Brit Wilson, Izzak Olejnik advance to MAC Championship bouts

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Jarrett Huff | Northern Star

Then-redshirt sophomore Brit Wilson being announced the winner March 7 after his 8-5 decision win in the 2020 MAC Championship semifinals at the Convocation Center.

James Krause, Senior Reporter

DeKALB — For the second year in a row, redshirt junior 184-pounder Brit Wilson and redshirt sophomore 165-pounder Izzak Olejnik will represent NIU in Mid-American Conference wrestling championship bouts. 

Wilson and Olejnik advanced through the first three rounds of the MAC tournament Friday at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton, New Jersey. Both wrestlers will face off against wrestlers from the defending conference champions, the University of Missouri Tigers

At 184 pounds, Wilson will face Missouri redshirt sophomore Jerimiah Kent. The two have never faced off but share a history of each being Missouri State High School Champions at 170 pounds. 

Wilson earned a first-round bye as the top-seed and handily took care of his two opponents on the day, including Cleveland State University sophomore DeAndre Nasser with a 12-3 major decision win. 

In the 165-pound final, Olejnik faces the only man he’s lost to this season; Missouri first-year Keegan O’Toole. O’Toole is 14-0 on the season, dominating through the first three rounds of the tournament.

Olejnik will return to the championship match at 165 for the second year in a row, this time in hopes of taking the title. Olejnik’s ability to control the match from beginning to end was showcased in his semifinal match, defeating Cleveland State redshirt sophomore Riley Smucher by a 9-3 decision with riding time.

Redshirt junior 149-pounder Anthony Cheloni was the only other Huskie to reach the championship semifinals. Cheloni fell to Cleveland State redshirt sophomore Marcus Robinson in a 5-1 decision with Robinson maintaining top control throughout the contest.

NIU sits fourth in team points far behind the hosting University of Rider, Central Michigan University and the leading Missouri squad. The Huskies hold a one-point advantage over Cleveland State.

Redshirt junior Mason Kauffman had his 174-pound championship hopes dashed in an overtime loss to Edinboro University redshirt junior Jacob Oliver. Oliver, who lost via an overtime takedown to Kauffman earlier this season, returned the favor to eliminate Kauffman in the quarterfinals.

Kauffman and three others will still have a chance to fight their way into the NCAA national tournament in the consultation bracket, with the MAC having provisional bids beyond the finals in most weight classes.

Redshirt senior heavyweight Max Ihry and redshirt sophomore 197-pounder Gage Braun both were eliminated from their championship brackets but still have a chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

After receiving a bye in the first round, redshirt junior Bryce West fell at 133 pounds in the quarterfinals to Rider redshirt sophomore and eventual finalist Richie Koehler. West rebounded in the consultation bracket and will wrestle Saturday in hopes of qualifying for the national tournament.

Redshirt junior 141-pound Caleb Brooks saw his season come to an end after suffering a pair of losses. Before elimination, Brooks gave NIU its first win of the tournament with an opening round 5-4 decision over Lock Haven University University redshirt junior Cole Manley.

Redshirt sophomore Anthony Gibson received a bye in the consultation portion of the 157–pound bracket before losing a 12-8 decision to University at University at Buffalo redshirt sophomore Michael Petite.

The second day of the tournament begins at 11 a.m. CST SaturdaySaturday at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton, New Jersey. Coverage of the championship matches will be on on ESPN+ starting at 1:30 p.m. CST.