UNI Wrestling Coach Don Briggs - 1983-1997

1983 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Keith Mourlam
  • Jim Miller

Team Captains:

  • Bob Hallman (118)
  • Larry Luttrell (150)
  • Efonda Sproles (177) 

Season Record: 17-3

In Briggs's first season as Head Coach, UNI tied Oklahoma for second at the Midwest Wrestling Championships, placed second behind Louisiana State in the West Regional Tournament, and placed tenth at the NCAA national tournament.

The first Midwest Wrestling Championships were held December 29-30, 1982, at Iowa State University.  The only UNI wrestler to win a title was Efonda Sproles at 177.  Randy Majors (126) and Scott Morningstar (142) each placed second.

UNI Sports Information stated in a January 24 release that six Panther wrestlers were ranked in Amateur Wrestling News's Mid-Season Top 20 ranking:  Bob Hallman was ranked thirteenth at 118, Randy Majors ninth at 126, Larry Luttrell twelfth at 150, Jay Llewellyn sixth at 167, Efonda Sproles seventh at 177, and John Kriebs twelfth at heavyweight.

Scott Morningstar
Scott Morningstar.

UNI hosted the NCAA Western Regional February 26-27, 1983, in the West Gym.  Seven wrestlers earned their eligibility to compete at the 1983 National Championships:  Bob Hallman (118), Randy Majors (126), Larry Luttrell (150), Jay Llewellyn (167), Efonda Sproles (177), Mark Johnson (190), and John Kriebs (hwt).  Kriebs placed first in his division at the tournament to secure his spot, while Majors, Johnson, and Sproles placed second.  Hallman and Llewellyn both placed third.  As a team, UNI placed second behind Louisiana State University.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, hosted the NCAA Championships March 10-12.  Two UNI wrestlers earned All-American status by placing at the tournament.  Randy Majors placed third at 126, ending his strong career with a record 50 wins and only 15 losses.  His teammate John Kriebs placed fifth at heavyweight.  Efonda Sproles was defeated in the consolation round, ending his chances of becoming an All-American that season.  Although this was Briggs's first season as coach, the Panthers placed tenth at the tournament.  The 1983 season ended with a 17-3 team record.  The Panthers lost only to the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Nebraska.


1984 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Keith Mourlam
  • Jim Miller

Season Record:  12-6

Five seniors returned this season to do battle for the UNI Panthers:  Bob Hallman (118), Dave Morkel (134), Dion Cobb (167), Jay Llewellyn (167), and John Kriebs (hwt).

The Midwest Championships were held at Ames, Iowa, December 29-30, 1983.  The competition was strong, as three of the top four schools participated.  UNI placed second, behind Oklahoma State, and Iowa State placed third. Randy Thompson defeated Illinois wrestler Jeff Fiornini for the 177 championship.  Other place winners were Lew Sondgeroth (142) and John Kriebs (hwt) at second, and Bob Hallman (118) and Jay Llewellyn at third.

A win over rival Iowa State University topped the 1984 season.  UNI beat ISU 21-17 on January 28.  This was the first victory over ISU coach Harold Nichols, and also the first dual victory over the school in thirty-two years.  A record 5753 fans piled into the dome to watch this momentous meet.

Bob HallmanUNI placed second at the West Regional tournament held in Cedar Falls that year.  Bob Hallman (shown to the right), John Kriebs, and Jeff Weatherman all placed first in their classes and qualified for the NCAA Championships.  Paul Kreimeyer and Dave Grant placed second and Jay Llewellyn third to secure their spots at the national tournament as well.

The 1984 NCAA Championships were held at East Rutherford, New Jersey, March 8-10.  Although John Kriebs was ranked second in the nation at heavyweight coming into the tournament, he left the meet sixth in his class.  Other wrestlers who placed at the meet were Bob Hallman, second at 118, and Dave Grant, eighth at 158.


1985 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • John Kriebs
  • Jim Miller

Season Record: 9-8

The Midwest Wrestling Championships were held December 29-30 at Ames, Iowa.  UNI placed sixth out of twenty-nine teams and had two champions.  Paul Kreimeyer and Lew Sondgeroth both placed first at 118 and 142 respectively.  Perry Summitt placed fourth at 118.

