CEDAR FALLS – Historic, hot, loud and rowdy, Northern Iowa wrestling coach Doug Schwab loves his home venue inside the West Gymnasium on UNI’s campus.
Schwab also enjoyed the opportunity to put his sport on display in front a McLeod Center crowd of 4,006 – double the West Gym capacity – during Saturday night’s 19-15 win over No. 8 Oklahoma State. UNI’s wrestling coach would like to see 6,000 fans in attendance the next time the Panthers host a dual inside the McLeod Center.
“It’s certainly something we’ll look at doing in the future, but I think it’s case by case,” Schwab said. “If we can ever get more people hooked and into a wrestling meet, and that environment, then that’s part of what we want to do. We want to expand.
“Let’s get to where we’re sold out on season tickets. We haven’t even sold out season tickets in the West Gym. Let’s do that first. Why can’t we average 6,000 for each meet? You see what Penn State does, you see what Iowa is doing right now. We’ve just got to continue to put a better product out there and I know the people will come.”
Certainly, UNI has responded with inspired performances since a 25-13 loss to South Dakota State. The Panthers (5-3, 4-1 Big 12) have now won their last four duals entering Saturday’s trip to Oklahoma (3-4, 1-3 Big 12).
“You don’t ever like to get your tail kicked, but some of the things we displayed on Saturday, the hustle, the fight, I think we did that to a man,” Schwab said. “I think that’s got to be a hallmark of our program.”
Keaton Geerts’ 7-6 decision over Wyatt Sheets in a swing match at 157 pounds was among the bouts in which UNI’s will to win was on full display.
“There were a lot of situations in that match that could have went either way, and he just fought his tail off in every single one of them,” Schwab said. “That had nothing to do with skill, that had to do with a choice, with an attitude. There’s something bigger than themselves that they’re buying into. They’re going to go fight for each other.
“We certainly have some momentum to build on and some excitement.”
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Offensive struggles continued for the Panthers during weekend road losses to Missouri Valley Conference leader Bradley and Illinois State. UNI (11-7, 3-4) returns home this weekend against Loyola and Valparaiso after playing five of its first seven league games on the road against the top five teams in the MVC standings.
“As much as I hate losing, I’m alarmed at how bad we’re playing,” UNI head coach Tanya Warren said. “Our decision-making, our shot selection ... we have defended our tails off, we defended tremendously ... but our offense has really sputtered. Right now we have too many people playing bad at once.
“Other than the 2½-, 3-hour practice block, we have to have some kids that are going to start getting in the gym and getting themselves out of some of these slumps.”
UNI center Megan Maahs made her return from injury this weekend and will give the Panthers a boost during the back half of league play.
“She’s going to have to understand that it’s not going to all come back at once,” Warren said. “She was so anxious, she was in foul trouble both games. She’s got to allow the game to come to her and get into a rhythm because she is that valuable to us on both ends of the floor.”
TRACK AND FIELD: The Panthers took advantage of the opportunity to compete inside the UNI-Dome at the Jack Jennett Open Thursday and Friday before a group traveled to Iowa State on Saturday.
Sprinters Tayshaun Cooper of Waterloo and Isaiah Trousil of West Burlington set PRs in the 60, while freshman Jack Summers of England already ranks among the conference’s top long jumpers. On the women’s side, Madrid sophomore Rylan Santi excelled in the 60 and Cedar Falls freshman Auriona Kimbrough put up a top three MVC time in the 400.
“It’s just about moving collectively forward,” Coach Dave Paulsen said.
TENNIS: No. 3 Kim Zizek and No. 4 Madeline Doherty recorded the lone singles victories for UNI this weekend during losses to Iowa State and Omaha. The Panthers recorded a No. 3 doubles victory against Iowa State from Olivia Fain and Thaissa Moreira.
Half of this year’s UNI lineup is comprised of freshmen with one additional newcomer.
“We’ve got a lot of young players playing important positions, but I’m really impressed with the talent and energy they have,” Coach Chris Sagers said.
SWIMMING AND DIVING: The Panthers honored their senior class with a home dual win over Omaha on Saturday. Up next is a trip to Iowa State for a triangular against the Cyclones and North Texas.
“That will be a good opportunity to gauge our growth from November until now,” UNI coach Nick Lakin said.
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