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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Return of the MAC: Wrestling champions the West

Tim Dodge
Redshirt sophomore Blake West attempts to pin Southern Illinois University Edwardsville redshirt sophomore Davian Guanajuato on Friday’s Senior Day event for NIU wrestling. West defeated Guanajuato 4-3 on Friday to finish the season undefeated in dual matchups. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB Redshirt sophomore Jacobi Jackson pinned his opponent with seconds remaining in the first period as NIU Wrestling (13-2, 7-1 MAC) fended off Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (6-6, 3-4 MAC) 22-13 to clinch the MAC West at Victor E. Court on Friday.

NIU finishes the season undefeated at home for the first time in 20 years.

“I mean, outside of the individual wins and losses, I think I’ll just key on the fact that it’s a great team win,” said NIU wrestling head coach Ryan Ludwig. “It was a hard-fought battle up and down the lineup and to see the team rewarded as MAC West champions – it’s really great for them to reap the rewards of all the hard work they put in since they stepped on campus. So I just couldn’t be happier for them.” 


Redshirt sophomore Blake West, who’s been unbeaten since dropping a match to Harvard University junior Diego Sotelo on Dec. 30, protected his streak with a 4-3 decision over redshirt sophomore Davian Guanajuato. 

West finished the season 15-0 in duals and 8-0 in the MAC for the first time in his collegiate career.

Despite attaining the honor of MAC 125 dual champ, West has bigger fish to fry. 

“Undefeated in duals is cool – I like the dual atmosphere,” West said. “It feels good to represent your team. I don’t think I’ve done any of my goals yet. I got the end goal in mind – MAC champ, national qualifier, National American and that’s what I’m shooting for.” 


After leading 16-6 through the first seven bouts, NIU lost the next two matches at 184 and 197 to put the fate of the dual and MAC West title on the headgear of Jackson. 

And deliver he did. Jackson swiftly handled business in the opening period, pinning redshirt sophomore Dan McKiernan in 1:33 to take the West division. 

“Just moving my feet, keeping my shoulder moving and got to my offense pretty quick,” Jackson said. “Keep my head together, be positive, listen to my coaches and do what I gotta do.”


As part of the Senior Day festivities, six soon-to-be graduates were honored on the mat. Each wrestler was gifted a case, bearing their name on the front and containing an NIU singlet with a picture of them in action.

Jackson extended his heartfelt message to the graduating seniors, wishing them the very best of luck whether they choose to return mat-side or embark on new endeavors.

“I hope they find a great relationship with Jesus Christ, as their lord and savior,” Jackson said. “I wish them the best of luck, not even in coaching wrestling, but just in life in general. “We got a very smart senior class and I know they’re gonna do great things.” 

Ludwig, who’s celebrated 12 previous graduating classes during his time, commends his most recent group for their dedication to the program’s culture and continued perseverance.

“What I really love about these guys is that they have really bought into this process of hard work, getting better every day, living a championship lifestyle, and they have gotten significantly better every year that they’ve been here,” Ludwig said. “To see them reap the rewards – we’re proud they stuck it out to get these rewards.”


The postseason begins at noon March 8 with NIU traveling to Kent, Ohio, for Day 1 of the 2024 MAC Championships. Day 2’s consolation bracket begins at 11:30 a.m. March 9. 

“We can celebrate this win tonight and then we gotta get to the hard work of refining all the mistakes we made tonight and be at our best and peak at the right time for the MAC Championship tournament,” Ludwig said. 

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