Wrestling to face four top teams in weekend

By Mike Romor

Wrestling is set to head to the Eastern Michigan Duals Saturday before embarking on a tough MAC schedule.

NIU will square off against four quality opponents, two of which are nationally ranked Div. I powerhouse programs.

“It’s going to be great competition, and that’s why we schedule the way we do,” said head coach Ryan Ludwig. “These are matches that can play into your future of qualifying in the NCAA Tournament and getting seeded there… We’re hoping to wrestle as hard as we can and have good things happen.”

NIU opens up its weekend up against No. 14 Michigan in a great all-around challenge.

Michigan has a deep roster that features five nationally ranked wrestlers. Redshirt seniors Sean Boyle, Eric Grajales and Dan Yates lead the way.

All have made multiple trips to the NCAA Championships and have made it to the top 12 once there. The only current Huskie to advance that far is Matt Mougin, who did so last year at 174.

“We’re wrestling top-notch competition this weekend in the four duals,” Ludwig said. “We’re looking forward to the first match right now with Michigan and we’re looking for our guys to take advantage of them.”

After what should be an intense morning dual, NIU is scheduled to face No. 6 Oregon State.

Oregon State’s roster is highlighted by Scott Sakaguchi, who is the top nationally ranked grappler at 149. He finished fifth in last year’s NCAA Championships and has started this season as an unstoppable force.

Oregon State also showcases top-ranked Taylor Meeks at 197 and third-ranked RJ Pena at 157.

While its first two duals seem to be the toughest on paper, NIU faces some challenging squads in Clarion and Findlay.

Clarion is loaded with young talent, similar to NIU, while Findlay has been a tough opponent for NIU in the past.

Findlay is coming off a third-place finish in the 2012 Div. II Championships and ranks No. 16 in the nation.

Ludwig, a Findlay alumnus, ranks seventh in program history for wins. Findlay’s head coach, Shawn Nelson, coached Ludwig during his time there, making for a rivalry when the teams match up.

“It’s always a good time, and I’m still really good friends with the coaching staff there,” Ludwig said. “I really respect what they’re doing with that program… [Nelson and I] are really good buddies, but when the whistle blows we’re ready to compete.”

NIU boasts an improved lineup with a mix of senior leadership and young talent. Sophomore Andrew Morse, 157, has led a promising NIU squad through the opening weeks of the season.

Morse is 9-3 through two opens, placing second in last weekend’s Michigan State Open. Morse has taken down plenty of quality opponents, recording three major decisions, one technical fall and one pin.