photo courtesy of UIU athletics
The lone NCAA Division II program in the great wrestling state of Iowa, the Upper Iowa Peacocks have been NCAA Division II members since 2006. Prior to the jump to Division II, the Peacocks spent 28 years as an NCAA Division III program, and were an NAIA institution in their early days, with the program wrestling its first year in 1958. Heath Grimm currently leads the Upper Iowa team, and just completed his 20th year as head coach of the Peacocks in 2019-20.
“We’re extremely proud of our wrestling program’s previous successes, but never in my 20 years at UIU have I been more excited about where our program is headed,” Grimm said “We’ve brought home NCAA team trophies, crowned NCAA champions, increased our streak of placing at the NWCA national dual meet championships to 9 years in a row and 12 times in the past 13 seasons, and have seen over 100 individuals named to NWCA Scholar Academic teams. However, with the recruitment of some outstanding classes lately, we’re thinking at a higher level and eager to raise the bar.”
A season ago, Upper Iowa sent five to the 2020 NCAA Division II National Championships, with four of those qualifiers earning NWCA All-American honors. Nick Baumler and Justin Folley led the group as veterans, with Baumler earning the two-seed at 197 after taking third in 2019 and seventh in 2017. Folly was the three-seed at 133, and also a returning placer from 2019 after being a two-time junior college All-American prior to coming to Upper Iowa. True freshman Chase Luensman (5th, 149) and Triston Westerlund (9th, 285) rounded out the 2020 Peacock All-Americans.
Five National Champions have come out of the Upper Iowa room in their 15 years in NCAA Division II, with the last coming in the form of Josh Walker at 133 in 2018 as the Peacocks hosted the NCAA Wrestling Championships that year. Trevor Franklin won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012 at 125 and 133, with Travis Eggers (165, 2010) and Ryan Phillips (197, 2007) rounding out the Peacock champs, who all came with Grimm at the head of the program.
Luensman anchors a lineup that returns seven starters for Grimm, and will also feature two-time National Qualifier Dalton Hahn back at 184, and 2019 National Qualifier Brock Benitz back at 157. With the addition of this fall’s incoming recruiting class, Upper Iowa will look to field a roster of just less than 40 for the 2020-21 season.