TULSA, Okla. — High achievers see things differently than those who just want to participate.
Drew Foster doesn’t want to sound cocky, but he worries it could come off that way when he talks about why he chose to wrestle at Northern Iowa.
Growing up in the southern Iowa community of Mediapolis, Foster was a standout in football, soccer, track and wrestling.
He wasn’t into sports to be a participant. He was in sports to be the best whatever the given sports season.
Foster placed three times at the Iowa state wrestling championships (third, seventh and second), losing to current UNI teammate Jacob Holschlag in the 160-pound Class 2A state finals in 2014. He knew that if he was going to wrestling collegiately, he wanted to do it at the highest level.
“When I pursue anything, when I do it, I’m going to try to be the best,” Foster said. “I’m not going to sell myself short. It may sound arrogant, but it is not meant that way at all. I just believe when I truly put my mind to something, invest in something, I’ve been good at it and have had success in it.”
It was that thought process that swirled in Foster’s mind when UNI assistant coach Randy Pugh offered him a chance to wrestle for the Panthers.
“I went for it, and luckily some coaches saw me, especially Randy, he saw something in me,” Foster said. “I’m forever appreciative of that guy and what he has done for me. I knew if I got the opportunity to come here I would take it in full stride and would be willing to work, and a lot of things have paid off because of that.”
Foster arrived in Cedar Falls at 165 pounds, posted a solid redshirt season of 17-8. A year later as an undersized 174-pound starter, he went 15-18, finishing one victory short of qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
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With even more dedication and resolve and a new weight class, Foster surprised the 184-pound NCAA field in St. Louis in 2017, taking seventh. A year later, the Big 12 champion let too many NCAA foes dictate pace and he failed to podium.
Now with roughly 2 1/2 weeks left in his collegiate career, Foster is attacking the close of his career with purpose as UNI heads to the Big 12 Championships Saturday and Sunday in Tulsa, Okla.
“Honestly, it is a difference in seconds,” Foster said of what failed him in Cleveland last March. “Coach Schwab (Doug) talks about wrestling 420 seconds, and you look back at my national tournament last year and there is seconds at a time where I had a lapse or whatever, maybe stopped wrestling and the guys I was wrestling took advantage of that.
“This year, if I stay on course, wrestle throughout the whole match, and I truly believe in this, if I’m continually wrestling and on my ‘A’ game, I think I am hard to beat.”
Foster enters the Big 12 Championships as the No. 2 seed at 184 and has an NCAA RPI ranking of No. 10.
Schwab says he has no doubts that Foster will leave nothing to chance this weekend or in 14 days when the NCAA Championships take place in Pittsburgh.
“What he has done since he got here, from going from a losing record to being on the stand one year later, that is a testament to him and the work he has done,” Schwab said. “I remember Randy telling me ... kept telling me from day one, this dude is going to be really good ... and he has been good.
“He has a couple of big events left in front of him, and that is roughly 2 1/2 weeks to continue to get better and believe me, he will get better.”
A leader inside and outside of the room, Foster plans on being an educator in order to make the biggest impact he can upon the children and people around him. He calls his mom, Karissa, his biggest heroine, saying there isn’t a person that she meets who doesn’t walk away impacted.
“She is the biggest inspiration in my life,” Foster said. “My biggest thing is trying to help people out. I like to give back. That is my mom.
“This place has also helped me toward that goal. I’m grateful for this place at the end of each day. The accolades will mean something, but as far as becoming a better person, those are bigger than the accolades. Overall, I have become a better man through all of this.”