ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A college wrestling match is seven minutes long, not six or six and half minutes.
A pair of Northern Iowa wrestlers demonstrated Thursday that to win and keep winning at the NCAA Division I Championships, you have to wrestle a full seven-minute match.
Freshman Max Thomsen and sophomore Drew Foster advanced to the 149- and 184-pound quarterfinals during the first day of competition at the Scottrade Center, and six of the seven Panther qualifiers remain alive.
UNI is tied for 16th with 11 points. Penn State leads with 30.5.
Thomsen punched his ticket to the quarterfinals with a takedown with four seconds left in a 6-4 victory over Laike Gardner of Lehigh, while Foster avenged a 13-2 loss to Virginia Tech’s Zach Zavatsky, 4-3, in the round of 16.
“Every time you step on the mat you have to wrestle the full seven minutes,” said Thomsen, the La Porte City native. “You have to wrestle the full seven minutes because you don’t know what 10-second segment is going to get you the win.”
Thomsen opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Matthew Cimato of Drexel. Both Gardner and Cimato are seniors, and Thomsen said that factored into the tight scores in both matches.
“Right now, this is the big dance and you are wrestling upperclassmen and you know this is some of their last chances at the NCAA Tournament so they are coming at me hard and I just have to keep wrestling,” Thomsen said.
Thomsen will face Rutgers’ Ken Theobald in the quarterfinals. Theobald, the 15-seed, upset second-seeded Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State, 9-4 in sudden victory, to advance.
“The great thing is he went and attacked and got another score,” UNI head coach Doug Schwab said of Thomsen’s second-round win. “Happy and proud that he is attacking in big situations and he is going to have to do that tomorrow and then go and convert.”
Thomsen and Theobald have met once.
“I know he beat me the last time so I am coming for him,” Thomsen said of his 8-1 loss to Theobald during his redshirt season at the Midlands Championships.
As a redshirt freshman a year ago, Foster was plugged into UNI’s lineup to face Zavatsky and the outcome wasn’t pretty. Zavatsky scored a dominating, 13-2 decision.
Thursday, the 12th-seeded Foster showed just how much he has improved by avenging that loss. He scored first, fell behind, but kept attacking and scored the winning takedown with 1:09 left to upset the fifth-seed, 4-3.
“It feels good,” Foster said. “It’s staying confident in myself. I got a ton of support from my family, teammates, coaches ... that kind of backing, it gives you a reason to go and get better and get that fire. That last match (against Zavatsky) I was young and growing. But I didn’t hang my head and I’ve gotten better.”
“Just shows the kind of growth that kid has made,” Schwab added.
Foster will face Oklahoma State’s Nolan Boyd in the quarterfinals and will try to avenge another loss. Boyd beat Foster, 10-5, at the Southern Scuffle.
UNI saw three of its other round of 16 qualifiers lose as Josh Alber dropped a 5-2 decision to Stevan Micic of Michigan at 133, Daniel Lewis beat Bryce Steiert (6-0) at 165 and Taylor Lujan couldn’t hold on to to an early lead in a 5-2 loss to Zach Epperly of Virginia Tech at 174.
“I feel like we let a couple go there,” Schwab said of the quarterfinal losses. “We’ve got to convert opportunities. We had opportunities at 33, opportunities at 74, 65 and you have to convert those in big-time matches.”
Two-time All-American Dylan Peters rebounded from a disappointing loss to fourth-seeded Darian Cruz of Lehigh in the first round to score a pair of victories in consolation matches — 4-3 over Barlow McGhee of Missouri and 8-7 over Sean Nickell of Cal-State Bakersfield.
Peters trailed 6-0 in the match against Nickell only to storm back and scoring the winning takedown with 17 seconds left.
“He has a lot of guts,” Schwab said. “He got down 6-0 in that match and it is easy to bag it, how guys got pinned tonight, bagged it ... to have him have that kind of guts and fight, that is why I’m so proud of him and how he is competing for this team.”
Freshman Jacob Holschlag, who started the year at 184 and didn’t bump up to 197 until late in the season, lost twice and was eliminated.