Olejnik wins second straight MAC title


Courtesy Kent State Athletics

NIU redshirt senior Izzak Olejnik grapples with Kent State University sophomore Enrique Munguia during Sunday’s dual meet. The 165-pound wrestlers clashed in a battle of nationally-ranked opponents. Olejnik and Munguia were ranked No. 10 and No. 25 respectively in the Dec. 13 InterMat rankings for their weight class. (David Dermer)

By Adrien De La Peña, Sports Reporter

DeKALB – NIU redshirt senior Izzak Olejnik brought home the Mid-American Conference (MAC) title for the second year in a row at 165 pounds to earn a spot in the 2023 NCAA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Olejnik defeated No. 5 seed Central Michigan University redshirt senior Tracy Hubbard by a score of 8-2 in the semifinals to earn a spot in the championship match. 

Olejnik took on No. 6 seeded Kent State University sophomore Enrique Munguia in the championship match for the 165-pound weight class. Olejnik dominated Munguia, logging four points in the first two periods. Olejnik logged three points in the third period to defeat Munguia 7-2 in the match, giving Olejnik his second straight MAC title. 

Three other Huskies also earned a spot on the podium at the tournament. 

At 285 pounds, redshirt senior Terrese Aaron upset Lock Haven University redshirt junior Isaac Reid after Reid threw punches early in the match, which got Reid suspended from the tournament. 

Aaron matched up with No. 1 seeded Southern Illinois University Edwardsville senior Colton McKiernan in the championship match Aaron could not log a point in the match, falling to McKiernan by a score of 2-0 to earn second place.

Redshirt freshman Blake West also earned a spot on the podium at 125 pounds, taking home the third place medal. West started 2-0 on the first day of the MAC championships and faced  No. 4 seed George Mason University freshman Markel Baker in the semifinals. 

West started the match against Baker slowly, going down 4-1 after the first period. West dropped the match 6-2 to send him to the consolation bracket.  

West faced Baker again for third place after Baker lost his semifinal match. The rematch was closer, with West leading 1-0 going into the final period. West outlasted Baker to earn third place and a potential spot in the national championships. 

The final NIU wrestler to take third place was redshirt junior Jaivon Jones. Jones came into the tournament unseeded and defeated top-seed Rider University junior McKenzie Bell to advance to the semifinal match.

Jones dropped his semifinal match to Bloomsburg University redshirt senior Josh Mason, ending Jones’ championship bid at 141 pounds.  

Jones peaked on the second day of the tournament earning himself a spot in the third place match against the No. 2 seeded SIUE redshirt senior Saul Ervin. It was a defensive match between Jones and Ervin, with the match at 0-0 heading to the second period. Late in the second period, Jones logged a reversal to score the only points of the match and secure third place.  

This was Jones’ second year placing on the podium in the MAC championships, taking home fourth place last year and third place this year. With the two third-place finishes from West and Jones, there is still a chance for both wrestlers to place in the National Championship and join Olejnik. 

The National Championship will be from March 16 to March 18 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.