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Northern Iowa's Drew Foster, right, takes down Iowa State's Dane Pestano during a Feb. 10 dual in Cedar Falls. Foster will be the No. 1 seed at 184 pounds for this weekend's Big 12 Conference tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

CEDAR FALLS -- Doug Schwab isn't about to count his University of Northern Iowa wrestling team out -- ever.

Oklahoma State may be the favorite at this weekend's Big 12 Conference tournament in Tulsa, Okla., but UNI's head coach sees a golden opportunity for his Panthers.

"I'm ready to get down there, and I think our guys are, too," Schwab said Monday at UNI's weekly coaches' press conference.

"I know Oklahoma State's the favorite, but we're going to show up and we're going to contest every single match 420 seconds or if it takes more than that. We're going out ready to fight and try to win a Big 12 title."

UNI has three wrestlers seeded No. 1 in 149-pounder Max Thomsen, 174-pounder Taylor Lujan and 184-pounder Drew Foster. Josh Alber (141) and Jacob Holschlag (197) are seeded third.

"I think we got the seeds that we earned, so far," said Schwab.

UNI will be competing in the Big 12 tournament for the first time. That just adds to Schwab's normal level of excitement for his program and his wrestlers.

"I'm always excited," he said. "It's every day I get to come to work and it's every day we get to strive to be great at something. I'm certainly looking forward to a Big 12 tournament and wrestling Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and starting to create that rivalry. It builds in these kinds of events.

"I can say there's probably not a whole lot of people talking about us being able to win this tournament, but I can tell you as a group and as a team we're certainly thinking a lot different.

"We've got a lot of firepower. We've got a lot of firepower that hasn't really clicked on all cylinders, so it's time to do that."

The rest of UNI's lineup features Jay Schwarm at 125, Jack Wagner at 133, Logan Ryan at 157, Isaiah Patton at 165 and Carter Isley at 285.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: UNI (15-12, 11-5) put the finishing touches on a 9-4 home season with weekend wins over Illinois State and Bradley. This week, the Panthers are on the road at Valparaiso Thursday and Loyola Saturday needing one win or a Southern Illinois loss to lock up the No. 3 seed for the Missouri Valley tournament.

"We're not going to rely on others," said assistant coach Brad Nelson. "We need to come out and have a great weekend, and we have a great challenge ahead of us."

UNI defeated Valpo and Southern near the end of December in Cedar Falls. Both teams have steadily improved since then.

"If you really look at what they've done at home, they have played all the teams really competitively at home," said Nelson.

TRACK AND FIELD: Head coach Dave Paulsen's men's and women's teams exceeded everyone's expectations but their own at the MVC Indoor Championships inside the UNI-Dome.

"We had a lot of great performances on both sides," said Paulsen, whose women's team won four conference titles.

The Panthers now head outdoors, beginning with the Bill Cornell Spring Classic March 23-24 at Carbondale, Illinois.

"We're looking forward to getting everyone healthy in the next couple of weeks," said Paulsen.

WOMEN'S TENNIS: Despite illness and injuries, UNI cobbled together a dual win over Cardinal Stritch Friday (5-2) and now gets some time to get back to full strength before a spring break trip to Florida when the Panthers will play Navy, Connecticut and Bryant.

"Luckily for us, we're off now for the next couple of weeks," said head coach Chris Sagers. "I think today was the first time in I don't know how long where we had all eight players on the court. If we can just get healthy and stay healthy, I think we'll be tough in the Valley this year."

SOFTBALL: There weren't many highlights from UNI's trip to Alabama for the Bama Bash where the Panthers lost four games by a combined score of 32-5.

The pitching was shaky, the defense unreliable and the offense largely unproductive.

"I would say that we had a very rough weekend," said head coach Ryan Jacobs. "Not something that we expected.

"It was a good learning experience for our team to play on a big stage, play in front of a lot of people and play against three very talented teams (Florida State, Georgia State and Alabama). We knew we were going up against some very good competition, but the difference was a lot bigger than I expected."

UNI plays in Belmont's tournament in Nashville, Tenn., this Friday through Sunday and will face North Carolina A&T, Butler and Belmont.


Sports Editor

Sports Editor for The Courier

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