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UNI crowns 2 Midlands champs, earns highest team finish ever

Josh Alber celebrates after winning a Midlands title at 141 pounds (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- For the first time in UNI wrestling history, the Panthers crowned two champions and earned the highest team finish since competing at the Midlands Championships.

Josh Alber and Drew Foster led the team to second place and lived up to their top seeds to become UNI's seventh and eighth Midlands champions at the 56th annual tournament today.

After a scoreless first period in the 141-pound match, Alber earned an escape in the second and notched two takedowns in the final period to beat Iowa's No. 2 seed Max Murin, 5-2.

Foster plowed his way through the 184-pound weight class with a fall, a tech fall and two major decisions before edging out Iowa's Cash Wilcke in the finals, 3-2.

Four Panthers competed for a title, the most of any UNI team in program history. In 1992, UNI had two finalists who finished second. This is the first time UNI has crowned two champions.

Max Thomsen and Taylor Lujan finished second at 149 pounds and 174 pounds, respectively. Thomsen toppled No. 2 seed Alec Pantaleo of Michigan, 7-4. However, he wasn't able to beat top-seeded Matthew Kolodzik of Princeton, who was third at last year's national championships. Thomsen lost by decision, 3-1.

Lujan got on the board early with a takedown against the reigning NCAA champion and the No. 1 seed Zahid Valencia of Arizona State. However, he fell by major decision, 17-7. Lujan ended the tournament with three falls, including two in the first period.

Bryce Steiert was seeded fourth and racked up bonus points all weekend at 165 pounds. All of his wins were by major decision, tech fall or fall. The single riding time point in the bronze medal match left Steiert with a fourth-place finish.

Michael Blockhus also finished fourth wrestling unattached at 141 pounds. The true freshman opened the tournament with a 15-3 major decision win over No. 6 seed Mike Vanbrill of Rutgers. He fell 8-1 to the No. 5 seed Yahya Thomas of Northwestern to take fourth.

Kyle Biscoglia beat three-time NCAA qualifier Elijah Oliver of Indiana in a 3-1 decision for the seventh-place medal at 125 pounds.

TEAM SCORING
Bonus points helped UNI surge ahead in team scoring finish second to Iowa. Every Panther competing for a medal earned bonus points for the team.

The Panthers improved on their fifth-place finishes from 2013 and 1974:

Standings:
1. Iowa 184
2. UNI 119.5
3. Northwestern 110
4. Wisconsin 976.5
5. Princeton 92.5
6. Arizona State 83
7. Fresno State 69.5
8. Army 68
9. Illinois 65
10. Campbell 57.5

NEXT UP
UNI will face South Dakota State in Brookings, South Dakota, Jan. 11. The Panthers follow it up with a dual against Nebraska on the road.

UNI returns home to host Air Force 2 p.m. Jan. 20.

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