FAYETTE — The Upper Iowa University wrestling team is coming off its best season in seven years, having finished fourth in the team standings and crowning a national champion at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships in March at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
The Peacocks graduate three seniors, including national champion and four-time All-American Josh Walker and All-American heavyweight Logan Hopp, a mainstay the last five years.
Upper Iowa topped it off with 13 Academic All-Americans and head coach Heath Grimm being honored as the NWCA Division II National Tournament Coach of the Year.
So just what will the Peacocks do for an encore? Well, the cupboard is far from bare with returning national runner-up Maleek Williams hungry to take that next step and bring home a national title of his own, along with national qualifiers Damian Penichet, Dalton Hahn and Nick Baumler and a talented freshman class eager to show its wares.
Add to that one of the top recruiting classes in the country and it is easy to see why Upper Iowa already is being considered one of the teams expected to be right in the hunt for an NCAA Division II national team championship come next March in Cleveland.
The Peacocks are set up for a run of success that should last for years to come.
Upper Iowa’s 2018 recruiting class includes five state champions, five other state placewinners and a two-time NJCAA All-American.
No position in the Peacocks’ starting lineup is secure, and the competition in the wrestling room promises to be as intense as ever with this talent-laden group ready to push the veterans to the limit.
The Upper Iowa recruiting class includes:
• Donny Schmit, a two-time state champion and three-time state finalists from Wapsie Valley High School; The Predicaments first team All Academic Team;
• Jordan Baumler, Nick’s brother, a state champion and two-time state finalist for North Fayette High School;
• Ryan Steffen, a state champion and four-time state place winner for Crestwood High School. He is also a USA Folkstyle Nationals All-American and an Iowa/USA state freestyle and Greco champion;
• Chance Throndson, a state champion and two-time state placewinner for Riceville High School who placed third at the Iowa/USA state freestyle and was the Greco runner-up;
• Phillip Ihde, a state placewinner and three-time state qualifier for Decorah High School who was the NEIC champion and finished sixth at the Freakshow in 2016;
• Dakota Henry, a state place winner and two-time state qualifier for Belle Plaine High School who was a three-time SICL champion;
• Tate Murty, state champion, state runner-up and four-time state placewinner for Cochrane-Fountain City High School in Wisconsin;
• Connor Manderfeld, a four-time state place winner, two-time regional champion and four-time district champion for Arlington Martin High School in Texas. He was also a Fargo All-American, a Cadet World Team Trials All-American and Mid-American Nationals champion;
• Daishaun Felton, a third-place finisher at the Florida state tournament for Miami Beach. He also went 7-0 at the 2017 Junior National Duals in freestyle and 5-2 in Greco, beating three-time Iowa state champion Bryce West, Penn recruit Doug Zapf, three-time Iowa state champion Kyle Biscoglia and two-time Minnesota state runner-up Jake Svihel;
• Mikaelle Fundora, a two-time state placewinner for South Dade High School in Florida;
• Justin Folley, a two-time NJCAA All-American for Ellsworth and state champion and runner-up for Wauwatosa High School in Wisconsin.
The start of the 2018-19 season is still five months away, but it can’t get here soon enough for Grimm and the Peacocks.