Wrestling dominates Southern Illinois

By Marcel Carrasco

DeKALB — The wrestling team cruised its way to a 28-6 win Sunday over in-state opponent Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

The win over the Cougars marked the first conference victory of the year for NIU, putting the team at 1-3 in Mid-American Conference play.

The Cougars left the meet with a 1-8 overall record.

The Huskies snapped a five-match losing streak dating back to the Nov. 17 Huskie Duals.

Head Coach Ryan Ludwig said he was encouraged by his team’s ability to bounce back from a rough start.

“We did a nice job of establishing superior ties and maintaining solid position today,” Ludwig said. “We were also able to get escapes from bottom when needed; that’s incredibly valuable.”

NIU was dominant throughout the match, taking eight of the 10 duals, including the first five of six to quickly go up 19-3.

Ludwig said he sees his team’s constant practice beginning to pay off.

“The guys have been working their tails off daily, building steam,” Ludwig said. “It’s great for them to feel a nice payoff as a team.”

Redshirt first-year Will Feldkamp hit the mats first with a major decision win over first-year Sergio Villalobos in the 184 weight-class, setting the tone for what was a great team victory for the Huskies.

Related: Wrestling falls to Illini

Huskie redshirt first-year Brit Wilson defeated SIUE’s sophomore Kevin Gschwendtner in the 174 weight-class.

Wilson leads NIU in wins with a 15-3 individual record. He has dominated in conference play, taking home a victory in three duals.

The Huskies then dropped two close matchups. Redshirt sophomore Max Ihry and redshirt junior McCoy Kent lost in the 197 and 149 weight-classes.

Ihry’s loss closed the early gap to 4-3 in favor of the Huskies.

Redshirt junior Caleb Gossett faced SIUE’s first-year Colton McKiernan in the 285 weight-class, beating out the Cougars in a 4-0 decision victory to put the Huskies up 7-4.

Redshirt first-year Bryce West followed Gossett’s win with a strong showing after a pin victory over first-year Austin Macias, his first victory of MAC play for the season. West’s victory gave the Huskies a comfortable 13-3 lead.

Redshirt senior Alijah Jeffery, who ranked fourth in the 133 weight-class for the month of January in the MAC, powered his way to an 8-3 decision victory over redshirt junior Lucas Bernal.

Huskie redshirt sophomore Kenny Moore, who is second on the team in victories, earned a win over redshirt senior Nate Higgins to put his record at 11-6.

All three of the team’s victories have been at home this season, and the Huskies will host two more home matches before closing out the regular season with four away matchups.

Ludwig said the team enjoys playing in front of a home crowd and having the opportunity to show what they’re capable of.

“It was a great atmosphere, and we are appreciative of all who came out to support on a Sunday afternoon,” Ludwig said.

The Huskies moved up two spots, passing SIUE and Kent State University in the January MAC rankings after finishing in eighth place for previous two months.

 NIU will have a five days rest from competition before hitting the road for South Carolina when they face Hofstra University and The Citadel in duals. Face off is set for 1 p.m. Saturday in Charleston, S.C.