Vatch wrestles with problems

By Jeff Kirik

Christmas break didn’t exactly bring what NIU wrestling coach Ed Vatch was hoping for.

Hindered by the suspension of several wrestlers, the expulsion of two others and subpar showings by many of the active team members, the Huskies won only two of their eight dual meets over break.

The grapplers began their dual meet season Dec. 12 by going 1-1-1 at the Northern Illinois Duals. After falling to Illinois State 26-13 in their opening meet, the Huskies responded by defeating Wisconsin-Stevens Point 34-7 and tying Northern Michigan 21-21.

That’s when the problems began for Vatch’s crew. Six NIU wrestlers competed in the Midlands Open Dec. 28-29 and no Huskies placed. Vatch said he was pleased by the strong showings of 150-pound senior Tim Cocco and freshman heavyweight Mark Keuhl.

However, Vatch was forced to do what he called “addition through subtraction” when he kicked two NIU starters—Steve Kurkjian and Tony Calderone—off the team after they failed to show up for the tournament.

The following week NIU took on eighth-ranked Minnesota in a dual meet. NIU lost the meet and Vatch again was forced to discipline some team members for an incident which occurred on the way home from the meet. Vatch would not comment on the incident but said three starters had been suspended until NIU’s meet with Central Michigan Saturday.

“I’d just as soon keep it a matter that’s kept within the team,” Vatch said when asked which players were suspended. “They don’t need additional grief. They’ve been disciplined through the team.”

In their final action of the break the Huskies found the road a tough one when they were forced to forfeit three matches in each meet of ISU’s Redbird Duals. Down 18-0 before each dual began, NIU fell to Central Missouri, Nebraska-Omaha and Eastern Illinois. The Huskies came back to pull out a win over Chicago State to complete their winter break action.

Vatch said the vacant spots in his lineup makes it difficult for his team to compete in dual meets right now.

“We’re a little ways away from where we want to be,” he said. “We’re not a real strong dual-meet team right now so we’re going to have to wrestle as individuals until we can get everybody healthy and back in the lineup.”