McLeod Center beginning with the 2022-23 season.
Competing in the McLeod Center further aligns UNI wrestling with its peers in the Big 12, which is consistently recognized as one of the premier wrestling conferences in the nation. As evidenced by attendance at the McLeod for wrestling events in recent seasons, UNI’s growing fan base has developed an appetite for the amenities, expansive parking, family-friendly restrooms and enhanced concession options that the McLeod Center provides.
As UNI seeks to enhance the popularity of wrestling in Iowa and increase youth participation in the sport, it is imperative that the Panthers showcase their wrestling program in a top-tier competition venue. In addition, the ability to compete on a full-time basis in front of enthusiastic crowds in McLeod Center will undoubtedly help UNI continue to attract high caliber wrestling prospects to Cedar Falls.
“In order to provide the best possible amenities for our fans and supporters and give our wrestling student-athletes a modern facility for competition, we will be competing in the McLeod Center moving forward,” said UNI Director of Athletics David Harris. “The West Gym has been a very special place for the entire wrestling community. Our wrestling program in particular has an undeniable emotional bond to this historic facility where UNI hosted and won a NCAA championship.”
“However, the necessary repairs to maintain it as a competition facility are cost prohibitive,” Harris continued. “We have demonstrated that an exciting environment for wrestling can be created in the McLeod Center as evidenced by some of our matches over the past few years. Our department looks forward to continuing the home mat advantage that we have enjoyed for our wrestling program as we transition to the McLeod Center thanks to the tremendous support of the Panther family.”
UNI made the move to the Big 12 Conference in 2017, pitting the Panthers against the best programs in the nation. Showcasing UNI wrestling in the McLeod Center not only enables the Panthers to utilize all of the lighting and media assets to create an electric atmosphere, it also provides yet another reason for the nation’s top wrestling student-athletes to consider UNI as a place where they compete at an elite level, while obtaining a hands-on educational experience.
UNI finished 14th in the nation for annual attendance among Division I wrestling programs a year ago. Since head coach Doug Schwab took over in 2011, UNI has cracked the top 10 in attendance four times (2014-17). With the move to McLeod for all dual meets, the Panthers anticipate being among the top-10 programs for attendance annually.
While the West Gym will remain the training center for UNI wrestling on a short-term basis, based on feedback from a variety of experts and consultants, the functional lifespan of the West Gym is limited. A financial commitment of approximately $20 million to replace the roof of the building and to begin making multiple other structural improvements to bring the facility up to the standards necessary to host dual meets is impractical and prohibitive.
With that reality in mind, UNI continues to evaluate its options for a wrestling operations and training center that will fill the needs of the program on a long-term basis. New wrestling offices and a well-conceived space for day-to-day
wrestling operations is vital to ensure that the upward trajectory of UNI Wrestling continues under Coach Schwab.
Constructed in 1925, the West Gym is a historic structure beloved by the UNI community, as well as the many student-athletes, coaches and fans who share so many fond memories there. In addition to considering how best to finance, design and implement plans for a wrestling training center, UNI leadership also is developing plans to celebrate the rich tradition of the West Gym in order to preserve those moments and memories for generations to come.
“I fell in love with West Gym years ago on the side of the mat watching my brothers wrestle,” said Schwab. “To have the opportunity to coach in this historic gym, a place so many greats walked before me and gave their all to the name on the front of their jersey or singlet will always be a highlight of my coaching career.”
“With that said, the spirit of our team and of our fans isn’t just captured within the West Gym as we saw in our dual against Iowa State,” Schwab continued. “We look forward to filling the stands of McLeod and making a new place that teams enter excited to compete because of the atmosphere. We are going to need all of you, the fans, to make McLeod consistently loud and rowdy.”
The Panthers have finished in the nation’s top-20 since at least the 2008 season. Parker Keckeisen led UNI Wrestling last year, as the Panthers earned four top-15 seeds at the Division I NCAA Wrestling Championships. Keckeisen became a two-time all-American, taking bronze at 184 pounds. The Panthers are on a five-tournament streak of having at least one all-America selection.
The Panthers sent nine wrestlers to the 2022 NCAA Championships, the most since UNI also sent nine in 2008. The team finished tied for 20th place, the eighth top-25 finish under Schwab. The team earned NWCA Scholar All-America honors while Keckeisen, Kyle Biscoglia, Lance Runyon and Tyrell Gordon earned individual NWCA Scholar All-America honors.
UNI wrestling season tickets for the 2022-23 season are general admission seating for $75. Matside seating allows fans to be even closer to the action for $159. To qualify for matside seating, fans must be at the PSC Gold Level. Only six matside seats can be purchased per season ticket account.
The Panthers will host three teams that finished in the top 25 at the 2022 NCAA Championships. Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Wyoming will all be making trips to the McLeod Center. UNI also will host Oklahoma, which
finished 29th at nationals last year. Cal Baptist will be on UNI’s home schedule in the Lancers’ first year as a Division I member. Fans also will have a sixth home event when the Panthers host the UNI Open.
Fans looking to purchase season tickets can call (319) 273-4849 or click here to visit UNITix online. Tickets also are available in person at the McLeod Center ticket office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
2022-23 Home Wrestling Schedule
Dec. 12 – UNI Open (UNI-Dome)
Jan. 5 – Wyoming
Jan. 28 – Oklahoma State
Jan. 29 – Oklahoma
Feb. 3 – Cal Baptist
Feb. 10 – Iowa State