Upper Iowa looking for hardware at DII nationals

By Matt Levins for The Predicament

What could have been.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — While the seats in the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center will be mostly empty Friday and Saturday, the mats will be chock full of wrestlers with Iowa connections.

The NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but due to fears over the coronavirus, no fans will be allowed in the venue.

Seven wrestlers with Iowa connections will be in competition, looking to bring home hardware and earn a spot on the podium. That includes five wrestlers for Upper Iowa, which is looking to improve on last year’s 15th-place showing.

The Peacocks have a pair of wrestlers looking to move up on the podium after placing at least year’s tournament.

Leading the way for the Peacocks is senior Nick Balmier, who placed third at last year’s national tournament. He comes in ranked second and seeded second at 197 pounds and will open against Peter Abraham of Ashland.

Upper Iowa senior Justin Folley, who was seventh at 133 last year, comes in ranked third and seeded third at 133. He is scheduled to face Eric Bartos of Mercyhurst in the opening round.

Upper Iowa freshman Chase Luensman looks to cap of a fabulous season with a medal at 149. He comes in seeded fifth and ranked sixth and will wrestle Tyler Makosy of UNC-Pembroke.

Dalton Hahn, a junior for the Peacocks, will take on fourth-ranked and fourth-seeded Connor Craig of Pitt-Johnston in his opening match.

Upper Iowa senior Triston Westerlund, ranked eighth at 285, will face second-ranked and second-seeded Jared Campbell of Notre Dame.

Nebraska-Kearney junior Josh Portillo, a former Clarion-Goldfield-Dows standout, comes in seeded second and tanked seventh at 125 and will face Trenton McManus of Minnesota State in the first round. Portillo finished as the national runner-up at 125 last season.

Former Glenwood standout Matt Malcom, a junior at Nebraska-Kearney, was the 157-pound national champion last year. He comes into the tournament ranked second and seeded fourth at 165 and is looking to bring home another national championship.

While St. Cloud State is favored to win the team title again, the team race appears to be tight with McKendree, Pitt-Johnstown, Notre Dame (Ohio), Central Oklahoma and Nebraska-Kearney all in the mix for team trophies.