UNI had another second place finish in the West Regional tournament in 1985.  First place finishers were Paul Kreimeyer at 118 and Lew Sondgeroth at 142.  Jeff Weatherman (190) and Pat Pickford (126) both placed second, while Scott Morningstar (150) and Dave Grant (167) placed third.

All six wrestlers competed at the NCAA meet in Oklahoma City that spring, but only two earned All-American status.  Paul Kreimeyer placed sixth in his class and Lew Sondgeroth placed fifth.  As a team, UNI placed eighteenth.

In post-season wrestling, Kurt Shedenhelm (149.5) and Tony Koontz (hwt) won their divisions at the National Espoir Freestyle Tournament in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.  This meet featured wrestlers under twenty years of age.  Freshman wrestler Jeff Clutter was also named to the Amateur Wrestling News National Freshman All-Star Team in April.

1986 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • John Kriebs
  • Jim Miller

Season Record: 12-8

At the Midwest Championships, UNI placed third out of twenty-seven teams and had three wrestlers place in the top three.  Pat Pickford (126), Jeff Weatherman (177), and Mike Llewellyn (190) all placed second in their divisions.

UNI won the West Regional Tournament this season, sending ten wrestlers to the national meet.  The tournament was held February 28-March 1 at Springfield, Missouri.  First place wins from Tony Koontz, Mark Schwab, Pat Pickford, and Jeff Weatherman helped boost UNI to victory over second place winner Drake University.  Second place winners were Marty Anderson (134), Kurt Shedenhelm (142), Dan Majewski (150), Jeff Clutter (158), and Joel Greenlee (190).  Kevin Kahl placed third at 167.  UNI was one of only three schools to have qualified wrestlers at all ten weight classes for the national tournament.  The other schools were Iowa State University and Oklahoma State.

Mark SchwabThe NCAA tournament was held at Iowa City, Iowa, March 13-15.  UNI finished seventeenth overall and had two All-Americans, freshman Mark Schwab (see photo to the left) placed fifth at 118 pounds and sophomore Jeff Clutter was eighth at 158.  Marty Anderson (134), Kurt Shedenhelm (142), Kevin Kahl (167), and Tony Koontz (hwt) all lost their matches in the first round of wrestling.  Joel Greenlee (190), Pat Pickford (126), Jeff Weatherman (177), and Dan Majewski (150) all made it to the consolation bracket but did not place.

This was a successful season for Mark Schwab.  He earned the record for the most victories in a single season for a freshman with his final 49-9 mark.

Four UNI wrestlers were named to the Amateur Wrestling News Freshman National All-Star Team:  Mark Schwab, Joel Greenlee, Tony Koontz, and Kevin Kahl.  Schwab and Koontz were named to the second team, Greenlee the third team, and Kahl the sixth team.

1987 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • John Kriebs
  • Jim Miller

Season Record:18-6

The 1987 team consisted of twenty freshmen, ten sophomores, seven juniors, and four seniors.  Fourteen members were returning letterwinners.

The Midwest Championships were held December 28-29 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  UNI placed second overall out of thirty-nine teams and had three wrestlers place in the top three.  Mike Schwab (126) and Jeff Weatherman (hwt) placed first in their divisions, while Joe Gribben placed second at 134.

For the second consecutive year, UNI won the West Regional tournament.  Seven wrestlers qualified for the NCAA, including six champions: Mike Schwab (126), Joe Gribben (134), Kurt Shedenhelm (142), Pat Hogan (150), Jeff Weatherman (190), and Joel Greenlee (hwt).  Keith Massey also became eligible for the national competition.

Joe Gribben
Joe Gribben (right) holding his opponent.

