NIU wrestling: Huskies set for ‘huge’ weekend

By Frank Gogola

There’s no “just another dual” mindset for wrestling this weekend. The pair of conference duals are big for several reasons, and the team knows it.

The Huskies (8-8, 0-2 MAC) return home for the first time since Dec. 5 when they host the Ohio Bobcats (5-4, 1-3 MAC) 7 p.m. Friday at the Convocation Center alongside the gymnastics meet. They then travel to the No. 3 Missouri Tigers (15-0, 4-0 MAC) 1 p.m. Sunday in Columbia, Mo.

“I’d say in terms of density and sheer importance of MAC implications and getting to the national tournament, I’d say it’s a very important weekend,” said head coach Ryan Ludwig.

Redshirt sophomore Shawn Scott (197) will take on a pair of premier, ranked wrestlers, and while his focus is on them, he sees how big this weekend could potentially be.

“This is huge,” Scott said. “I mean, to put NIU on the map it starts with these kinds of duals with Ohio and Missouri. Missouri’s ranked third. Ohio’s a very respected team. To go out there and beat Ohio and Missouri, that puts us right on the map and that gets NIU out there.”

Shawn Scott vs. the World

Scott faces the toughest weekend of any NIU wrestler with a pair of duals against two top-16 opponents at the 197-pound weight class.

Friday, Scott will take on Ohio redshirt junior Phil Wellington, ranked No. 16 in the nation.

“He’s a very open wrestler,” Scott said. “He doesn’t like to get his hands on you. He’s very out and open. He shoots out in the open. Very quick. Very agile. He’s very elusive. He can move very quickly and pretty much he’s just non-stop; he won’t stop going.”

The weekend only gets tougher for Scott when the team travels to Missouri for a Sunday matinee. He’ll square off with sophomore J’den Cox, the defending national champion at the 197-pound weight class. Cox is ranked No. 2 in the nation.

“He’s obviously a national champ, so I give him credit for that in that respect, but at the same time I’m looking for a win, so I’ll be taking the same approach as I will with Phil Wellington,” Scott said. “They have a similar style. They’re very quick, very elusive with their style. My objective is to go in there and shut them down right away and kind of control the match and wrestle my match out there.”

Scouting Ohio

The Bobcats come to DeKalb fresh off their first conference victory of the season, which came Sunday over the Eastern Michigan Eagles, 20-15.

The Bobcats held their own when they wrestled the Tigers. In a close bout, Ohio lost, 25-18, Dec. 13 in Athens, Ohio.

Wellington, Tywan Claxton (149) and Cody Walters (174) are nationally ranked. Ludwig said some of the bigger matches will be Scott vs. Wellington, junior Andrew Morse vs. Spartak Chino at 157 and redshirt sophomore Shaun’Qae McMurtry vs. Harrison Hightower at 165.

“I think those will be the highlight matchups,” Ludwig said. “But, that being said, every match is huge for us in order to win that dual.”

Scouting Missouri

Ludwig said the team’s focus is on Ohio right now although the Huskies know what lies ahead with Missouri. The Tigers boast eight nationally ranked wrestlers.

“Clearly, Missouri’s the cream of the conference right now,” Ludwig said. “… Big challenge, and we’re looking forward to it. We want to go out there again with fight and intensity and expect to win. If we wrestle with confidence and the best of our abilities we hope some good things will happen Sunday, as well.”