DeKALB — NIU’s wrestling team capped off one of its best seasons in recent memory with a dominating 35-3 win Friday over Drexel University.
The Huskies allowed the fewest dual points in the win on the season, only giving up a decision win at 133 lbs.
Head Coach Ryan Ludwig said the win not only wrapped up a good regular season but served as the team’s final chance to tune up for the postseason ahead.
“We talked about [how] ‘there’s no tomorrow, no yesterday, just today,” Ludwig said. “We weren’t just looking to win a dual but also to improve our wrestling.”
The West brothers of redshirt sophomores Bryce West and Drew West started the meet for NIU at 125 lbs. and 133 lbs. respectively. Drew West returned to action having not been in competition since Nov. 17.
Bryce gave NIU a 6-4 decision win while Drew West came up shy of a win in his return, dropping a 6-5 decision. Bryce West’s win makes him the team leader in victories with 20.
After the two teams split the opening contests, redshirt first-year Anthony Gibson rebounded from a three-match losing skid with a pinfall in 2:39 over first-year Tyler Williams at 141 lbs.
Senior McCoy Kent, who was honored alongside his fellow seniors, celebrated his final dual with a 11-3 major decision win over senior Vincent Foggia. Sophomore Mason Kauffman secured a decision win to make the score 16-3 at the midway point.
Redshirt sophomore Izzak Olejnik picked up his third major decision win of the season with a 12-2 victory over winless senior Michael Manlay to start the second half.
At 174 lbs., redshirt senior Kenny Moore had eliminated the ridetime from redshirt first-year Michael O`Malley and secured a one-point win, but officials awarded O’Malley an escape at the buzzer to tie it 2-2.
Moore secured a reversal in second overtime and held onto control of O’Malley in the third overtime for the 4-3 decision win.
Redshirt sophomore Brit Wilson finished his 17-3 season with a pinfall win at 184 lbs. over senior Owen Brooks.
Redshirt first-year Gage Braun was tied with sophomore Bryan McLaughlin with 36 seconds remaining when a takedown by Braun secured a decision win for the Huskies.
In another overtime battle for redshirt junior Max Ihry, the 285 pounder won with a takedown in the opening extra period to finish the dual and regular season for NIU.
The win brought NIU to 13-4 overall to finish the year, its most wins in the regular season since 2005. The Huskies will turn their attention to postseason tournaments, starting with the Mid-American Conference tournament starting March 7.
Ludwig said the two weeks to prepare for the tournament will give the team time to rest up and come into the conference tournament as close to 100% healthy as possible.
“It’s nice to have a good dual record, but now it’s a new season,” Ludwig said. “It’s nice to have a little bit of time. We’re going to get a couple of guys healed up. A couple of guys have some nicks, bumps and bruises, and they’ve been doing a good job for us every week. We’ll have a couple days for them to get healthy.”
The MAC tournament beings March 7 in DeKalb at the Convocation Center. The tournament will feature seven new programs in the conference.