Important matches begin for wrestlers

By Jeff Kirik

Ed Vatch and his NIU wrestlers will compete in the West Regionals this weekend in an attempt to make up for a subpar regular season record.

Vatch has said all season the most important thing to him is not dual meets, but the postseason tournament. Now the Huskies can disregard their 4-9 record and get serious.

NIU will be one of 10 teams competing in the regional which includes Notre Dame, Northern Iowa, Marquette, Illinois State and Eastern Illinois.

“It’s a good regional—a strong regional,” Vatch said. “We’re capable of doing something there. Realistically, it will be tough to touch Northern Iowa because we’re dropping two weights.”

The Huskies will not enter wrestlers in the 118- or 190-pound weight classes. However, Vatch said he feels his team is a strong candidate to finish as runner-up to the tough UNI squad.

“Every one of the guys we’re bringing there has the capability to score big points,” he said. “If we don’t get second place, I’ll come back feeling pretty ornery.”

The top two finishers in each weight division will qualify for the national tournament later this month. Vatch said he thinks several of his wrestlers will qualify.

“Six is the most wrestlers NIU has ever had qualify for the national tournament,” Vatch said. “I’m looking to break records.”

Nate Allison, who is ranked 13th nationally at 142 pounds, is the Huskies strongest hope for advancing. The other wrestlers Vatch will enter in the tournament are: Tino Gonzalez at 126 pounds, Mike Gonio at 134, Tim Cocco at 150, Joe Madonia at 158, Ted Anderson at 167, Tom Hoy at 177 and Eric Wenckowski at heavyweight.

oy, who dropped from the 190-pound class for the regionals, said he is confident about the team’s chances.

“If we wrestle like we can,” he said, “there isn’t anyone we couldn’t get out of there.”

In preparation for the tournament, the team has been working overtime. Vatch has put his pupils through three daily workouts which he called “very intensive training.”

“It’s mostly mental work,” Hoy said. “We’re all in great shape right now. They (the practice sessions) are just preparing us for the really tough matches. We know that if we get in a tough match, we’re not going to get tired.”

Vatch also put the Huskies through a different type of mental preparation. Vatch and his team sat down in an informal discussion earlier this week and talked about their fears, their thoughts before and during a match and how each mentally prepares for competition.

“I think it’s important that people can release their emotions freely in front of everyone else,” Vatch said. “It makes them feel like they’re not alone. It builds unity.”

oy described his feelings after the meeting, saying, “I couldn’t even do my homework, I was so pumped up. I think it was really good for the team.”