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031718GAZ-NCAA-Wrestling-4

Rutgers' Nick Suriano, left, wrestles Iowa's Spencer Lee in the 125-pound championship match Saturday night at the NCAA Championships in Cleveland, Ohio.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It is universal in sport that even the victors leave wanting more.

That might be most true in the sport of wrestling.

While the University of Northern Iowa wrestling team celebrated sophomore Jacob Holschlag’s All-America performance this past weekend at the NCAA Division I Championships, the Panthers left Cleveland disappointed.

Holschlag, the unseeded and undersized 197-pound Panther sophomore, finished fifth in his second NCAA championship appearance.

“He is an example as far as I’m going to go continue to work every single day and a testament to him and how much belief he has in himself,” Panther head coach Doug Schwab said.

But UNI took six wrestlers to Cleveland and five of those qualifiers returned to Cedar Falls hurting, including past All-Americans Max Thomsen and Drew Foster.

“Obviously it hurts,” Schwab said. “But our guys are more than their results. The conversations I’m already having about how they are going to move forward ... they are not going to play victim.”

All six qualifiers return next winter, and UNI adds two-time NCAA qualifier Bryce Steiert at 165 after a redshirt year.

None of that matters to Schwab if the next 12 months are not productive.

“You don’t get better just because you get a year older,” Schwab said. “There were two guys in this tournament who won it as a freshman and never won it again.

“If you just think you getting older gets you better ... that’s not right. You have to add to your wrestling. You have to be open-minded as far as being able to build on things you do well and then add on something more to your wrestling style.

“You already start thinking about Pittsburgh and being there. What are guys going to do from now until then? Maybe it is different than what they have done and what are we going to do (as coaches) different to be better, too?

“I tell you one thing, I love a big challenge and we have big challenge in front of us and we are going to take it head on.”

EARLY FAVORITES: Three-time defending national champion Penn State will return seven All-Americans, four finalists and three 2018 national champions next season.

All told, the Nittany Lions return 117 of the 141.5 points they scored while winning in Cleveland.

The two top contenders behind Penn State next March should be the teams that finished directly behind them — runner-up Ohio State returns 77 1/2 points, while third-place Iowa brings back nine starters, including four All-Americans, and 85 points.

Additionally, the Hawkeyes return 27 1/2 of the 30 1/2 bonus points they scored and electrifying national champion Spencer Lee.

“This whole team is about improving, and the coaches are like ... they’re family. They tell us we’re family, Iowa is our home,” Lee said. “And that’s what I want everyone to know about the University of Iowa. We’re not these whatever robots or whatever that stigma was a long time ago. We’re a family and we love each other, and we want to be national champs.

“That’s the goal. That’s what we want to be known as.”

Iowa adds several talented freshmen next season, and transfer Pat Lugo at 149, who will replace the Hawkeyes’ only graduating senior, Brandon Sorensen.

Among the talented freshmen are Jacob Warner at 197 and Max Murin at 141, but question marks remain in the lineup at 133 and 174, and that is where Iowa needs to get better, according to head coach Tom Brands.

“We have to have consistency in 10 weight classes,” Brands said. “That’s the difference. We had five All-Americans. Penn State (and) Ohio State had eight. That’s the difference.”

RECORD CROWDS, SPECTACULAR FRESHMEN: Two attendance records were set as 113,743 fans rolled through the gates over three days, and Saturday night’s finals drew 19,776.Those fans witnessed some electrifying wrestling Saturday, including the 174-pound final between Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia and Penn State’s Mark Hall, Bo Nickal’s dynamic pin of Myles Martin at 184, and two true freshmen getting the job done.

In addition to Lee winning a title, Cornell 18-year old freshman Yianni Diakomihalis beat Wyoming’s Bryce Meredith 7-4 to win at 141, giving the NCAA multiple true freshmen champions for the first time since 1947.

The last two rookies to win titles in the same year? Waterloo West High School graduates Dick Hauser and Lowell Lange did it for Cornell College .

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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