CEDAR FALLS — Doug Schwab and his staff have been telling their wrestling team it is one of the best in the country.
Friday and Saturday, the Panthers proved it by finishing fourth out of 40 teams at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
Four of the six teams that UNI finished behind or just ahead of placed in the Top 10 of last year’s NCAA Championships as the Panthers finished behind Ohio State (2nd), Michigan (10th) and Arizona State, while placing ahead of Nebraska (9th) and Virginia Tech (6th).
“Overall, I think it was a pretty solid performance by our team,” said Schwab. “It is December, so we don’t want to be at our peak, and we certainly have a lot of room up and down our lineup to improve.
“We were fourth in this tournament. It was a good tournament, a very good tournament, and now we have to continue to build.”
If there was one negative Schwab took from the tournament it was the lack of odd-place finishes as only Jay Schwarm (fifth) and Drew Foster (seventh) won their placing matches.
Josh Alber was UNI’s only finalist at 141, losing to Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis 8-2 in the finals. Max Thomsen was fourth at 149 as were Taylor Lujan at 174 and Jacob Holschlag at 197.
“I think the challenge to the coaches is how much we can grow from now to March,” Schwab said. “That is really, I guess, what our challenge to our team is. We are not going to get too up or too down over one event. It is good for us that we can be at this point. We’ve just got to continue to tweak.
“But beyond that, I think people took notice of our team ... they are solid up and down their lineup. Now going from solid to being one of the best, that is the jump we need to make.”
UNI will host its annual UNI Open Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. inside the UNI-Dome.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: A three-game losing streaking, including back-to-back losses over the weekend, has seen the Panthers drop to 2-5 with their sixth straight road game Wednesday at Nebraska-Omaha.
Head coach Tanya Warren remains encouraged.
“We are in no way going to hit the panic button in terms of us going through some growing pains,” Warren said. “You’re seeing that. But I’m highly encouraged by this team and what we are capable of doing.”
Warren said in all of five of her team’s losses, it was a one-possession game with two or three minutes left. A lot of UNI’s struggles have come down to simple execution errors.
“We have to make sure we are able to finish plays and execute on both ends of the floor,” Warren added. “Make sure we are eliminating empty possessions, making easy plays, knocking down free throws. Those are things we can control with a lot more focus.”
Following the game with UNO, the Panthers will be home for the first time since Nov. 14 Sunday when they host Wisconsin-Parkside at 1 p.m.