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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Wrestling places 7th at MAC Championships

7 Huskies place at conference tournament
Elsye Jones
Redshirt sophomore Blake West eyes his Kent State University opponent in Day 1 of the MAC Championships Friday. West qualified for the NCAA Tournament after falling in the championship round of the MAC Championships. (Elsye Jones | Courtesy of NIU Athletics)

DeKALB – Seven Huskies merit a MAC Championship spot while one earned admission to the NCAA Championships during the 2024 MAC Championships Friday and Saturday on the campus of Kent State University. NIU extended its NCAA qualifier streak to 51 consecutive years. 

After winning the MAC West division outright in the season finale, NIU accumulated 74.5 team points at the MAC Championships, good for seventh out of 13 teams. 

“Incredible competition out here,” said NIU wrestling head coach Ryan Ludwig. “The MAC is tough, every match is just a hard fought battle and we prepared well. We’re ready to rock and roll and some things — just like every year — some things work out and sometimes don’t. No matter how well you prepare, no matter how hard you compete, sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”


Redshirt sophomore Blake West and redshirt freshman Jacob Brya were the sole Huskies highlighted in Sunday’s championship bracket. 

West went unblemished in Round 1 and proceeded to win the next two matches by a decision and major decision, respectively.

West was routed in a 13-5 major decision versus Lock Haven University redshirt junior and No. 1 seed Anthony Noto. Even with the defeat, West earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. 

“I’m happy with how I competed,” West said. “The outcome is up to God to decide and I trust that he put me in the right place and now I’m going to the national tournament.”

Brya didn’t allow a single point in his MAC Championship debut, earning a major decision to open, a decision in the quarterfinals and a 6-0 upset over Central Michigan University sophomore and No. 33 ranked Jimmy Nugent to advance. 

“I wrestled a lot of those guys prior and wrestling that ranked guy — in my eyes it wasn’t going to be an upset,” Brya said. “I knew I could beat him (Nugent) and I knew what I needed to do to beat him and I think I did just that pretty well.

Brya fell to Lock Haven University redshirt sophomore Wyatt Henson in the 141-title match to finish as the runner-up. 

Brya emphasized his success was a testament to the hard work and tireless preparation he’s put in all season. 

“I think it’s a testament to how hard I’ve been working all year,” Brya said. “I’ve been working on my conditioning all year, I’ve been working on getting better on my feet, and all showed up. It didn’t end the way I wanted it to in the finals, but I think all the hard work and stuff really showed out.”


Four out of the seven podium finishes were earned by seniors competing in their final matches as NIU Huskies. 

Redshirt senior Jaivon Jones found retribution after dropping the semifinal match Friday, winning a one-point thriller in the Consolation Semifinals and earning a bid into the third place match. Jones dropped a triple overtime nail-biter against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville junior Caleb Tyus to finish in fourth place. 

Senior and No. 3 seed Matt Zuber contributed 8 team points for NIU as he advanced to the consolation semifinals. Zuber took sixth place following a sudden victory loss in the fifth place title tilt. 

Senior Tulga Zuunbayan clinched the seventh place medal at 157 pounds with a decisive 7-3 victory over Bloomsburg University sophomore William Morrow. Zuunbayan finished 3-2 over the course of Friday and Saturday’s tournament. 

Earning a bye in Round 1 of the MAC Championships, senior Michael Kaminski triumphed in two out of three Day 1 matches, propelling him to Day 2 of the tournament. 

Kaminski won 7-2 against Kent State University sophomore Pablo Castro to net his inaugural MAC Tournament placement.


Unseeded with three years of NCAA eligibility, redshirt freshman Tommy Bennett seized control of the eighth place hardware in the 165-pound bracket after winning two out his total three matches.. 

“Tommy Bennett has made strides every week — we’re excited to see that,” Ludwig said. 


NIU qualifiers will compete for All-American status in the 2024 NCAA Championships from March 21 to March 23 in Kansas City, Missouri. 

“We’re excited to get back to work and get ready to try to hunt down some All-American honors in a couple of weeks,” Ludwig said. 

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