Wrestlers open season at NU


The NIU wrestling squad shoots into action 9 a.m. this Saturday at the Northwestern Open.

This will be the first chance of the year for head coach Phil Rembert to evaluate his recruiting class and get a tentative lineup in order.

Rembert, in his second year as head coach, will be trying to improve on last year’s 6-9 dual record, which was up from 2-11 in 1991.

“In the past there hasn’t been much interest in wrestling here. Our numbers have gone from 13 to 26, our record improved from 2-11 in ‘91 to 6-9 last year. We have made our mark and we are a force to be reckoned with. I wouldn’t be happy with anything but a winning season,” Rembert said.

The Huskies return seven grapplers from last year’s squad, including team captains Shanon Gregory at 118 lbs, and James Spillman at 150 lbs.

Sophomore Chad Gaucher, a fourth place finisher in the West regionals last year, will redshirt this season.

Although Gaucher could immediately help this squad, Rembert feels it is in Gaucher’s best interests to use this year to refine his skills because he has the potential to be a great one.

With only seven guys returning and 13 weights to be filled, Rembert will have to rely on his first recruiting class to make this season a successful one.

Rembert landed 13 topnotch recruits ranging from state champs to state qualifiers.

Included in the recruiting class are junior college transfers Jason Mitsdarfer at 134 lbs and Ben Lehrfeld at 167 lbs.

Both qualified for the NJCAA national tournament and are expected to hold down the fort at their respective weights.

NIU has a string of qualifying at least one wrestler for the national tournament for the past 22 years.

Last year’s qualifiers were T.C. Dantzler at 158 lbs, and Jim Kossakowski at 167 lbs and both lost to graduation.

This year’s hopefuls with a shot to keep the streak alive are Shannon Gregory, James Spillman and Ben Lehrfeld.

“Shannon and James both have as much potential as anyone in the country to be an All-American. They have the strength and the experience to finish on top,” said coach Rembert.

Following their first pre-season tune up at the Northwestern Open the Huskies will compete in the Northern Open held at the University of Wisconsin Nov. 27.