Wrestling set to take on Northwestern


 Northern Star File Photo

By Mike Romor

NIU wrestling looks to turn its struggles into success Friday in Evansville against in-state rival Northwestern.

After last year’s 38-0 loss, NIU (6-7, 0-4 MAC) hopes for a drastically different outcome against Northwestern (7-4, 3-4 Big Ten).

“We have been working on hand-fighting and holding our ground,” said NIU coach Ryan Ludwig. “We want our guys to drive fully through their attacks and finish it. I want them to be attacking with attitude.”

Northwestern annually produces some of the best talent in the NCAA. The Wildcats rank 22nd overall in the nation by InterMat. All four of its team losses have come against teams ranked in the top 10.

The Wildcats have four returning NCAA qualifiers, including last season All-American Jason Welch, who is ranked second in the country at 157.

Ludwig is excited to see a few matchups in particular, including a match with heavy implications between NIU’s 20th-ranked Nick Smith and Northwestern’s 10th-ranked Levi Mele at 125.

“Every match is important, but one of the highlights of the dual will be at 125,” Ludwig said. “It’s a couple of guys that are ranked 20th and 10th by InterMat and should play out interesting.”

Ludwig also expects the match at 141 to be interesting. NIU’s Kevin Fanta garnered some attention with his impressive season. One of the most consistent wrestlers for the Huskies, the redshirt sophomore recently reached as high as 33rd in his weight class, according to wrestlingreport.com.

“He will be looking to avenge a loss to Colin Schober,” Ludwig said.

Fanta’s last encounter with Schober at the Midlands was a grinding battle that ended in a 7-6 loss.

At heavyweight, Jared Torrence will go up against No. 13 Mike McMullan, who emerged as a national threat as a redshirt freshman.

Despite being optimistic earlier this week, Brad Dieckhaus, who is ranks 18th nationally at 184, is being evaluated daily to see if he is ready for Friday’s match. His return to the lineup has not been confirmed by Ludwig.