CEDAR RAPIDS — Upper Iowa wrestling coach Heath Grimm had to think twice and then add to his answer.
Asked if he liked the fact the Peacocks are hosting this weekend’s NCAA Division II wrestling championships at the U.S. Cellular Center or by hosting it added additional outside distractions for his program, Grimm was adamant in his original response.
“There is not extra pressure at all,” Grimm said. “We love it. We love the whole energy of hosting and feed off it. We want to represent ourselves, our university well.
“We have a great administration here whom basically said you coach up your kids, we got this. I was basically sounding board for them on some things, but I was really left to coach.”
When Grimm finished that statement there was a long pause, and then he expanded.
“I guess, since we were hosting, it would’ve been bad not to qualify anybody,” Grimm laughed. “So, I guess there was a little pressure to get some guys to Cedar Rapids.”
Grimm and the Peacocks’ qualified more than a few to the championships — six, in fact, including returning all-American’s Josh Walker at 133 and Logan Hopp of New Hampton at 285. Walker, the former two-time NJCAA all-American, was seventh at 133 last year, while Hopp was fifth at 285.
In addition, Maleek Williams is making his third NCAA trip at 125. And, Grimm says, Damian Penichet, who qualified as a freshman before finishing fifth at last year’s super regionals, is back at 149 one year after entering as the No. 1 seed into the super regional only to get upset and finish fifth, one spot out of qualifying.
“He shook a big weight off his shoulders and got back, now hopefully he wrestles free,” Grimm said.
UIU’s two other qualifiers — sophomore Nick Baumler of West Union at 197 and freshman Dalton Hahn at 184 — qualified for the first time.
Grimm says it is a good, strong group.
“We’re going to go with some firepower,” Grimm said. “Everyone of them has a good shot to get to the podium.”
Grimm says this group has really bought into the ‘living in the now’ mantra the team adapted this season.
“We haven’t lived and died with every competition, every result,” Grimm said. “It was all about progression, peaking at the end of the season. I saw that in those guys eyes at the super regionals. They were ready, they were peaking and now we’ve had 10-12 more days to get ready, to get in the right mindset and go out there and perform to the best our abilities.
“I’m excited for this group of guys, because they are ready.”
Grimm, who is in his 18th season with the Peacocks, has had two or more all-Americans in 11 of the last 12 years, including each of the last two seasons.
Action begins at 11 a.m. Friday in Cedar Rapids.