Wrestlers back into competition with tournament

By Jeff Kirik

Wrestling season might have ended a month ago, but NIU Coach Ed Vatch is already preparing for next year.

A number of NIU grapplers will participate in the Chicagoland Open Freestyle Wrestling Tournament Saturday when the Huskies host the tournament at Chick Evans Field House.

The all-day tournament is open to any high school state qualifiers, collegiate wrestlers and other experienced, independent wrestlers. Matches will begin at 10:30 a.m. and tickets will be $2 for adults and $1 for students.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Huskie Club and will be used for recruiting, promotion, a banquet and other purposes in connection with the NIU wrestling team.

“We’re hosting it because we want to make sure our guys compete year-round,” Vatch said. “It gives them some incentive to train during the offseason.”

The NIU wrestling squad can use this tournament as a recruiting tool, according to Vatch, because it gives the school exposure. It will also give top high school athletes a look at the campus and the facilities, giving Vatch a head start in recruiting.

Vatch expects between 150 and 200 wrestlers to compete, many of whom will be top-caliber matmen. There will be ten weight classes with plaques awarded to the winner of each division.

The tournament will be a freestyle tournament, which is scored differently from collegiate wrestling. In this style of wrestling, which is used in the Olympics, wrestlers are rewarded more points for takedowns, throws and exposing their opponent’s back to the mat.

About 20 NIU wrestlers will be in action. Heavyweight Eric Wenckowski, who is a member of the NIU football team, will be the lone returning starter who will not compete in the tournament.

Vatch said his goal for the tournament is to see his wrestlers win every match.

“They (offseason tournaments) are vital (to NIU wrestlers),” Vatch said. “It gives them a goal. We can evaluate them and see how much they want it (to win).”