4 Huskies qualify for NCAA wrestling tournament

Brit Wilson repeats as 184-pound MAC champion


Jarrett Huff | Northern Star

Then-redshirt sophomore Brit Wilson smiling as he holds redshirt senior Dylan Wisman to the mat March 8, 2020 upon realization that he would be crowned Mid-American Conference Champion at the Convocation Center. The 2020 NCAA Wrestling Championships was ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By James Krause

DeKALB — For the second year in a row, redshirt junior Brit Wilson claims the 184-pound Mid-American Conference championship Saturday to cap off a weekend of success for NIU.

Wilson pinned University of Missouri sophomore Jeremiah Kent after 4:33 at the Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton, New Jersey, to claim his second straight title and punch his ticket to the NCAA national tournament. Wilson will be one of four Huskies who have qualified for the national tournament.

Redshirt sophomore Izzak Olejnik won a true second place match 9-0 to claim a spot into the NCAA tournament as well. Despite making the final, pre-allocations to the MAC were limited to one spot for 165-pounders.

Olejnik first faced Missouri first-year Keegan O’Toole in the 165pound championship match, losing by a 5-2 decision. Olejnik couldn’t take advantage of a few early takedown attempts and couldn’t create any offense late.

NIU finished fourth in team points with Missouri claiming its 10th championship in a row. Central Michigan University took second while the host team, Rider University, took third place.

Redshirt junior Anthony Cheloni only needed one escape point to claim third place at 149 pounds, defeating Kent State junior Kody Komara 1-0. After struggling the past two seasons, Cheloni will cap his career-best season with an NCAA tournament appearance.

Redshirt junior Bryce West earned fifth place by way of an injury forfeit win in his final match. West started the day by giving the Huskies their first pinfall win of the entire tournament, pinning Kent State University redshirt sophomore Brendon Fenton at 1:26. 

West qualifies for the national tournament for the second time in his career, doing so previously in 2019 at 125 pounds.

Making the NCAA tournament will be a waiting game for redshirt junior 174-pounder Mason Kauffman. Kauffmen went to sudden victory in his third place match tied with Edinboro University redshirt junior Jacob Oliver. Kauffman retreated outside the circle while trying to escape a takedown attempt and was penalized a point for stalling, losing him the match 5-4.

In the Huskies’ other fifth place match, redshirt sophomore Gage Braun defeated Ohio University redshirt sophomore 8-2.

The Huskies final podium finish of the day came at heavyweight with redshirt senior Max Ihry finishing his season with a 5-3 decision win to claim seventh place at 285 pounds.

NIU now has nearly a month to prepare Wilson, Olejnik, Cheloni and company for the NCAA National Championships starting March 20 in St. Louis, Missouri. At-large bids and brackets for the tournament are scheduled to be announced March 10.