CLEVELAND, Ohio — Off the mat, Northern Iowa’s Jacob Holschlag is as mild-mannered as anyone.
On the mat, it’s a different story.
The meanest, grittiest wrestler on the UNI roster has turned a first-round loss at the NCAA Division I Championships into fuel.
With a fire burning red hot in his belly, the sophomore from La Porte City won five consecutive consolation matches to earn All-America honors at 197 pounds Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.
After finishing 0-2 last year in St. Louis, Holschlag placed his NCAA credential above his bed to remind himself every day of that showing.
“Waking up and looking at that 0-2 every day, I just wasn’t going to do that again,” Holschlag said. “No way in hell I was going 0-2 again. I’ve had a pretty good tournament so far.”
Pushed to the 0-2 brink again after a first-round loss to Missouri’s Willie Miklus, Holschlag got tough and hasn’t lost again. Among his five straight wins was a 7-5 victory over Miklus in Friday night’s consolation semifinals that guarantees him at least sixth place.
He secured All-America status with a 3-2 win over Chris Weiler of Lehigh in the round of 12.
“I tell you, since the day he has gotten on campus he has done a little bit more every day,” UNI head coach Doug Schwab said. “He is just a gritty, tough competitor and just fights for everything. Look at him, he is small ... tiny for a 197-pounder. But he goes out there and makes a guy earn everything.”
The victories over Weiler and Miklus saw Holschlag display his toughness in the top position. The difference between he and Weiler was a riding time point. Then against Miklus, trailing 2-1 after one, Holschlag scored four near fall points with a tilt in the second period and held on for the victory.
“I’m like 1-4 against Missouri guys now, so that feels pretty good finally getting a win,” Holschlag said. “I’m just pretty happy right now.
“It is not going to just be me up on that podium. I have to thank all my teammates, my coaches, my parents and all the people who have helped me along the way. It is just not me on that podium ... no way.”
It was heartbreak for UNI’s other two wrestlers who advanced to the All-America round.
Returning fifth-place finisher Max Thomsen, a sophomore, led Missouri’s Grant Leeth, 2-1, after one period. But Thomsen took the down position to start the second, and Leeth rode him the entire period.
Thomsen was unable to erase that 1:34 ride time advantage before having to cut Leeth loose in the third. Despite getting in deep twice, Thomsen could not score and Leeth won, 3-2.
Then at 174, after losing to defending national champion Mark Hall in the quarterfinals, Taylor Lujan had another entertaining match in the round of 12.
Lujan trailed Oklahoma State’s Jacobe Smith, 5-4 after one. The two continued to toss each other around, but Smith finished on top, 10-8, avenging a loss in the Big 12 conference finals.
It is the second consecutive year Lujan, a sophomore, has lost in the All-America round.
“Those two losses in the blood round, it wasn’t because they put their heads down, they scrapped their tails off,” Schwab said.