Seniors end on a high note at UNI

Zac Reicks

Buoyed by the strength of their four senior starters, the ISU wrestling team defeated the UNI Panthers in Sunday’s dual meet by a score of 25-12.

Billy Maldonado (149), Joe Heskett (165), Cael Sanderson (197), and Mark Knauer (HWT) were all wrestling in their final regular season matches for the Cyclones and went out in fine fashion with four solid wins.

“Billy, Mark and Joe have been doing an awesome job,” Sanderson said. “Four guys like us, if we can wrestle well, we will have a good chance to do well at the Big 12s and national tournament.”

Head coach Bobby Douglas realized that this was a match that would go a long way in telling how far his team had progressed during the season and what problems would need to be rectified before the Big 12 tournament.

“It was a close match overall,” Douglas said. “There were several matches that could have gone either way. We have a lot of work to do, but we have a lot of time to do it.”

Sanderson scored a 23-7 technical fall over 11th-ranked Jason Payne, improving to 33-0 on the season.

The nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 197 pounds, Sanderson now sets his sights on his fourth national championship starting with the Big 12 tournament in two weeks.

“It’s difficult preparing for the Big 12s, because you have wrestled guys two or three times during the season,” he said. “Usually it comes down to who is smarter. Little mistakes can really hurt you.”

Knauer followed up Sanderson’s win by avenging an earlier 4-3 loss to UNI’s Paul Hynek. Knauer toughed out a gritty 3-1 win which gave Iowa State an 8-6 lead after four matches.

The senior heavyweight used a takedown with only 10 seconds remaining to secure the win.

After a loss by 125-pounder Ty Malia, Zach Roberson extended Iowa State’s lead to 13-9 with a dominating 25-10 technical fall over Northern Iowa’s Mark Manchio.

Iowa State clinched the win with three straight wins by Maldonado, Matt Veach and Heskett. Focus now turns to the Big 12 tournament in Norman, Okla. on, March 9, and the Cyclones goal of qualifying as many team members as possible for the national tournament.

“Everyone realizes the Big 12s and Nationals are right around the corner,” Sanderson said. “Preparation-wise, we are there. We just have to put the finishing touches on.”

Iowa State finished the dual meet season with a 17-5 record while Northern Iowa ended with a 7-8 record.