Drew Foster felt right at home — finally.
After 10 months of training, vigorous workouts and strict dieting, Foster was back on the wrestling mat Saturday and Sunday for the U.S. Senior Nationals at the new Xtream Arena in Coralville.
Foster, a graduate of Mediapolis High School and a 2019 NCAA Division I national champion for the University of Northern Iowa, finished fourth at 86 kilograms, going 3-2 for the weekend.
While Foster did not get what he was aiming for, he saw marked improvement in his freestyle wrestling and, after 10 months of working, waiting and wondering, it was nice just to get back on the wrestling mat in competition.
"It was good. It was progress," Foster said. "It was actual competition for the first time since last December. How I wrestled this week was a lot better than I I wrestled back then. So it's progress. It was good to see."
Foster opened the tournament with a 7-1 victory over Hunter Bolen of Virginia, then needed just 1 minute, 42 seconds to post a 12-0 win over Taylor Venz of Nebraska.
In the quarterfinals, Foster needed just 2:04 to roll to an 11-0 win over Andrew Morgan of North Carolina.
In the semifinals, Foster dropped a 7-4 decision to Nate Jackson, the top seed from Indiana.
Foster ended the tournament with a 7-4 loss to Trent Hidlay of North Carolina.
The competition gave Foster an idea of where he stands with the best at his weight class in the United States and ares where he still needs to work.
"In a couple matches I lost focus," Foster said. "In my two losses I lost focus. If I could have kept my focus a little longer I could have worked through some situations and won the match. It's something to work on and improve on. I am just excited to be back in competition again."
While the 10 months away from competition was not ideal, it did allow Foster to work on the subtle differences between folkstyle and freestyle. This past weekend showed him he is making great inroads in that area.
"A lot of it is carryover, but some of it you can't really comprehend until you go out and actually compete," Foster said. "In 2019 I did the Beat the Streets, the Trials and the U.S. Open. With those came progress. It's just little things here and there that you are not really aware of in practice. You just need mat time to make those little adjustments. There is still room for improvement, but I am making jumps with every competition."
Foster, who has been training with fellow UNI graduate Taylor Lujan for the Panther Wrestling Club, will do some light workouts later this week, then ramp up training for the FloWrestling 195-pound 8-Man Tournament Pct. 31 in Austin, Texas, which has a $20,000 payout to the winner.
That field will also include Dean, Jackson, Sammy Brooks, Myles Martin, Lujan, Keith Gavin and Shakur Rasheed.
"I felt good. I did two-a-day workouts with (UNI coach Doug) Schwab and (Tolly) Thompson and I got in the weight room and my recovery days," Foster said. "I have been going in and working out with the rest of the Panther Wrestling Club and helping the UNI guys in the room when I can. It's exciting to be able to make these jumps with Lujan."