One of UNI's five qualifiers for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships has been taken down and pinned before the tournament has even begun.

An illness will keep Blaize Cabell off the mats for what would have been his final collegiate competition this weekend in New York City. Cabell is a senior from Independence, who's ranked No. 14 nationally at heavyweight.

“It’s painful,” said head coach Doug Schwab. “If you deal with it and have a fighting chance at nationals, it makes you feel a little better. You work your whole life for this opportunity.”

This would have been Cabell’s third trip to the NCAA tournament. He emerged as the Panthers’ only Mid-American Conference (MAC) champion this year.

“There will be more opportunities for him, but those are hard to see right now,” Schwab said. “There’s nothing you can do, and you don’t have control.”

Cabell had an impressive senior year, knocking off No. 8 Billy Smith of Rutgers. He notched 12 takedowns in a single dual against Missouri, matching the same amount the entire Missouri team had. He scored 11 takedowns in a dual against Ohio. He earned bonus points in four of his six MAC duals and finished his collegiate career undefeated in conference duals since Feb. 9, 2014.

“I want people to remember how he competed and what he did for this program,” Schwab said. “He made it fun at heavyweight. I am so proud of him and how he has grown, not just as a wrestler, but as a man. We want to keep him competing and around the program.”

Cabell closes his career at UNI with a spot in the all-time record book. His undefeated dual season as a junior in 2014-15 ties him for eighth among all Panthers for most duals won in a single season.

“What’s also really hard is that you wish you could be with him,” Schwab said. “You hurt right along with him, but the decision is made. You have to keep perspective. There are things that are worse. It’s hard to see that right now though.”

The Panthers still have four wrestlers competing at Madison Square Garden. Dylan Peters (No. 7 at 125 pounds), Josh Alber (No. 16 at 133 pounds), Bryce Steiert (No. 23 at 157 pounds) and Cooper Moore (No. 20 at 165 pounds) all begin competition on Thursday (March 17, 2016).

Cabell was the only senior competing for UNI at the national tournament. Steiert (Horton, Iowa/Waverly-Shell Rock High School) is the first true freshman from UNI to qualify for the NCAA tournament since Chris Bitetto in 2003, who also competed at 157 pounds.

“As much as I hurt for Blaize, I need to be here for the other guys too,” Schwab said. “It’s time for them to get their reward for the hard work they put in this year.”