Penalty points cost wrestlers higher finish

By Jeff Kirik

Blinded by frustration, the NIU wrestling team made several critical mistakes which cost them team points in the Second Annual Indiana University Hoosier Invitational.

The Huskies finished the weekend seventh out of eight teams, but that was not the full story. NIU suffered team point deductions in three consecutive matches, causing them to lose as many as three places in the tournament team standings.

The Huskies earned 17.5 team points. West Virginia won the tournament with 66.0 team points. NIU’s Nate Allison took first place in the 142-pound division for the Huskies, while 150-pound Tim Cocco managed a third-place finish. However, the Huskies could not overcome the point deductions.

Tom Hoy’s match in the 190-pound bracket was the first of the trio of penalized matches. He led 8-4 in the third period before dropping a 9-8 decision because of several stalling calls.

“Tom wrestled what I thought was a pretty decent tournament,” said NIU Coach Ed Vatch. “He lost a team point for trying to raise the official’s hand (in victory) after the match.”

In the next match, heavyweight Eric Wenckowski was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct after losing on what Vatch labeled a “bad call.”

“I think Eric learned a lot,” he said. “He took all the shots but learned he has to control himself. The official came up to me after the match and apologized and said he blew the call.”

The last and most damaging of the matches was Joe Madonia’s third-place bout with Illinois State’s E.C. Cotton. Madonia lost the match, which was his second of the day against Cotton, but he also lost additional points.

Vatch said Madonia was upset after his second loss and was called for flagrant misconduct, disqualifying him from the meet.

“Joe pinned himself in the second match,” Vatch said. “He was frustrated. Not only did we lose a team point, but we lost all the points he had earned in the tournament up until then. “We lost anywhere from 21 to 25 points. It was probably one of the most frustrating times for this squad or any squad I’ve ever seen. It’s like what do you have to do to win?”

Allison came from behind in his championship match to win an overtime criteria decision.

“I thought Nate deserved to win the outstanding wrestler award,” the first-year head coach said. “Anytime you’re down 5-0 in a championship match and come back to win, you deserve a lot of credit.”

Cocco won three matches in the competitive 150-pound weight class but lost to Indiana’s Scott Duncan.

“Tim Cocco just looked good,” Vatch said. “The only match he lost was to a 10th-rated kid (Duncan). Tim took him down to the wire.”

NIU’s lineup was damaged when 118-pounder Tony Calderone sprained his ankle at practice Thursday. The Huskies had no wrestler in that division or the 177-pound weight class. Jim Herdman, NIU’s 134-pounder won a match in the tournament before he had to withdraw because of a knee injury.