Lightweight match momentum propels Huskies over Ohio

Huskies down pair of ranked Bobcats


Courtesy Ohio Athletics

Wrestlers from NIU and Ohio University grapple during Friday’s dual meet in Mount in Athens, Ohio. (Courtesy Ohio Athletics)

By Skyler Kisellus and Adrien De La Peña

NIU wrestling didn’t play the waiting game in Friday’s dual meet with Mid-American Conference rival Ohio University. The Huskies brought down two nationally-ranked opponents and claimed the first six matches of the night on their way to a 23-10 victory on Friday in Athens, Ohio.

The lighter weights of NIU’s lineup found the most success. Freshman Jacob Brya and redshirt freshman Blake West earned early wins to help NIU build an 18-0 lead.

“A lot of those matches came down to where both guys got a little bit tired,” NIU wrestling head coach Ryan Ludwig said. “We were able to rise above that and continue to score. That was ultimately the decider of the matches and that’s when some of them broke loose. We were able to score some bonus points in some matches as well.”

Friday’s win served as a much-needed rebound for NIU, who entered the dual fresh off a 23-18 defeat to then-winless Central Michigan University on Jan. 13. The Huskies used the win to move up to No. 2 in the MAC West standings.

“We were hungry, I was hungry,” graduate student Anthony Gibson said. “It just started off really similar to last week where we hammed down in the lower waves.”

Early dominance in Athens

To start the dual at 125, West started off strong with a 2-1 lead after the first period transpired. His opponent, Ohio redshirt freshman Oscar Sanchez, ended up logging a point going into the third to tie up the match at 2-2. Going into the third with a hard fought brawl, West was able to come out with a 3-1 win, setting the standard for the lighter weights.

Junior Lucian Brink faced off against Ohio freshman Paul Woo with a crushing 6-0 win to give the Huskies a 6-0 start in the dual.

At 141, Brya grappled with Ohio graduate student Kyran Hagan in the former’s second collegiate dual. Tied 2-2 during the second period, Hagan was called for locked hands which awarded Brya with two points. Hagan notched a touchdown just before the end of the second to tie the match at four going into the final period.

“It was back-and-forth,” Ludwig said. “He (Kyran Hagan) had us dead to rights for a while and then we had him in a bad situation and then at the very end, we were in trouble. The guy was on top of us and we were able to get a last-minute reversal and some backs (back points).”

Brya came out strong in the third period with a reversal to outlast Hagan and come out with an 11-7 match win.

“Jacob just did a fantastic job there,” Ludwig said. “Really just sticking to his wrestling and seeing things through to the very last second. It was a great example of what a fiery competitor he is.”

Three ranked enter, one left standing

He absolutely broke the kid.

— NIU head coach Ryan Ludwig on Anthony Gibson's performance against Ohio's Peyten Kellar

Longevity happened to be the deciding factor in Friday’s dual, especially for the match at 149, with NIU graduate student Anthony Cheloni and No. 32 ranked Ohio graduate student Alec Hagan. Not a single point was scored between the two until the final seconds of the second period – Cheloni was able to outlast and log a point. Cheloni ended up outlasting Hagan in this clash winning 1-0, defeating one of the two ranked opponents for Ohio.

After four straight victorious matches from the lighter weights, redshirt senior Anthony Gibson at 157 came out with a huge win over No. 27 ranked redshirt freshman Peyten Kellar. After being tied 4-4 at the third period, Gibson finished strong with seven points in the final 2 minutes of the match to secure the win.

“He absolutely broke the kid (Kellar),” Ludwig said. “The kid was exhausted. He (Gibson) just wore him down in terms of conditioning. A very big win for Anthony and big momentum for us as well.”

NIU redshirt senior Izzak Olejnik – Intermat’s No. 14 ranked wrestler at 165 – grappled with Ohio redshirt junior Jordan Slivka. It was a stagnant match between the two wrestlers with a 2-2 tie. In the final 2 minutes of the match, Olejnik was able to overcome and defeat Slivka 4-3 giving the Huskies a 18-0 lead in the dual.

Ohio’s going down, but not without a fight

After taking the first six matches of the night, Ohio responded with 10 unanswered points from three consecutive match wins. Redshirt freshman Hayden Pummel dropped his 174 matchup with Ohio redshirt freshman Garrett Thompson in an 8-0 rout.

The Bobcats built off Thompson’s success with a second-straight team victory after sophomore Zayne Lehman triumphed over NIU junior Matthew Zuber at 184. Lehman led at the end of each period to finish with a score of 5-2.

Ohio’s final win of the night came as the result of a close contest between redshirt junior Carson Brewer and NIU sophomore Jacob Christensen at 197. The match was a high-scoring affair as Christensen led 9-6 after the first period. Brewer clawed back to force a tie at 11 by the end of the third period, sending the match into sudden victory where Brewer earned the winning takedown.

With Brewer unable to register bonus points in his win, NIU clinched the meet victory while leading 18-0 with one matchup left to play. The heavyweight battle between NIU redshirt senior Terrese Aaron and Ohio junior Jacob Padilla ended with a technical fall win for Aaron in the match’s third period. The meet ended with a 23-10 final score in favor of the Huskies.

A long-awaited homecoming

NIU has two weeks off on its meet schedule before returning to the mat on Feb. 4 to host MAC foe Buffalo, NIU’s first home meet since Nov. 12 at the Huskie Duals. The upcoming meet will be part of NIU’s annual “Beauty and the Beast” event where the gymnastics squad will host a concurrent tri-meet featuring opponents Simpson College and Kent State.

“We are really looking forward to being home,” Ludwig said. “We’ve been on the road since November, so we’re really looking forward to getting a great week of training in and then we’re off until the Beauty and the Beast match…I think it’s a perfect little time for us to get better in the room and try to put our best thing out there when we have our first home match on the fourth.”

The event will commence at 1 p.m. on Feb. 4 at the Convocation Center.