COURTESY PHOTO/UNI Athletics
Over the weekend, the Northern Iowa Panthers Wrestling team traveled down to Tulsa, Ok., to compete in the Big 12 Conference Championship. Oklahoma State was heavily favored going into the tournament, but both Iowa State and UNI had a chance to pull off the upset. Going into the conference tournament, UNI was 6-2 in conference play. Over the weekend, the Panthers were able to finish 3rd. UNI was led by four wrestlers that advanced to the semifinals on Sunday to earn a 3rd place team finish: Bryce Steiert, Taylor Lujan, Max Thomsen, and Michael Blockhus.
On the individual level, the Panthers performed well enough to be in contention for the Big 12 title. In the 184-weight class, Taylor Lujan was second overall receiving 15 team points for UNI. In the 174-weight class, Bryce Steirt also finished second overall and received 18 points for the team. Max Thomsen in the 149-weight class finished sixth overall, and scored 9 team points for the team. Lastly, Michael Blockhus 141-weight class also finished sixth overall and received 8 points. Two-time NCAA qualifier Jay Schwarm 125 weight class fell in his opening round; he was able to finish fourth overall and get 14.5 team points.
In the end, Oklahoma State was the Big 12 Conference Tournament Champions and Iowa State came in a distant second, and with UNI finishing in a close third.
Aside from competing for conference titles, the tournament also serves as a way for individuals to qualify for the NCAA national championship field which then turns to all individual competitions. After Sunday, the Panthers have five wrestlers advancing to the NCAA championship field. Among the five are Jay Schwarm, Bryce Steiert, Taylor Lujan, Max Thomsen, and Michael Blockhus. The individual national championship tournament will be March 21st through the 23rd.