Wrestling falls short of upset win against Illinois


By James Krause

DeKALB — The wrestling team split its 10 matchups Friday against the University of Illinois, but two major decision losses and a forfeit in the Illini’s favor kept the Huskies from taking an upset win.

Despite the loss, Head Coach Ryan Ludwig said he won’t let the defeat weigh heavy as his team competed with one of the best teams in the country.

“We are proud of the development and fight in these guys,” Ludwig said in a news release. “[The Huskies] are reaping the rewards of their very hard work. We were able to attain victories over four nationally ranked opponents.”

The Fighting Illini got out to a 15-0 lead after the first three matches. Redshirt first-year Justin Cardani of Illinois won the opening contest with a 5-2 decision win over redshirt sophomore Bryce West at 125-pounds.

After NIU forfeited the 133-pound contest due to injury, Illinois picked up a major decision win with 141-pounder junior Dylan Duncan finishing redshirt first-year Nathan Swartz in the first round. Swartz started the contest in place of redshirt first-year Caleb Brooks.

Redshirt senior McCoy Kent got the Huskies their first point of the night with a 7-1 decision win over redshirt senior Mousa Jodeh in the 149-weight class, kickstarting a run for the Huskies to shrink the lead.

In the 157-weight class, NIU redshirt sophomore Mason Kauffman won a 3-2 decision matchup in an upset against two-time NCAA championship qualifier redshirt senior Eric Barone.

Redshirt first-year Izzak Olejnik kept the ball rolling for the Huskies with a decision win over redshirt first-year Danny Braunagel in the 165-weight dual.

Illinois created more separation with a 2-0 decision win by redshirt senior Joey Gunther over redshirt senior Kenny Moore at 174 pounds. The Fighting Illini put the meet out of reach with a major decision win by redshirt first-year Zac Braunagel over Huskie redshirt senior Caden McWhirter in the 184-pound dual.

In the 197-pound contest, redshirt first-year Gage Braun won by decision in his battle against redshirt sophomore Matt Wroblewski, but the Huskies needed a pinfall to contend for a win in the heavyweight contest.

Max Ihry finished the night on a high note for NIU. The redshirt junior capped the night with a 7-4 decision against first-year Luke Luffman at the 285-pound matchup.

The Huskies’ record now stands at 4-3 with their next meet being a Mid-American Conference dual. NIU hosts Kent State University, hoping to pick up its second MAC win of the season.

The meet is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 at Victor E. Court, in DeKalb.