Wrestling has ‘heart’ but gets 0 points

By Frank Gogola

Wrestling (6-8, 1-4 MAC) ended its latest dual the same way it started it: with zero points.

The Huskies were shut out by the No. 7 Missouri Tigers (5-1, 3-1 MAC), 31-0, Saturday at Victor E. Court. The Tigers, who were the fifth Top-25 team the Huskies faced this season, became the first team to hold NIU scoreless.

The final score was slightly misleading, as the Huskies were in almost every match. They lost the 10 matches by an average of 3.5 points, with two losses coming by one point each and three losses coming by two points each.

“Northern Illinois wrestled with heart,” said Missouri head coach Brian Smith. “The score doesn’t show it, but they wrestled really, really hard [Saturday] and made us battle for every point. We had to come back and win some matches.

“We had one bonus point in the match, and we have some pretty good people. They battled hard. They’re a well-coached team. And you can see that. They were fighting for points, fighting for position and made us work for everything.”

The Huskies lost nine matches by decision and one by major decision. They were unable to secure any points, but the wrestlers didn’t allow themselves to be pinned.

“I thought we had great effort,” said head coach Ryan Ludwig. “I thought sometimes our focus waned, and that’s when they took advantage of some situations. And that’s something that’s just gonna come with time.

“We keep reppin’ it and reppin’ it, and our guys are buying into it. It’s just we’ve got a young group in some cases, and they’re learning every week and getting extremely better with it.”

The Huskies squared off with four wrestlers who were ranked in their respective weight classes: No. 1 Drake Houdashelt (149), No. 6 J’Den Cox (197), No. 8 Zach Toal (165) and No. 19 Mikey England (174).

Matt Mougin fell to England, 7-1. Shawn Scott lost to Cox, 8-5. Shaun’Qae McMurtry came up short against Toal, 5-3. And Rob Jillard dropped a 6-2 decision against Houdashelt.

“I thought Shaun’Qae McMurtry had the performance of the night against a very tough opponent,” Ludwig said. “And although it didn’t go his way, I thought he really broke through on a few attacks there. And then Shawn Scott made some gains on his kid, who’s ranked very highly in the country at 197.

“Rob Jillard did an outstanding job competing against the No. 1 kid in the country. We found out that that kid’s vulnerable. We can get to our attacks and score, which is gonna make a huge difference in competition in the MAC tournament.

“Although we didn’t get our hands raised, the progress is there and we’re building for something special in March, and right now that’s what we’re keying on: progress.”