NIU defeats nationally ranked CMU for the first time since 2003

By James Krause

DeKALB—The wrestling team picked up a 19-12 dual victory over the Central Michigan Chippewas Sunday, picking up its first win against CMU since 2003.

The victory coming now is more satisfying than ever for the team, with the Chippewas entering ranked 24th in the nation in the NWCA Coaches Poll. Head Coach Ryan Ludwig said the win showed the Huskies can be successful in duals with the right mindset.

“[This was] one of the biggest wins we’ve had in dual meet history just in terms of not beating Central for so long,” Ludwig said. “We talked about team effort and fighting their fights, whether they be ugly or glamorous.”

The highlight win for the Huskies came from redshirt first-year Anthony Gibson at 141 pounds, defeating nationally-ranked redshirt junior Dresden Simon in a 9-3 decision. Gibson picked up several takedowns and picked up the ride-time point to remain undefeated this year in dual meets.

Ludwig said Gibson’s performance was a great recovery from his two losses at the Midlands Championships last week.

“Gibson’s win was huge,” Ludwig said. “Simon is such a great competitor, a nationally-ranked guy. For [Gibson] to rebound from kind of a subpar Midlands performance to go out there and do what he did tonight was special.”

NIU and CMU split the two matchups prior to Gibson’s win. Redshirt sophomore Bryce West lost a decision to redshirt junior Drew Hilderbrandt at 125 pounds, followed by redshirt first-year Caleb Brooks beating redshirt sophomore Brock Bergelin in a close decision.

Redshirt senior McCoy Kent and his opponent, redshirt first-year Corbyn Munson, looked exhausted after their contest at 149 pounds. Kent held onto the 5-3 decision win after Munson was unable to secure a takedown before the buzzer sounded on the final period.

With CMU following with a decision win, the Huskies led 9-6 at intermission. Out of the break, redshirt first-year Izzak Olejnik was slow to start in his contest with redshirt first-year Tracy Hubbard, trailing 1-0 at the end of the second period of their 165-pound bout.

Following a third caution violation by Hubbard to tie the match at 1-1, Olejnik went on the attack and picked up a reversal, two takedowns and the ridetime point in the final period to secure an 8-3 victory.

“I knew I needed to put some points on the board,” Olejnik said. “Those first two periods I was staying back and not really wrestling the way I wanted to. I knew in the third period I had to come out firing.”

A decision victory by redshirt senior Kenny Moore at 174 pounds, and a major decision win for redshirt first-year Brit Wilson at 184 pounds put NIU up 19-6 with two matches remaining. 

Two closing decision wins for the Chippewas, including nationally-ranked heavyweight Matt Stencel’s close 5-3 decision win over redshirt junior Max Ihry, weren’t enough for CMU to top the Huskies.

Ludwig said getting wins and good showings against ranked wrestlers will help the team and the athletes stake a claim for national attention.

“We’re trying to get a number by our name, and beating ranked teams in duals helps us do that,” Ludwig said. “Most importantly, I think it gives our guys the belief that we’re doing the right things and progressing like we tell them they are. We just hope to build on this.” 

The Huskies schedule takes them across the country Friday to San Luis Obispo, California for a dual meet against the Cal-Poly Mustangs. The first match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. central time.