As a team, UNI finished thirteenth at the NCAA Championships March 19-21.  Mike Schwab finished eighth at 126 and Jeff Weatherman placed fifth at 190 to take home All-American honors.  Briggs received another honor by being chosen president of the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

The strong wrestling talents of Mark Schwab and Tony Koontz were visibly missing from the 1987 season.  Schwab had chosen to redshirt that season so he could wrestle overseas.  He was one of fifteen U. S. wrestlers who competed at the Tbilisi Tournament in the Soviet Republic of Georgia in January.  To qualify for the meet, he won first place at the Hall of Fame Classic meet in Oklahoma City the previous November.  He was the first person to qualify for the meet since Mike McCready in 1973.  Although his record was a close 5-4 at the tournament, this experience helped him prepare for Olympic wrestling.

When Tony Koontz was beaten out of his starting spot at heavyweight by Joel Greenlee, he began concentrating on freestyle wrestling.  He competed on the American All-Star team at the Cuba-Cerro La Cuada Tournament in February 1987.  There he placed second in his class.  Koontz had qualified for this tournament by placing third at the same Hall of Fame Classic meet.

1988 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • John Kriebs
  • Jim Miller

Season Record: 14-3

Mid-season, Mark Schwab (118) and Joel Greenlee (hwt) wrestled in the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Wrestling Classic.  This event matched wrestlers from across the nation, who were ranked first and second by Amateur Wrestling News.  Schwab was defeated by Jack Cuvo of Pennsylvania at the meet, and Greenlee received a 4-4 draw with his opponent.

WrestlerUNI again won the West Regional title, although this time with six champions.  Mike Schwab (126), Kurt Shedenhelm(142), Pat Hogan (150), Chris Lembeck (158), Keith Massey (167), and Joel Greenlee (hwt) all placed first.  All six of those wrestlers, and third place winner Doug Downs (177), were able to wrestle at the national meet.  The other UNI wrestler to place was Paul Huffman (118).  He did not qualify for the national meet.

The NCAA meet was held March 17-19 at Ames, Iowa.  There, Joel Greenlee placed fourth and Chris Lembeck, shown here in his wrestling stance, placed fifth.  They were UNI's only two All-Americans that year.  As a team, UNI placed thirteenth.


1989 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Keith Mourlam
  • Jim Miller

Season Record: 12-6

Heavyweight Joel Greenlee began his senior year in wrestling by competing at the International Canadian Tournament.  There he placed an impressive third in his class.  Coming into the 1989 season, he held an 83-14-4 record.

In late December, the team brought home a third place finish at the Midwest Championships in Des Moines.  At the West Regional tournament, UNI again won first place, sending seven to the national tournament.

Wrestlers Qualifying for National Tournament

Mark Schwab - 118
Duane Martin - 126
Gary Steffensmeier - 142
Pat Hogan - 150
Chris Lembeck - 158
Rich Powers - 177
Joel Greenlee - hwt (named Outstanding Wrestler)

At the NCAA Championships, UNI finished fourteenth, with only one wrestler placing in the top eight.  Joel Greenlee became a two-time All-American by placing second in his class.  This was the highest any UNI wrestler had placed since 1984, when Bob Hallman placed second at 118.

In June, UNI Assistant Coach Jim Miller was named National Wrestling Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year.

1990 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Jim Miller
  • Joel Greenlee

Team Captains:

  • Pat Hamilton (134)
  • Todd Lappe (167)
  • Rich Powers (177) 
  • Mark Schwab (118)

Season Record:  17-3

Joel GreenleeAs the school year opened, athletic officials announced that former UNI wrestler Joel Greenlee, shown to the right, would step in as Assistant Coach.  He replaced another former wrestler, John Kriebs, who left to coach at Southwest Missouri State University after working at UNI for five years.

Ten lettermen returned for the 1990 season, including five seniors, two juniors, and three sophomores.  Of these wrestlers, Mark Schwab, Duaine Martin, Gary Steffensmeier, and Rich Powers were all West Regional champions from the previous season.

The Midwest Championships were held December 29 in Des Moines, Iowa.  Top winners at the meet were Rich Powers, Mark Schwab, Duaine Martin, and Gary Steffensmeier.  Powers placed first at 177, while Schwab (118) and Martin (126) both placed second, and Steffensmeier (150) third.

