No. 20 UNI wins six bouts to grind out 19-15 win over No. 8 Oklahoma State in Cedar Falls

By Roger Moore, Special to TheMat.com | Jan. 25, 2020, 11:24 p.m. (ET)
Action image courtesy of UNI Panthers.com

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Keaton Geerts, a sophomore from New Hampton, Iowa, may not go down as one of Northern Iowa’s all-time greatest wrestlers. But on a Saturday night inside a festive McLeod Center, his energetic 9-6 victory over Wyatt Sheets sparked the Panthers to a 19-15 victory over No. 8 Oklahoma State.

The 20th-ranked Panthers (5-3) dropped a 25-13 dual to South Dakota State just one week ago.
“Since the South Dakota State dual there has been a response,” said Schwab, who led UNI to its first dual win over Oklahoma State since 1991. “There’s been a good response; now you have to continue on that.

“It was great to see (Geerts) to come through. He gritted out a win, found a way to win and that is a huge swing match.”

Geerts’ victory over Wyatt Sheets closed out a “first half” for the Panthers that saw the hosts win three of the five and lead 9-6. UNI closed out the dual with three wins in the final four bouts, including Carter Isley’s 5-2 win over Austin Harris at heavyweight to close out the dual in front of 4,006.

Geerts entered the weekend with a 9-11 record and vying for Schwab’s spot at 157 pounds with two other teammates. So, why did Schwab go with Geertz on this particular evening?

“Big thing is I’ve started believing in myself,” said Geertz, a two-time Iowa state champion. “I didn’t know I was wrestling until Max (Thomsen), I don’t know, maybe the first period when I figured out I was wrestling.

“The crowd got into it. (My win) was huge. It pumped up our whole entire team.”

From the opening whistle, the hosts looked to be a different team compared to last week. The McLeod Center erupted with a blast double from Jacob Schwarm in the opening bout, but All-American Nick Piccininni (17-1) used a takedown and two-point turn in an entertaining opening three minutes and eventually weathered 3:50 of riding time and held on for an entertaining, 9-6, victory.

UNI sophomore Jack Skudlarczyk’s (11-8) second period ride-out and four-point turn highlighted a 10-5 win over OSU rookie Reece Witcraft at 133 pounds to tie the dual. A third-period reversal for Panther rookie Michael Blockhus (16-6) earned a 4-3 decision at 141 pounds and the hosts jumped in front, 6-3.

A third meeting between All-Americans Boo Lewallen and Max Thomsen saw the Cowboy remain unbeaten with a 5-2 win that knotted things up entering the 157-pound bout where Geertz exploded with a pair of first period takedowns and used 1:48 of riding time to break a five-match win streak for Sheets. The visitors stayed in the dual thanks to redshirt-freshman Travis Wittlake’s (19-1) dominant 14-5 major decision at 165 pounds, but UNI’s senior 1-2 punch made things difficult for OSU.

All-American Bryce Steiert (20-2) dominated Joe Smith from start to finish in a 13-2, 4:38 of riding time, major decision that gave the hosts a 13-10 advantage with three bouts to wrestle. Fellow senior Taylor Lujan (20-2) controlled OSU rookie Anthony Montalvo, 4-0, at 184 pounds and the hosts were in position to beat their guests for the first time in three decades.
Steiert and Lujan entered Saturday with a combined 38-4 mark this season and with a combined 207 career victories.

“I think it was toughness,” Steiert said. “I think our guys made the most out of the 420 seconds; if you get all 10 guys to buy into it and do it for a whole dual good things are going to happen. We’ve had some lapses in there that has cost us sometimes this year.

“The place was pretty electric. Those lower weights really got the crowd going and that bleeds into the next match, makes you want to keep that momentum and energy going.”

Steiert squared off with Joe Smith, wrestling for just the fourth time this season.

“In this sport you approach everyone the same,” said Steiert, who lost to the former All-American earlier in his career. “You have to create consistency in what you do and believe in your training.”

Dakota Geer’s (15-4) technical fall at 197 pounds gave the visitors a fighting chance, but Isley’s size was too much for the smallish Harris at 285 pounds.

OSU still leads the all-time series with the Panthers, 27-3. Prior to Saturday night, UNI’s last win against OSU came in February of 1991. That Cowboy squad included Todd Chesbro, Alan Fried, Pat Smith, Ray Brinzer, and Randy Couture.

“That’s way too long,” said the UNI 10th-year boss. “It’s good for our seniors to beat these guys. Now the next step is we got four duals in front of us and we have to beat (OSU) at the Big 12s. Beating (OSU) in a dual is one thing; we have to out-point them at Big 12s.”

The Cowboys (7-2) travel to Ames Sunday morning for a dual with the 16th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones. UNI is at Oklahoma next Saturday.

No. 20 Northern Iowa 19, No. 8 Oklahoma State 15
125 – Nick Piccininni (OS) dec Jacob Schwarm, 9-6
133 – Jack Skudlarczyk (UNI) dec Reece Witcraft, 10-5
141 – Michael Blockhus (UNI) dec Dusty Hone, 4-3
149 – Boo Lewallen (OS) dec Max Thomsen, 5-2
157 – Keaton Geerts (UNI) dec Wyatt Sheets, 9-6
165 – Travis Wittlake (OS) maj dec Austin Yant, 14-5
174 – Bryce Steiert (UNI) maj dec Joe Smith, 13-2
184 – Taylor Lujan (UNI) dec Anthony Montalvo, 4-0
197 – Dakota Geer (OS) tech fall Noah Glaser, 19-4 (5:27)
285 – Carter Isley (UNI) dec Austin Harris, 5-2