Wrestling travels to Omaha for tourney

By Nathan Lindquist

After winning seven of the 10 weight classes in its previous tournament, the NIU wrestling team will be hard pressed to improve on last weekend’s stellar outing.

But junior Mike Grimes said he thinks the team’s progress will be measured in more than just wins and losses.

“We understand this tournament is a lot more difficult than the last one,” the 149-pounder said. “There’s a lot better competition. We’re not looking to improve on our seven champions – we’re looking to improve on the way we get after people.”

In their final tournament before the dual meet season begins, the Huskies will travel to Omaha, Neb. for the Kaufman Brand Open Saturday.

The open features several top-25 ranked schools and will be hosted by Nebraska-Omaha, the two-time defending Division II national champion. With perennial powers Minnesota and Nebraska in the mix, NIU coach Dave Grant said he is confident in his wrestlers’ abilities.

“This team has looked pretty impressive,” Grant said. “We’ve been in great shape, we’re healthy and wrestling tough. This is a great opportunity for us to improve our individual rankings.”

Senior Josh Wooton and juniors Johnny Galloway and Grimes are all ranked in the top 20 in their respective weight class. Facing other nationally-ranked opponents is inevitable for the Huskies, and the 165-pound Galloway said the team is prepared to put its preseason practice into action.

“We want to wear out the person with high-intensity, in-your-face type of wrestling, basically,” Galloway said. “Our mentality is to wear people down and get them tired in the third period and let our conditioning take over.”

Individual performances this weekend will help Grant solidify starting spots for the season-opening dual meet against Northwestern Dec. 1. The 10th-year head coach has said before that he doesn’t play favorites in selecting his lineup and will go with the most consistent wrestler at every weight class.

“I’m starting to get a better idea,” Grant said. “This weekend might put a couple guys over the top, or it maybe [will] give another guy an advantage. We’ll have to see this time next week. The guys that stand out will be the ones who come ready to wrestle.”