The West Regional Championship was held in Charleston, Illinois, on March 10.  Seven wrestlers qualified for the national tournament, helping UNI claim their fifth consecutive West Regional title:

Mark Schwab - 1st at 118 (named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament)
Duaine Martin - 1st at 126
Steve Hartle - 3rd at 142
Gary Steffensmeier - 1st at 150
Jamie Byrne - 1st at 158
Greg White - 2nd at 167
Rich Powers - 1st at 177

At the national tournament in Maryland, UNI placed eleventh and had four All-Americans:  Gary Steffensmeier-2nd, Rich Powers-5th, Mark Schwab-6th, and Duaine Martin-8th.  This was the most All-Americans UNI had had since 1981.

At the April 8 post-season banquet, the following wrestlers received awards:

Mark Schwab and Gary Steffensmeier -- Most Valuable Player
Greg White -- Most Improved Wrestler
Mark Schwab -- Most Courageous Wrestler
Rich Powers -- Fall Award for the leading number of falls
Paul Huffman and Pat Hamilton -- Coaches' Award for exceptional contributions to the team

Mark PustelnikTwo wrestlers competed outside the regular season that year.  In February, Assistant Coach Joel Greenlee wrestled in Russia as part of the USA Wrestling Team.  His record there was 3-3.  Mark Pustelnik (shown to the left) won first place at 125 pounds at the National Open Greco-Roman Tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, in April.  Then in June, he won the silver medal at the Pan-American Games at 125.5 pounds.  The event was held in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  By July, he was ranked second in the country in Greco-Roman wrestling, after placing second in the world team trials.  In 1985 and 1986, Pustelnik was also the Junior National Champion.


1991 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Jim Miller
  • Joel Greenlee

Team Captains:

  • Mark Pustelnik (126)
  • Gary Steffensmeier (150)
  • Rich Powers (177) 

Season Record:  16-5

In pre-season rankings, UNI was eleventh in the nation and had four wrestlers in the top twenty.  Gary Steffensmeier was ranked first at 150 pounds.  Rich Powers was fourth at 177, while his teammates Steve Hartle and Jamie Byrne were seventeenth and twelfth.

The Midwest Championships were held December 29 in Des Moines, Iowa.  Five UNI wrestlers placed in the top three in their divisions:  Steve Hartle (142) and Dave Malecek (190) placed first, Jamie Byrne (158) and Cory Manning (167) placed second, and Curt Bennethum placed third at 158.  Other wrestlers who placed at the meet were Scott Hassel fourth at 134, Greg Berg seventh at heavyweight, and Brian Benning eighth at 190.

Rich PowersUNI again won the West Regional in Normal, Illinois, with six first place and two second place finishers.  The top winners were Burke Tyree, Mark Pustelnik, Steve Hartle, Gary Steffensmeier, Rich Powers, and Dave Malecek.  Second place wrestlers were Scott Hassel and Curt Bennethum.  All first place winners were eligible to compete at the national tournament.  Hassel and Bennethum were also able to wrestle at Nationals as wild card choices.  To top off the meet, Briggs was chosen West Regional Coach of the Year and Rich Powers (shown to the right) was named Outstanding Wrestler.  UNI won the meet with a final score of 113.5, with second place Notre Dame finishing a distant 65.5.

At the NCAA tournament in March, three wrestlers were named All-Americans:  Steve Hartle placed seventh at 142, Gary Steffensmeier was fourth at 150, and Rich Powers was fourth at 177.  Although UNI was picked to finish sixth at the tournament, and was ranked eighth coming in, they placed eleventh overall.  In the final Amateur Wrestling News ranking, UNI was fifth behind Iowa, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Arizona State.

Three UNI wrestlers were recognized for their scholastic abilities in April.  Gary Steffensmeier was named to the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Academic First Team.  Jamie Byrne and Cory Manning both received honorable mention to the team.

At the annual post-season banquet, held April 27, several UNI wrestlers received awards:

Rich Powers -- Most Valuable Player
Steve Hartle -- Most Improved Wrestler
Burke Tyree -- Most Courageous Wrestler

Although Mark Pustelnik graduated from UNI in May 1991, he still kept on winning.  He competed at the National Sports Festival-Greco Roman Competition in Los Angeles in July, and won a gold medal in the 136.5 weight division.

