DeKALB — A valiant comeback attempt fell short for the wrestling team as it dropped its final match of the regular season Friday against the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y.
After falling to a 16-3 deficit, NIU went on to win four of the following five bouts to close the deficit to 14-16. Buffalo was able to regroup and ultimately scrape out the victory, winning the last two bouts to defeat the Huskies 14-23.
Redshirt first-year Brit Wilson and redshirt junior McCoy Kent extended their winning streaks with victories in the 174-weight class and 149-weight class, respectively. Wilson finished the regular season with six straight victories while Kent closed with five.
Wilson finished the regular season with a team-leading 24 victories and the only NIU wrestler to eclipse 20 victories. Kent ranks fourth on the team with a career-high 14 victories.
Redshirt first-year Bryce West was in charge of leading the pack. West faced redshirt senior Kyle Akins in the 125-weight class. West fought hard through the first period, but his efforts fell short after Akins defeated him in a 4:30-minute pin.
Buffalo went on to take the next two duals when redshirt senior Alijah Jeffery and redshirt first-year Drew West lost to redshirt sophomore Derek Spann and redshirt senior Bryan Lantry, respectively.
With NIU down 0-10, Kent was first to put the Huskies on the scoreboard after defeating senior Jason Esteves 8-4. Kent pulled an early 2-1 lead in the first before jumping to a 5-1 lead in the second period, helping secure his third conference victory.
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Redshirt sophomore Caden McWhirter stepped in at the 165-weight class, making his third conference appearance. McWhirter had no trouble handling sophomore Noah Grovar in an 11-0 major decision victory for NIU. McWhirter’s victory came after redshirt first-year Mason Kauffman lost to senior Alex Smyth, a set-back for the Huskies.
Wilson and redshirt first-year Will Feldkamp followed McWhirter with two additional victories, inching NIU toward a potential comeback. Wilson defeated redshirt first-year Jake Lenning in a tight contest in which the Huskie trailed 4-3 going into the third period. Feldkamp then came from behind to earn the 8-6 victory.
Feldkamp got a huge win for NIU, putting on a showcase against redshirt sophomore Logan Rill.
Feldkamp picked up an early 6-0 lead in the first period and never looked back. The Huskie went on to defeat Rill by a major decision 13-2, leaving NIU down two points.
Buffalo responded with back-to-back wins to put the Huskies away.
Redshirt-junior Caleb Gossett was NIU’s last chance at a victory, but his fight was not enough as he fell to redshirt senior Jake Gunning.
Gossett fell behind early in the first period and couldn’t seem to find his groove, finishing with a 2-7 loss.
The wrestling team failed to put together a winning season for the fifth time in six years. With a 2-5 Mid-American Conference record, the Huskies have put together one of their better conference campaigns.
With the MAC Championships approaching, NIU will shift gears to the postseason. The Huskies can only go up after finishing in eighth place in last year’s championships.
NIU will have two weeks’ rest, as the MAC Championships are set for Friday March 8 through Saturday March 9 in Norfolk, Va.