CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa head coach Doug Schwab does not live in the past. He does have a lot of future aspirations.
For one, the Panthers’ head wrestling coach wants to see each of his team’s six qualifiers reach their own goals at this week’s NCAA Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I’m looking forward to our team scoring a whole bunch of points and then drinking a bunch of Mountain Dew on Saturday night,” Schwab said Monday.
On a more serious note, Schwab feels his qualifiers — Jay Schwarm at 125, Josh Alber at 141, Max Thomsen at 149, Taylor Lujan at 174, Drew Foster at 184 and Jacob Holschlag at 197 — are in a good place heading into the championships.
“This is the toughest week of the year,” Schwab said. “All that work these guys have put in, all the sacrifices they’ve made ... They get to go get rewarded for that. That is what I’m looking forward to, too.
“You have to have fun with this because you don’t know when you are going to get another opportunity like this. You’ve got to make the most of it. You have to take this opportunity and strangle it. I know it is what our guys are ready to do.”
Thomsen was fifth as a freshman last year, while Foster took seventh at 184. Alber has won his opening match at each of the last two NCAA Championships, and Lujan reached the round of 12 a year ago.
Every one of UNI’s qualifiers understands they have work to do. Lujan is UNI’s highest-seeded wrestler at seventh. Foster is seeded eighth, while both Alber and Thomsen are seeded ninth. Holschlag is the only unseeded Panther.
“It is exciting,” Foster said of the lead-up to the championships. “Good vibes right now. Everyone is wrestling loose, and you can tell there is excitement in there (inside UNI’s wrestling room).
“We know what we are capable of doing. Now is just time to fine tune things, get the weight down and go scrap.”
Thomsen said the advice for he and his teammates is simple — control what you can control, fight and win every position.
“The past and the future are not really in your control, but the present is,” said Thomsen.
UNI finished 18th last year with 25.5 points, its highest finish since 2013 when the Panthers took 15th. UNI has had multiple All-Americans in three of the last four years and that’s the goal again.
“We have 420 seconds and we’re going to contest each and every one of those seconds,” Schwab said. “We have six guys that can score a whole lot of points and bring back a whole lot of hardware.”
The brackets have been out for a week and Schwab says every draw is bad and his guys should try to be the bad draw each time out.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Schwab said. “I think for the most part we got the seeds we deserved. Obviously we are going to have to beat some guys that we are not supposed to beat on paper.
“Those six guys have been consistent all year, but now it’s time to ratchet it up.”