UNI lost an assistant coach of eight years after the 1991 season. Jim Miller resigned from UNI to coach wrestling at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.

1992 Season

Assistant Coach:

  •  Joel Greenlee

Season Record:  11-4

On September 23, 1991, UNI announced an internal investigation into its wrestling program.  Several recruiting violations were uncovered and penalties were imposed.  Two penalties directly affected the wrestling program:  Coach Briggs was restricted from recruiting off campus for two years; and no new wrestling scholarships could be given for the 1992-1993 season.

In pre-season rankings, Amateur Wrestling News had UNI sixth, with the University of Iowa leading the nation and Iowa State University fifth.  Three returning All-Americans and eight NCAA qualifiers led the team that season, including top wrestlers Rich Powers, Gary Steffensmeier, and Steve Hartle.

UNI hosted the NCAA West Regional wrestling meet March 7, 1992.  UNI defeated the other seven teams to take home their seventh consecutive West Regional title.  Nine wrestlers qualified for the National Championships, six of them champions.

UNI's six West Regional champions:

Brad Bruhl (118)
Scott Hassel (134)
Gary Steffensmeier (150)
Jamie Byrne (158)
Rich Powers (177)
Dave Malecek (190)

Andy ShowalterThis meet was a milestone for three champions.  With their wins, Steffensmeier and Powers both had accumulated their fourth regional championship, and Dave Malecek claimed this win as his second.  All of the above wrestlers went on to the national tournament, including wild card choices Andy Showalter (shown to the right), Steve Hartle, and Justin Greenlee.

This meet also marked the seventh consecutive year that Coach Briggs was named West Regional Coach of the Year.  Wrestler Rich Powers was named Outstanding Wrestler for the second year as well.

Gary SteffensmeierAt the national tournament in Oklahoma City, Gary Steffensmeier placed fourth at 150 and Rich Powers fifth at 177.  As a team, UNI placed tenth.

Several UNI wrestlers received special honors or competed in special events that season.  Rich Powers was selected to compete at the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic in January.  In April, Mark Pustelnik continued his excellent wrestling when he tried out for a spot on the US Olympic team. After the National Championships, Gary Steffensmeier was named to the GTE Academic All-America Third Team for his accomplishments off the mat.

On the coaching side, Tim Krieger was named Assistant Coach for the Panthers for the following year.  He was an outstanding wrestler for Iowa State University, winning two NCAA championships at 150.

1993 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Joel Greenlee
  • Tim Krieger 

Team Captains:

  • Brad Bruhl (118)
  • Scott Hassel (134)
  • Steve Hartle (142) 

Season Record:  10-7

The 1993 Panther wrestling team was one of the most experienced teams to hit the mat for some years.  Although the team lost top wrestlers Gary Steffensmeier and Rich Powers, thirteen lettermen returned for the season.  The team had eight seniors, nine juniors, and four sophomores.  In pre-season rankings, UNI was eleventh in the nation and had seven wrestlers in the top 20.

On March 6, UNI won their eighth West Regional Championship title with seven individual champions and one second place winner.  All eight traveled to the NCAA tournament later that month.

Steve HartleFirst place winners included:  Brad Bruhl (118), Andy Showalter (126), Scott Hassel (134), Steve Hartle (150) (shown to the left), Jamie Byrne (158), Dave Malecek (190), and Justin Greenlee (hwt).  The second place winner was Nate Hartle (142).  Briggs again received West Regional Coach of the Year honors at this meet.

At the national tournament, UNI placed a disappointing twenty-second.  Two wrestlers did earn All-American status, however.  Steve Hartle (150) and Justin Greenlee (hwt) both placed eighth in their divisions.  The wrestlers at 118, 126, 134, and 142 were all knocked out of the running in the first round.  Jamie Byrne won three matches at 158 but lost two, including one in the consolation round.  Dave Malecek won two and lost two matches at 190.

Curt Bennethum
Junior Curt Bennethum wrestling at 167.

