Junior wrestler to compete in NCAA championships

By Ed Rietveld

One member of the wrestling team is preparing for what could be the most important weekend of his life.

Redshirt junior Matt Mougin, who wrestles at 174 pounds, will compete in the NCAA championships beginning Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. Mougin, who had a 22-15 record this season, qualified for the NCAA’s with his fifth-place finish at the MAC wrestling tournament on March 10. The MAC received five automatic bids into the tournament at the 174-pound weight class.

Mougin, who is competing at the national championships for the first time, said he is trying to treat this weekend’s action just like a normal tournament.

“It’s pretty exciting. I mean, it’s my first time making it,” Mougin said. “So, I kinda just look at it as another tournament right now because I don’t wanna get myself too nervous. I just kind of look at it as another tournament [where I’m] gonna go out and wrestle and try and win, and just not letting myself worry about it being such a big tournament.”

The competition Mougin will face in the double elimination tournament could make reaching his goal quite challenging. In the first round, the NIU grappler will take on the No. 11 seed, Blake Stauffer of Arizona State. The Sun Devil comes in with a record of 22-3 and is coming off a second-place finish at Pac-12 championships. Following that match, Mougin will either face sixth seed Logan Storley of Minnesota or Bryce Hammond of Cal State Bakersfield. Storley has a record 24-3 in 2012-13. Hammond went 32-8 during the 2012-13 regular season.

Head coach Ryan Ludwig said Mougin has the capability to go up against stiff competition.

“Look, Matt’s got all the tools that it takes to be the most successful wrestler he believes he can be, and I think when he believes he can score on anybody and hang with anybody in the country, you know, that’s a major breakthrough to his wrestling,” Ludwig said. “Because physically he’s got it all. He’s fast, he’s very technical. He understands the sport. He understands positions, so when he can go out there and instill his game plan for seven hard minutes he does a great job.”

Mougin, a Columbus Junction, Iowa, native, said it will be nice to return to his home state

“It’s going to be pretty exciting. Not a lot of my friends have seen me wrestle since I wrestled in high school,” Mougin said. “I’m excited to show them how much better I’ve gotten, and it makes it pretty special being in the same place that I won my state title in my senior year. So it would be awesome to get back on the podium in the same place.”