NIU wrestlers face Wildcats

By Gregory Janicki

The NIU wrestling squad will enjoy its first home meet of the season when it hosts Northwestern University Thursday.

The Huskies enter the match witha 1-3-0 mark in dual competition. Head coach Ed Vatch anticipates another grueling battle against the Wildcats.

“Northwestern is an exceptional team,” said Vatch, “we already know that. They’ve got six guys that are extremely good and the rest of the squad can hold their own. It should be a tough match at every weight.”

Vatch admits that his team is full of guys that are coming off illnesses, but doesn’t expect it to be a factor in the outcome of the meet.

One match that is expected to be of great interest will be the 190-pound match between NIU sophomore Mel Heckman and Northwestern All-America Matt Case.

“Mel has not had the start he had last year,” said Vatch of Heckman’s 10-0 start last year. “But the losses he has this year have all been very close, matches that could have gone either way.”

“Last season, not a lot of schools had heard of Mel, nor knew who he was. This season, coaches know about him and he’s being matched up against top-notch competition from powerhouse programs.”

The rest of the Huskies’ squad is expected to have tough competition from Northwestern, but a school like NU is one that Vatch likes his team to face during the regular season.

“Our schedule is full of challenges,” explains Vatch. “And most of the schools we face are fully funded programs with almost all scholarship wrestlers. They’ve got a lot of state champions because they can afford to get them.

“We don’t have that option, but facing schools like these enable our guys to see what level they need to reach as athletes.”

Vatch said that the heart of the team is the one thing that can never be taken away.

“I expect the guys to wrestle as hard as they possibly can. The team is filled with guys who wrestle with a lot of heart, and sometimes, when you get a guy who wants it so bad, it’s almost impossible to beat him.”