1994 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Joel Greenlee
  • Chris Bollin

Team Captains:

  • Justin Greenlee (hwt)
  • Dave Malecek (190)
  • Andy Showalter (126)
  • Nate Hartle (142) 

Season Record:  5-7

The 1994 season began with another change in the coaching staff.  Chris Bollin was hired as Assistant Coach to replace one year coach Tim Krieger.  Bollin was a University of Oklahoma All-American and was still second in freestyle at that time.

Six lettermen returned for the 1994 season.  In addition to the four captains named above, Doug Kjeldgaard and Jason Wedgbury also added their experience to the team.  Three of the lettermen were NCAA qualifiers and one, Justin Greenlee, an All-American.  The team roster for the year listed eighteen freshmen, seven sophomores, eight juniors, and five seniors in all.

In October, the wrestling team and University received a great honor when athletic officials announced that the NCAA Championship tournament would be held in the UNI Dome in 1997.  Championship meets have been held at UNI five times over the years.  In 1950, the Division I meet, which UNI won, was held in the West Gymnasium.  Division II Championship meets were held at UNI in 1963, 1964, 1977, and 1978.  UNI also won the tournament in 1978.

One of the highlights of this season was the 18-16 win over Iowa State University on January 14.  At that time, UNI had won only thirteen meets with ISU since the schools started competing against each other in 1924.  Eleven of those wins fell between the 1940 and 1952 seasons.  The last meet UNI won with Iowa State was in 1988.

Justin Greenlee
Justin Greenlee wrestling an Iowa State opponent.

Six wrestlers qualified for the National Championships at the West Regional tournament March 6.  Scott Murray (118), Andy Showalter (134), Dave Malecek (177), and Justin Greenlee (hwt) all placed first in their divisions.  Wild card choices Tim Novak (142), who placed third, and second place winner Doug Kjeldgaard (150) also competed at the National Championships.  This meet marked UNI's ninth consecutive West Regional title.

UNI's best hopes for All-Americans at the Championships were with team captains Justin Greenlee and Dave Malecek.  By March, Greenlee was ranked second at heavyweight by Amateur Wrestling News and had a 34-5 record.  His accomplishments included winning at the Pan American Games and the Olympic Festival the previous summer; a second place finish at the Tropheo Milone Tournament in Italy; and competing in the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic at the University of Pittsburgh.  There he was decisioned by top ranked Kerry McCoy.  His brother, and former UNI wrestler, Joel Greenlee was an Assistant Coach for UNI at that time.

Dave MalecekDave Malecek (shown to the right) had a 23-6 record and was known by his teammates and coaches as a team motivator and leader.  Malecek opened the season wrestling in the 190 pound division.  Then, in early February, he began wrestling at 177, where he remained the rest of the season.  Before the Championships, Malecek was ranked seventh in the nation at 177 pounds.

The NCAA Championships were held March 17-19 at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  There, UNI placed eleventh, with two wrestlers earning All-American status.  Justin Greenlee placed second at heavyweight, losing out again to Kerry McCoy, and Dave Malecek was fourth.  Showalter and Kjeldgaard both lost in the first round, while Scott Murray failed to make weight.

This season marked the first losing dual record in twenty-nine years.  The team ended the season 5-7. The Northern Iowan student newspaper of March 6, 1994 stated that the percentage of dual wins had decreased since restrictions were placed on the program in 1991.


Percentage of Dual Wins


1991 76%
1992 73%
1993 59%
1994 42%



 1995 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Joel Greenlee
  • Chris Bollin

Season Record:  4-11

Out of the twelve letter-winners from the previous season, only seven returned.  Two of these wrestlers, Scott Murray and Tim Novak, were NCAA qualifiers in 1994.  Returning heavyweight Justin Greenlee was also a two-time All-American. Although UNI placed eleventh at the NCAA Championships the previous season, Amateur Wrestling News ranked the Panthers twenty-second in the nation in pre-season rankings.

One outstanding wrestler made headlines shortly into the season. After pinning all five of his opponents at the Northern Iowa Open December 3, Justin Greenlee recorded his 101st victory of his career.  Only thirteen other Panther wrestlers have had over 100 victories while at UNI.

