CEDAR RAPIDS — Upper Iowa University head wrestling coach Heath Grimm was all smiles — well, almost — after the opening session of the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships on Friday afternoon at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Grimm had plenty of reason to smile after his wrestlers went 4-2 in the opening round, putting the Peacocks in second place in the team standings with eight points, five points behind leader Notre Dame heading into the second session on Friday night.
The Peacock got off to a rousing start, winning their first three matches to jump to the top of the team race.
Maleek Williams got the Peacocks out of the gate fast, scoring three takedowns, a reversal and two near-fall points in the first period on his way to a 20-8 major decision over eighth-ranked Blake Glogouski of Lake Erie at 125 pounds.
Seventh-ranked Williams (28-9) will face ninth-ranked Vincent Distefanis (21-8) of Seton Hill in the quarterfinals. Distefanis pulled out a 7-5 sudden victory over Darek Huff of Adams State in the first round.
Josh Walker kept the Peacocks rolling at 133 when he stuck Noah Au-Yeung of Colorado School of Mines in 1 minute, 20 seconds to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Walker will face sixth-ranked Kelan McKenna (18-7) of Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.
Damian Penichet made it 3-0 for Upper Iowa, turning ninth-ranked Josh Wimer of Findlay for four near-fall points in the second period on his way to a 12-2 major decision at 149 to rack up more bonus points.
Eighth-ranked Penichet (27-10) will face second-ranked Taylor Misuna (25-1) of Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.
Nick Baumler gave the Peacocks a fourth quarterfinals, holding on for a 3-1 win over Jake Temple of Seton Hill at 197.
Ninth-ranked Baumler (31-9) will take on second-ranked Luke Cramer (22-1) of Ashland tonight.
Not all went the Peacocks’ way. Dalton Hahn lost a 9-1 major decision to top-ranked JaVaughn Perkins of Colorado State-Pueblo in his opening bout at 184 and will face 10th-ranked Tony Vezzetti (15-6) of Notre Dame in a first-round consolation match tonight.
Upper Iowa heavyweight Logan Hopp, who has battled injuries the last two years, lost an 8-4 decision to second-ranked Dylan Faulkenber of Indianapolis in his first match at 285. Tenth-ranked Hopp (11-4) will face seventh-ranked Damon Sims, Jr. (15-8) of Pittsburgh-Johnstown in the consolation bracket.
Four other wrestlers with Iowa ties went a combined 2-2 in the opening round.
Josh Portillo of Nebraska-Kearney, a graduate of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows High School, needed just 2:54 to tilt and pin Eric Bartos of Mercyhurst in his first match at 125.
Sixth-ranked Portillo (11-5) will face third-ranked Brett Velasquez (27-2) of St. Cloud State in the quarterfinals.
Glenwood native Matt Malcom, a freshman at Nebraska-Kearney, dropped an 8-3 decision to ninth-ranked Cortez Arrendondo of Southwest Minnesota State in his opening match at 157. Eleventh-ranked Malcom (17-6) will face Heath Lange (17-9) of Indianapolis in the first round of consolations.
Zach Johnston, a graduate of ADM High School, beat Nathan Vandermeer of Findlay, 9-3, in the opening round at 174. Johnston (22-6), who wrestles for Minnesota State, will take on second-ranked Nolan Kistler (24-3) of California Baptist in the quarterfinals.
Minnesota State’s Corey Abernathy, a graduate of Waverly-Shell Rock High School, dropped an 8-5 decision to third-ranked Nick Flegener of California Baptist in the opening round at 184. Seventh-ranked Abernathy (19-6) will face Aidan Pasiuk (23-8) of Wheeling Jesuit in the consolation bracket.