Wrestlers to fight for spots

By Mike Romor

The season’s first dual meet is still three weeks away, but wrestling is set to hit the mats for the annual Red/Black dual at 7 p.m. Friday in the Chick Evans Fieldhouse.

The yearly wrestle-offs display a match at each of the 10 weight classes. Head coach Ryan Ludwig said the competition is wide open for every position in the starting lineup.

“No one is locked in to a spot as of now,” Ludwig said. “Every year we like to open the year with no guarantees at each weight. It encourages the competition we need in our room and we always look forward to this event.”

While there are no guarantees at each weight class, seniors Kevin Fanta, Matt Mougin and Jared Torrence should be locked in at 141, 174 and 285, respectively, as long as their health remains.

Mougin is coming off the strongest season of any Huskie. After 25 wins and coming within a match of placing at nationals, Ludwig expects Mougin to pick up where he left off while providing motivation to the rest of the team.

“I’m looking for leadership out of him,” Ludwig said. “I know Matt’s hungry to get on that stand at nationals, and his inner drive to do that will provide a great example for the young guys, just with him being hungry enough to get on that stand.”

Another solid senior on Ludwig’s roster is Nick Smith. He leads all active Huskies in wins with 48, but he is battling through a sprained ankle and will not be expected for the next few weeks of action. Ludwig hopes for Smith to be healthy for the conference stretch, in which he went undefeated last season.

Smith’s weight class, 133, should feature an interesting match between redshirt sophomore Thorian Twyner and freshman Jordan Northrup.

Ludwig thinks the weight classes that are the most up in the air are at 165 and 197.

At 165, Ludwig anticipates a three-man battle among redshirt freshmen Trace Engelkes, Shaun’Qae McMurtry and redshirt junior Sam Bennett.

Bennett overtook then-senior Dan Burk late last season at the spot, but both Engelkes and McMurtry were heavily touted out of high school and did well in their redshirt season. Engelkes finished with a 14-9 record and four pins at 157, while McMurtry posted a 22-5 mark with Nebraska.

At 197, the competition is open between redshirt senior Parker Settecase and redshirt freshman Shawn Scott.

Both saw time there last season, with Scott starting as a true freshman until he suffered a season-ending injury. Settecase took over for him and finished the year with seven wins. Settecase previously wrestled as a heavyweight.

Ludwig anticipates this year’s wrestle-offs will show the depth and talent of his team in a conference that just added even more quality programs.

“With the addition of Missouri, Old Dominion and Northern Iowa, our conference has become arguably the second-toughest conference in the country, right behind the Big 10,” Ludwig said. “So things are good and competition is at an all-time high. Ultimately, we hope that leads to more national qualifiers for everyone within the conference.”