5/4/2007 10:57:00 PM Email this article ? Print this article

By DEREK SULLIVAN

Press sports editor

OWATONNA - Pat Mahan won't have to worry about paying for college.

The Owatonna senior signed with the University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa) this week after the Panthers offered the Class 3A 215-pound state champion a full ride scholarship.

"It's really great," Mahan said in a phone interview from Waterloo, Iowa. "(UNI) needed a 197 pounder and I was still available."

Mahan is in Waterloo competing in the Northern Plains Senior Regional Championships. Mahan won the Greco-Roman title at 215 pounds over Dallas O'Malley of Stoughton, Wis. - the No. 1 ranked 215-pounder in Wisconsin's largest class.

Mahan choose the Panthers over Iowa State and Minnesota. Neither the Cyclones or Golden Gophers offered Mahan a full-ride. Old Dominion came in late, but Mahan wanted to stay in the upper midwest.

"It is extremely rare for a kid to get a full-ride," said Owatonna head coach Scot Davis. "I can't think off the top of my head of another Owatonna athlete that has received a full-ride scholarship. Most school will split scholarships, so they can recruit more athletes."

One of the reasons UNI made a financial commitment that could reach $100,000 was Mahan's hard-nosed wrestling style.

"He is one hard-nosed son of a gun," said Northern Iowa head coach Brad Penrith. "He just has a great attitude. He wrestles so hard."

The senior will drop down to the 197-pound weight class at UNI.

"Once I get in the weight room and build my strength, (197) will be perfect for me," Mahan said.

Mahan finished his high school career with 114 wins and three top-four finishes in the state tournament. He defeated Tyler Hemmesch of Elk River 5-4 in the Class 3A Final. Hemmesch committed to North Dakota State University.

Mahan is ranked No. 5 nationally by www.win-magazine.com and No. 8 nationally by www.amateurwrestlingnews.com. Mahan finished fourth at 215 pounds at the U.S. Senior Nationals Wrestling Tournament Sunday in Virginia Beach, Va. The Owatonna senior won his first three matches before losing to Ryan Flores (committed to Columbia) of California in the semifinals. Mahan defeated Maciej Jochym (Cornell) of New York 7-3 to earn a spot in the third-place against the nation's No. 2-ranked 215-pound wrestler, Jared Platt (Penn State) of New Jersey. Platt defeated Mahan 4-2 to finish third.

"The win over (Jochym) was a big win for me and allowed me to wrestle for third," Mahan said. "It was the difference between being in the elite group or just an All-American."

Mahan becomes the second UNI recruit expected to be on campus this fall. Jase Thompson, a 125 pounder from Mason City, Iowa, signed last fall. Penrith, who is still out recruiting, would like to get more wrestlers from Minnesota.

"We used to get a lot of wrestlers from Minnesota and we want to start recruiting up there again," Penrith said. "We told Pat we want him to help us jump start that."

Mahan is the second Owatonna athlete this fall to choose the Panthers. Drew Lundberg will play basketball for Northern Iowa this fall.

Derek Sullivan can be reached at 444-2374 or dsullivan@owatonna.com