DeKALB — After entering the final three matches tied 13-13, the wrestling team pulled out a 23-13 win in their meet against Kent State University on Wednesday.
A major decision win by 184 pound redshirt sophomore Brit Wilson set up a clinching decision win for 197 pound redshirt first-year Gage Braun that was decided by a late takedown.
Head Coach Ryan Ludwig wished his team could have won in more convincing fashion, but was happy with his team’s determination.
“It was a good job by our guys to dig deep and get a win,” Ludwig said. “I think it could have been cleaner, but we’ll take the win.”
Braun struggled early in his match with Kent State sophomore Colin McCracken. Braun took nearly all of the two-minute second period to finally escape control of McCracken and pick up a valuable point.
“I knew I needed that one point because it was going to be crucial in the match,” Braun said. “I was tired because I’ve been sick, so that was me trying to build up my stamina to get up and get that point.”
Braun and McCracken were tied with less than a minute to go in the third round when Braun shot for a takedown that would seal a 5-4 victory and, ultimately, the dueldual. Ludwig thought Braun, like many other wrestlers for NIU that night, used his toughness to succeed when skills weren't good enough.
“I don’t think [Braun] wrestled well, but he wrestled tough,” Ludwig said. “That’s what we ask for. That’s what you can control. He just ground it out and really showed a lot of heart and a lot of grit.”
The Huskies were rolling early, starting with a pinfall win for redshirt sophomore Bryce West at 125 pounds and a major decision at 141 pounds for redshirt first-year Anthony Gibson. A decision win by redshirt sophomore Mason Kauffman at 157 pounds put NIU up 13-6 at the dual’s midway point.
The Huskies’ early momentum fell flat by the middle meet bouts. 165 pound redshirt first-year Izzak Olejnik lost a decision and 174 pound redshirt senior Caden McWhirter dropped a major decision to junior Andrew McNally, a runner-up in the conference championships last season.
Tied 13-13, Wilson gave the Huskies new life with a 10-2 major decision win over senior Shane Mast. Ludwig said Wilson’s greatest ability is being able to breath new life into his team.
“[Wilson] is the spark, the energy, the guy you can always count on to bring that regardless of situation,” Ludwig said. “He’s a vocal leader and a good guy to have to count on, and it’s great to have someone bring that to a team dynamic.”
The meet was capped off with a 2-0 decision win by redshirt junior 285 pounder Max Ihry, his seventh win of the season.
NIU’s next action over the winter break comes at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates on Dec. 29 and 30, when the Huskies partake in the Midlands Championships in individual tournaments against college wrestlers from around the country.