Wrestling ready for Northern Duals

By Mike Romor

Wrestling is coming off a test run last weekend at the EMU Duals. Now it is set to host the Northern Duals and face its first conference opponent of the season in Northern Iowa at 10 a.m. Saturday at Victor E. Court.

NIU (2-2) will face the No. 17 program in the country. Northern Iowa has not participated in any duals this season, but features a lineup with six nationally ranked wrestlers.

Northern Iowa’s top-ranked grappler is senior Ryan Loder. Loder is ranked fourth at 184 and is coming off a junior campaign that ended with a seventh-place finish at Nationals, making him an All-American.

Loder has never lost a collegiate match by major decision, technical fall or pinfall, and is 99-23 in his career, pinning his opponent in 23 of those matches.

Another of the tough grapplers in Northern Iowa’s lineup is senior Joey Lazor. Lazor won the MAC Championships last season at 141 to qualify for his first national tournament berth.

Northern Iowa placed third in last season’s MAC Championships in its first year in its

new conference.

“Northern Iowa is an extremely tough team,” said head coach Ryan Ludwig. “They have a solid lineup from lightweights through heavyweights. They’re ranked in the top 20 in the country, and I think they’re underrated at that. That being said, I’d love to go out there and challenge them.”

NIU will have a quick turnover, as it hosts North Dakota State 2 p.m. Saturday.

North Dakota State (0-1) is not nationally ranked, but it does have a challenging lineup.

Steven Monk leads the way, ranking fifth in the nation at 165, while Hayden Zillmer ranks 20th at 174.

Monk, a senior, has fallen a match shy of being named an All-American in each of the past two seasons.

Sophomore Zillmer is expected to make a leap this season after an 11-9 record last year. He is coming off a second-place finish in last weekend’s Bison Open.

North Dakota State also ranked fourth for best recruiting class, a class that landed three top-100 recruits.

NIU boasts a strong lineup of its own. At 133, senior Nick Smith leads all current Huskies in career wins, with 48.

At 141, Kevin Fanta placed fourth in the MAC preseason rankings. Fanta is coming off a second-place finish in the MAC Championships.

NIU’s Sam Bennett ranked fourth at 165, while Matt Mougin placed third. Mougin advanced to the round of 12 in the NCAA Championships last season for the Huskies.

Senior Jared Torrence has earned the respect of opponents and coaches throughout the MAC over his career at NIU, in which he has gone 36-31. Torrence ranked third in the preseason poll.

“I think the sky is the limit for this team,” Ludwig said. “Right now we’re working on straightening out the details and technical issues. When we can break through those things mentally, I think this team’s capable of big, big things.”