Iowa's Spencer Lee beat Oklahoma State's Nick Piccininni, 11-4, to advance to the finals of the 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships. Hawk Central
PITTSBURGH, Penn. — The last couple of days have revealed that some people inside the PPG Paints Arena don’t really know much about Northern Iowa senior Drew Foster.
During the opening day of the 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships, television announcers referred to him as “Doug.” Easy mistake, since Doug Schwab is the Panthers’ coach.
On Friday, one of the public-address announcers said the Mediapolis grad is from Burlington … Illinois.
It’s all a tad unfortunate. People should know a little more about Foster, considering he’ll be wrestling for a national title on Saturday night.
Foster ran his postseason record to 7-0 on Friday. He won three-straight matches to win a Big 12 title two weeks ago in Tulsa. This week, he’s outscored his four opponents by a combined 30-7 to advance to the NCAA finals at 184 pounds.
“Definitely dreamt (of this),” Foster said. “Just to have the opportunity to be here — I got teammates that work as hard as I do and their tournament didn't go the way they wanted it to. So when I'm out here I'm representing myself, my coaches, the university and my family.
“I'm just excited and grateful for the opportunity to be here.”
Foster is Northern Iowa’s first national finalist since Sean Stender in 2005 (197). He is also Schwab’s first NCAA finalist during his time as UNI’s head coach. Cornell’s Max Dean is Foster’s Saturday night foe. Win, and he’ll become the Panthers’ first national title since Tony Davis won at 149 in 2000.
During Friday’s early session, Foster defeated Virginia Tech’s Zach Zavatsky, 6-2. It was Foster’s third win over Zavatsky this season. In the night session’s semifinals, he defeated North Carolina’s Chip Ness, 7-4, thanks to a takedown and two nearfalls in the second, plus another takedown in the third to ice it.
Foster is now 27-5 this season, owns 94 career wins and will end his Northern Iowa career as a two-time All-American. Folks in Cedar Falls will remember Foster for a long, long while.
After Saturday night, perhaps the rest of the country will, too.
Northern Iowa sits 13th in team race
The Panthers continue to trend toward a top-15 finish in the team race. Led by Foster and Bryce Steiert, who earned All-American honors at 165 pounds, Northern Iowa has scored 36.5 points through the first two days of the national tournament, good for 13th place entering Saturday.
Steiert climbed into the top eight after winning his first match during Friday’s evening session. The junior defeated Lehigh’s Gordon Wolf, 10-2, to become an All-American for the first time in his career. He will wrestle Iowa’s Alex Marinelli for seventh place on Saturday.
The Panthers last finished in the top 15 in 2014, when they took 15th. That ties for Northern Iowa’s highest finish under Schwab.
Four Northern Iowa wrestlers advanced to Friday night’s session, but Max Thomsen (149) and Taylor Lujan (174) both fell in the wrestlebacks. Jay Schwarm (125) and Josh Alber (141) were both eliminated during Friday’s morning session.
Degen, Miklus become All-Americans for Iowa State
A year ago, Iowa State brought just one wrestler to the NCAA Championships.
A year later, the Cyclones will end the 2018-19 season with two All-Americans and are looking at a top-20 team finish.
Jarrett Degen (149) and Willie Miklus (197) both earned All-American status during Friday’s action at the NCAA Championships. Degen will wrestle for seventh place. Miklus remains alive for third and will continue his wrestleback run on Saturday morning. As a team, the Cyclones have 31 points and are in 15th place.
Degen lost in the quarterfinals to top-seeded Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers. He bounced back with a 6-5 win over Penn’s Anthony Artalona in the bloodround to become Kevin Dresser’s first All-American as Iowa State’s head coach. Degen will wrestle Iowa’s Pat Lugo for seventh on Saturday.
Miklus lost during Thursday’s second session and has since stormed through the wrestlebacks. On Friday, the redshirt senior went 4-0 to advance into the top six and secure the fourth All-American finish of his college career.
All nine Cyclone wrestlers advanced to Friday, but were slowly eliminated throughout the day. Alex Mackall (125), Ian Parker (141), Chase Straw (157), Marcus Coleman (174) and Gannon Gremmel (285) were all eliminated in the morning. Austin Gomez (133) and Sam Colbray (184) both lost during Friday’s night session, falling one win shy of becoming All-Americans.
Western Dubuque grad Lyon eliminated
Max Lyon, a two-time state champ for Western Dubuque, was the lone Iowa native wrestling for an out-of-state school that reached Friday. The Purdue sophomore did not go any further as he was eliminated after a 12-2 loss to Oklahoma State’s Dakota Geer in the wrestlebacks at 184.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.