Jason Wedgbury
UNI wrestler Jason Wedgbury.

The West Regional Championships were held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin March 5.  UNI won the meet for the tenth consecutive time with four first-place winners:  Dan Beerman (134), Ryan Cummings (150), Jason Wedgbury (167), and Justin Greenlee (hwt).  In addition, three other wrestlers were chosen as wild cards to compete in the NCAA Championships.  First up were second place winners Dan Kjeldgaard at 158 and Ben Barton at 177.  Scott Murray was the third place winner at 126.  On a final Regional note, for the first time in eight years, Coach Briggs did not receive the Coach of the Year Award.

The 1995 NCAA Championships were held in Iowa City, Iowa March 16-18.  Justin Greenlee was the only UNI All-American that season, placing second at heavyweight.  Murray, Beerman, Cummings, and Barton all lost in the first round of wrestling.  Kjeldgaard won in the wrestle-backs and Wedgbury also won his second match.  UNI ended the season sixteenth in the NCAA.

By the end of the season, senior Justin Greenlee had left his mark in the record books.  At that time, Greenlee had recorded the second highest number of career victories in school history.  At 129 victories, he fell five short of Rich Powers's 134 victories.  Greenlee also recorded fifty-seven career pins, topping Powers's record of fifty-four.  He posted a .787 career winning percentage with 129 victories and only 35 losses.

Ryan CummingsFour UNI wrestlers received awards and honors that May.  Ryan Cummings (see photo to the right), who placed first at the West Regional meet, received the Most Improved Wrestler award for his success in his first season on varsity.  The Most Courageous Wrestler was Robert Armey, who moved up two weights from his normal 167 pounds to wrestle at 190 that season.

Two new coaches awards were given out that season honoring Lyle E. Schwarzenbach and former wrestling coach Chuck Patten. The Lyle E. Schwarzenbach Award was to be given to the wrestler who exhibited the highest degree of sportsmanship and dedication to the sport and academics.  The first recipient of the award was 150-pound freshman Chris Bahr.  This was Bahr's first official year on the team, after red-shirting the previous season.  Justin Greenlee received the second new award that year, the Chuck Patten Award.  This award was given for excellence in leadership and value to the team.

The academic success of the entire wrestling team that year was also brought to the forefront. The team's combined grade point average was 2.69, earning them an 18th ranking in the nation, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association.  Greenlee received a further honor when he was named to the 1995 N.W.C.A. All-Academic First Team.

1996 Season

Assistant Coaches:

  • Joel Greenlee
  • Chris Bollin

Team Captains:

  • Scott Murray (118))
  • Joe Stephens (142)
  • Jason Wedgbury (167)

Season Record:  5-12

The 1996 team, with eight returning lettermen, was ranked 12th in the nation in pre-season by Amateur Wrestling News.  It was a relatively young and inexperienced team, with only four seniors and three juniors on the roster.  Gone from the previous season were three-time All-American Justin Greenlee and letter-winners Brent Paulson, Troy Bennett, and Dan Beerman.

Despite this, UNI won its eleventh consecutive West Regional title at home in the West Gymnasium.  Six champions and two wild card choices represented the Panthers at the national tournament.

First Place Winners

Scott Murray (118)
Ryan Kutz (126)
Joe Stephens (142)
Chris Bahr (150)
Jason Wedgbury (167)
Burt Beamer (hwt)

Chris BahrWild card choices Dan Kjeldgaard (158) and Tony Wieland (190) both placed second in their divisions.  Second place winner Ken Bigley was chosen to attend the Championships as an alternate at 177.  At the conclusion of the meet, UNI's Chris Bahr (shown to the left) and East Illinois University's Matt Hughes were named joint recipients of the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award.

UNI was unsuccessful at the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota that March.  The Panthers left the competition tied for twenty-seventh place, the first time the team placed out of the top 25.  However, freshman wrestler Tony Wieland did place eighth at 190 pounds and brought home UNI's only All-American title that year.

Scott Murray
Scott Murray (right) fights for control.

