Notre Dame offers tough competition

“Join the NIU wrestling team, and see the U.S.A.” That could be the recruiting theme for this year’s squad.

The next stop comes Saturday when the 1-5 Huskies venture to the University of Notre Dame for a 7:30 p.m. battle which is the third stop on the nine-date tour for NIU. The Huskies’ next, and second of three home dates is Feb. 26.

The Fighting Irish come in at 1-2, but one of those losses came at the hands of tenth-ranked Nebraska by a tally of 27-11. Notre Dame bounced back with a 19-17 conquest of Missouri. The Irish are led by 126-pounder Marcus Gowens with an 11-3 mark.

Huskie coach Ed Vatch counters with 158-pounder T.C. Dantzler, a two-time NCAA qualifier who is 3-2 since his return from football action. In addition, Courtney Pitter has come into his own with an 11-5 record at 177 pounds.

The Irish represent a benchmark for Vatch to evaluate his team’s progress against top-ranked opponents.

“Notre Dame is one of the top regional teams, and it’s important to see regional foes for better experience. On top of that, they’re just plain good,” Vatch said. “We want to wrestle good competition because the better competition you wrestle the better prepared you are.

“We may not have their strength, but we won’t run from anyone.”