Upper Iowa Peacocks Open New Year at NWCA National Duals

By Howie Thompson, UIU Sports Information

his Weekend in Peacock Wrestling... The Peacock wrestling program will travel to Fort Wayne, Ind. to compete in their tenth straight NWCA National Duals this Thursday and Friday, Jan. 5-6. UIU is one of sixteen teams competing in the NCAA Division II bracket which features fifteen teams either ranked or receiving votes in the most recent NWCA Top 25 Poll. Upper Iowa, which is receiving votes in the latest poll, will line up against the #5 Rangers of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside at 9 a.m. ET on Thursday at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

Setting the Scene... The National Duals are a two-day annual tournament which features 16 teams each from NCAA Division II, 24 from Division III and 16 from NAIA, as well as 16 NJCAA teams and 15 NCWA teams.

Upper Iowa's Recent History at the Duals... Upper Iowa has placed in the top eight in eight of the last nine years at the National Duals. Upper Iowa claimed 8th place six years ago, improved to 7th place the next year, and then claimed 5th place four years ago. After a 1-2 record in 2011, the Peacocks returned in 2012 with their best-ever finish at the duals. Upper Iowa claimed third-place after dropping a tight match in the semis to St. Cloud State and then defeating Nebraska-Kearney. In 2013, the Peacocks placed sixth with a 3-2 record, and two years ago UIU posted a 3-1-1 record to place seventh. The tie in 2014 came in the quarterfinals against #4 Central Oklahoma and UIU moved the consolation side instead of the semifinals based on criteria in their match with the Bronchos. Two years ago, UIU upset the Mercyhurst Lakers and the McKendreee Bearcats on the first day, but lost to #1 Notre Dame and #7 St. Cloud State on Saturday afternoon to place fourth. Last season, the Peacocks placed fifth with a 4-1 record after defeating four ranked teams along the way including #14 Wheeling Jesuit (24-15), #18 Newberry (24-13), #12 Tiffin (29-15) and #3 Nebraska-Kearney (21-20) in an unreal finish in the fifth-place match. The lone loss for UIU came in the championship quarterfinals to the #1 Saints of Maryville University (33-10).

Competing in the Division II Bracket... Twelve teams competing for the NWCA National Duals Title are ranked in the latest top 25 poll and three more are receiving votes including #1 St. Cloud State, #2 Notre Dame, #3 Maryville, #4 Nebraska-Kearney, #5 Wisconsin-Parkside, #6 Mercyhurst, #8-t Findlay, #8-t Pittscburgh-Johnstown, #8-t McKendree, #14 Tiffin, #17 Newberry, #21 Colorado State-Pueblo, Upper Iowa (RV), Indianapolis (RV) and Wheeling Jesuit (RV). The only team not currently listed on the top 25 poll is San Francisco State.

UIU in Duals this season... The Peacocks are 3-0 in duals this year after defeating Truman State (38-3), the U-Mary (36-9) and Minot State (42-3). UIU wrestlers are 26-4 in the 30 matches during those duals with 16 bonus-point wins including 9 wins by fall, 4 by tech fall and 3 by major decision.

Peacocks in the Rankings... Upper Iowa is ranked fourth in the region in the latest release from D2Wrestle.com. The teams boasts nine wrestlers in the top eight of the ten weight classes including Maleek Williams (125, 7th), Lincoln Monroe (133, 8th), Jordan Roths (141, 4th), Damian Penichet (149, 3rd), Zak Benitz (157, 6th), Colbey Vance (165, 3rd), Dalton Westerlund (174, 4th), Ryan Parmely (197, 6th) and Logan Hopp (285, 3rd). Two Peacocks are listed among the nation's best grapplers in the latest rankings published by D2Wrestle.com. Penichet (149) is ranked twelfth with a 13-5 record, while Hopp (285) is ranked seventh with an 11-2 mark.

Getting to know the Rangers... On the heels of capturing the team title at the Midwest Classic, the Wisconsin-Parkside wrestling team is ranked fifth in the nation. Five Rangers are ranked individually led by Nick Becker who is the top ranked wrestler at 174 pounds. Becker, who is 5-0 on the season, won the 174-pound title at the Midwest Classic in his first action of the season. Montrail Johnson, who also made his first appearance of the year at the Midwest Classic, is 5-0 on the season and ranked second nationally at 184 pounds. Ronzel Darling, James Lehman and Brett Scoles are also ranked for the Rangers. Darling, who is 16-3 on the season, is ranked third in the nation at 125 pounds. Lehman, who has posted a 20-2 record this season, is ranked sixth in the nation at 197 pounds, while Scoles has posted a 14-5 record on his way to being ranked 12th at 157 pounds.

Who's Up Next... Depending on the outcome of the Upper Iowa - #5 Wisconsin-Parkside dual, the Peacocks will line up against either the winner or loser of the #4 Nebraska-Kearney - #14 Tiffin dual on Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.

2017 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals Schedule...
Thursday, January 5
8:00 am - Doors Open for Fans
9:00 am - Wrestling Starts
7:00 pm - Wrestling Ends

Friday, January 6
8:15 am - Doors Open for Spectators
9:00 am - Wrestling Starts
1:00 pm - Finals

Tickets... All-session adult tickets are $40, while student tickets are $30. Single-day tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. Action begins at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 5 with the final round set for 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 6.