Several team records were challenged that season.  Two outstanding freshmen won their way onto the "Most Victories for Freshmen" list.  Tony Wieland earned thirty-four victories in his first season, coming close to the top record of forty-nine wins set by Mark Schwab in 1986.  Burt Beamer won an impressive twenty-three matches to put him into tenth place.  Junior Scott Murray moved into eighth place on the "Career Pins" list with a total of twenty-four.

In February, junior Scott Murray received a special honor from Successful Farming Magazine.  Murray was named to the magazine's All-America Farm Team, which honors wrestlers who have come from farm or ranch backgrounds.

The April 23 issue of the Northern Iowan stated that on April 8, 1996, tickets for the 1997 NCAA tournament went on sale.  By the twenty-third of that month, 2425 paid orders for all-session tickets were sold.  UNI continued their preparations for that event.

1997 Season

Assistant Coaches:

Joel Greenlee
Alan Fried

Season Record:  7-8

Assistant Coach Alan Fried joined the staff in the 1997 season.  Fried was a national champion and three-time All-American at Oklahoma State.  Before coming to UNI, Fried was a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Indiana.

Although UNI was ranked 30th in the pre-season rankings, Coach Briggs's goal was to finish in the top ten.  Out of the nine returning letter-winners from 1996, only two were seniors.  One hundred twenty six-pound Scott Murray was a three-time NCAA qualifier and was ranked eighth individually in the nation in pre-season.  Dan Kjeldgaard, wrestling at 167, was a two-time NCAA qualifier.  Sophomore Tony Wieland was UNI's only All-American from the previous year and had an outstanding season.  Four other letterwinners, Burt Beamer, Ben Barton, Ryan Cummings, and Chris Bahr, had also qualified for the NCAA Championships during their careers.

For the twelfth consecutive time, UNI won the West Regional title.  Tony Wieland (190), Scott Murray (126), Dan Kjeldgaard (167), and Ben Barton (177) all placed first in their divisions, sending them on to the NCAA Championships.  Chris Bahr was also chosen as a wild card to compete in the tournament at 150.

Tony WielandKen BigleyBen Barton
Tony Wieland, Ken Bigley, and Ben Barton.

The surprise of the West Regional was UNI wrestler Ken Bigley.  Bigley had wrestled well at 177 in the previous season.  This season he wrestled at both 177 and 190, and then moved to heavyweight for the Regional.  Although he placed second, he was not chosen as a wild card.  Bahr received a cut on his forehead during his first match of the tournament.  In his final match with Dubuque's Mack Rohaly, he re-injured his head.  Although he lost the match to Rohaly, he still represented UNI at the NCAA as a wild card choice.  John Zelinski was beaten in the finals to take home second place at 118.

NCAA Championships

NCAA TournamentThe NCAA tournament was held at UNI March 20-22, 1997.  It was the single most attended amateur wrestling event ever held.  According to the March 28 issue of the Northern Iowan, a record total of 90,064 fans attended the sessions, compared to the previous record of 81,516 set in Iowa City in 1995.  The University of Iowa won the tournament for the fifteenth time in their history.  UNI placed a distant and disappointing forty-first.

All five of UNI's tournament wrestlers lost in the first round.  Wieland and Bahr were defeated in their first round of wrestle-backs and were out of the tournament, while Kjeldgaard, Barton, and Murray were eliminated after losing the second round of wrestle-backs.

At the post-season banquet on April 26, several Panther wrestlers received awards.

Most Valuable Wrestler -- Scott Murray
Chuck Patten Award -- Ben Barton and Scott Murray
Lyle E. Schwarzenbach Award -- Ken Bigley and Bret Jones
Most Courageous -- Ken Bigley
Most Improved Wrestler -- Keith Weber

In May, Coach Briggs announced his resignation as Head Coach of the Northern Iowa Panther wrestling team.  Briggs stepped down June 30, 1997, to take a full time teaching position in UNI's Department of Health, Physical Education, and Leisure Services.


Compiled by Library Assistant Susan A. Basye, February 1998; last updated, January 22, 2014 (GP)