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FD’s Bennett to join Hawkeyes

UNI transfer will have three years of eligibilty remaining

Submitted photo/UNI Athletics: Former Fort Dodge state champion Drew Bennett competes for Northern Iowa this past season.

Drew Bennett wants to surround himself with the very best to see if he reaches his full potential as a student-athlete and, more importantly, a person.

Bennett accepted the ultimate challenge on Saturday, as the former Fort Dodge state champion officially committed to the University of Iowa’s wrestling program.

The University of Northern Iowa transfer will have three years of college eligibility remaining in Iowa City for the defending national champion Hawkeyes. Bennett picked Iowa over Ohio, Northern Illinois and Lock Haven.

The opportunity to see immediate mat time made the other schools more appealing on paper, but the 141-pounder wasn’t looking for safe or certain. Bennett is ready to be pushed outside of his comfort zone in head coach Tom Brands’ room, where only the strong survive.

“I want to be around the best,” said Bennett, who helped the Dodgers win a state title as a senior in 2018. “To me, there’s no better program in the country than Iowa right now. They’re the champs. I’m ready to learn and soak it all up. When a team and a coaching staff who just won nationals shows interest in you, it becomes an easy decision to make.

“I know I really haven’t scratched the surface on my potential. At Iowa, I’ll be around a lot of guys who are elite at what they do. I see (current 141-pounder and four-time All-American) Jaydin Eierman, along with other champs and All-Americans around my weight. They’re where I want to be, physically and mentally.”

Bennett posted a 25-14 overall record at UNI, including a 2-5 mark this past season at 141. He entered the transfer portal in mid-March, then finished up his final semester in Cedar Falls last week.

“I really just made up my mind around that time,” Bennett said. “I was saying goodbye to good friends and closing the book on a chapter in my life that really meant a lot to me in so many ways. I spent some time by myself up at Twin Lakes, just thinking and really weighing my options.

“I kept coming back to Iowa. Not just because of the success they’ve had, but also, the swagger they carry as wrestlers. I think I’ve lost that a little bit. I need to get my attitude and my edge back. And Iowa wrestlers are known for that.”

Bennett said he spent a lot of time both talking and listening to his parents, Shawn and Troy, and other family members about the next step.

“They hit me with a lot of questions: what are your goals, what do you want to accomplish as a student and as a wrestler, and is Iowa the place that will get you there?” said Bennett, who plans on obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in Business a year from now before entering Iowa’s Sports Management Master’s program. “I want to be a professional sports agent someday. When I went on my visit, (senior All-American) Alex Marinelli took me to meet the advisors and really got me interested in their Master’s program.

“I’ve been pretty up front about how important that is to me. And Iowa City isn’t too far from Chicago. I want to start making the connections and opening doors to get me ready for my (professional life).”

Bennett acknowledges how difficult it will be to crack the Hawkeye lineup. Iowa will be bringing back seniors Eierman and Justin Stickley at 141 in 2021-22, as well as freshman Leif Schroeder.

“I’m realistic. I know I have a lot to learn,” Bennett said. “I’m really going to push myself, train hard and prepare for (after Eierman graduates). Was I willing to go out of state or to a coast school? Of course. But there’s something about the idea of being a Hawkeye, and still being able to make it to my sister (Madi’s) white coat ceremony or my other sister (Tory’s) softball games. I love Iowa and I love wrestling, so where else would I rather be? (Staying close to home) is definitely an added bonus.”

Bennett’s former FDSH teammate, three-time prep gold medalist Drake Ayala, will be an incoming freshman for Iowa this fall. Ex-Dodger state champ Sam Cook graduated last spring after being a four-year member of the Hawkeye program.

“I did talk to Sam some right as I was entering the (transfer) portal (in March),” Bennett said. “Obviously the coaches maximize the potential (of their wrestlers at Iowa), but Sam also talked about the family atmosphere and how much the coaches care about you. That’s what I’m looking for — the best of both worlds.”

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