DeKALB — The wrestling team will have two representatives in the Mid-American Conference championship finals tomorrow at the Convocation Center in DeKalb.
Redshirt first-year Izzak Olejnik will head to his first career championship final at 165 pounds, while redshirt sophomore 184-pounder Brit Wilson heads back to a championship final for the second straight season.
Olejnik’s appearance in the 165 championship match comes after a come-from-behind victory in his semifinals match against University of Missouri’s redshirt first-year Peyton Mocco. Trailing 3-0 in the third period, Olejnik reversed a roll attempt by Mocco and picked up a nearfall. After a reversal by Mocco was overturned by coaches’ challenge, Olejnik hung on for a 4-3 decision win.
Olejnik’s opponent in the finals will be the defending champion, University at Buffalo senior Troy Keller, who Olejnik beat in overtime earlier this season as part of a Feb. 14 dual.
Wilson returns to a championship final again after being runner-up last season at 174 lbs. Now as a 184-pounder, Wilson was able to beat Bloomsburg University’s top-seeded redshirt senior Trevor Allard in an 8-5 decision.
Wilson’s opponent tomorrow in the final will be the defending-champion of the weight division, Missouri redshirt senior Dylan Wisman.
Redshirt first-year Gage Braun came closer than anyone else on NIU to reaching a championship final, but he will have to wait until next year. Braun fell in the 197-pound semifinals to Clarion University’s redshirt junior Greg Bulsak.
Redshirt sophomore 125-pounder Bryce West won the first match of the entire day, pinning Bloomsburg first-year Christian Gannonein in just under three minutes to start off the tournament right for NIU. West led late in his quarterfinal match against Missouri redshirt sophomore Cameron Valdiviez, but Valdivez rallied to pin West in the third period to end his championship hopes.
The Huskies picked up a first-round upset at 141 lbs. with redshirt sophomore Anthony Gibson defeating Ohio University’s redshirt senior Shakur Laney by an 8-6 decision. Gibson also had his championship dreams dashed in the quarterfinals, losing a close decision to Old Dominion’s redshirt senior Sa’Derian Perry.
Redshirt senior McCoy Kent advanced to the 149-pound quarterfinals thanks to his takedown defense in a 3-2 opening round win, but struggled against George Mason University’s redshirt senior Colston DiBlasi.
DiBlasi blocked several of Kent’s takedown attempts before backing behind the referee to create seperation from Kent in the closing seconds.
Fellow redshirt senior Kenny Moore suffered the same fate as Kent, winning his opening contest at 174 lbs. before losing in his quarterfinals match after a late takedown by Kent State University junior Andrew McNally.
Redshirt sophomore 157 pounder Mason Kauffman lost in his opening round contest, but has kept himself alive for a potential podium spot with wins in the consolation bracket.
Sophomore Caleb Brooks was unable to register a win in two contests at 133 lbs.
The action at the Convocation Center continues at noon tomorrow with consolation quarterfinals. Championship finals are tentatively scheduled to begin around 1:40 p.m.