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Northern Star

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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star



By Suresh Vakati | October 26, 2014

When the Kent State wrestling team visited NIU Friday night, the significance of the match reached beyond a simple regular-season conference showdown.

It would be the litmus test to see which up-and-coming program had the best shot to unseat conference kingpin Central Michigan.

But after battling to a 16-16 tie, the bout brought up as many new questions as answers about how the rest of NIU's season would pan out.


NIU's lightweights (125-149 pounds) always will give NIU a lead when it counts.

The dismal National Duals showing aside, this unit is THE elite lightweight group in the MAC. Senior Josh Wooton is simply lights out at 141 pounds; he swept the MAC easily last season, and he is too strong and fast for anyone this year.

Former walk-on Mike Grimes won two matches at the NCAA Championships last season and hasn't cooled down since. While he hasn't had the tournament success he envisioned, Grimes is a mental rock in dual meets. One of the hardest workers on the team, Grimes is now a national elite who wins on sheer grit and determination.

And Pat Castillo? Well, Castillo always wins when it counts.

First at Pointer Open. Second place at Midlands. Fourth at Kaufman Brand. Put those results together with his 2-0 record at National Duals, and Castillo is the new stud in a long line of Huskie lightweight dominance.

The 125-pound sophomore was the heir apparent to Sam Hiatt for the past two years, and he's dominating his competition this year. After beating CMU's Luke Smith and KSU's Chad Sportelli, Castillo looks unbeatable in the MAC with his aggressive attacking style.

Danny Burk is the most improved wrestler on the team.

Arguments for Joe Sapp aside, Burk is the model of consistency this season and has produced against the hardest competition. The 174-pound class is one of the deepest in the NCAA, and Burk has faced probably the toughest draw of any wrestler this year.

After struggling to finish matches last season, Burk has turned into a scrapper who doesn't let bigger opponents push him around. KSU's Aaron Miller dominated Burk in last year's dual, but Burk hung toe-to-toe with Miller until the very end on Friday. No one's saying Burk didn't have heart last year. But he's definitely demonstrating it this year in his matches.


Is Johnny Galloway back to his old form?

Despite impressive victories since the National Duals, the jury is still out on Galloway after Friday night.

Early in the season, the 165-pound junior was tentative in his offense and looked nothing like the dominator of the previous season who racked up 27 wins and six pins. But as the year has progressed, his confidence has returned.

Against Kent State, the Iowa City native's shots were lightning-quick, but what should have been a major decision almost turned into a pin when Galloway got caught on a shot. Physically, he's back where he was. Mentally, he still needs to prove he can finish his matches strong.

Can the heavyweights pull out wins?

As unflattering as it sounds, NIU's lightweights continue to bail out the heavy weights. Injuries have hampered sophomore Derek Hunsinger's return to the lineup at 197 pounds, and sophomore Nick McClone is streaky at 184. If Joe Sapp had not found a way to get a last minute takedown of KSU's behemoth Jermail Porter, the Huskies would have been down a quick 10-0.

Sapp has been great at times this season, but his technical fall loss to Buffalo's Harold Sherrell was disheartening. The heavy weights need to be able to prove reliable enough so the crowd doesn't need to hold it's breath at the end of matches.

Wrestling fails to stop five-meet losing streak

By Zack Thompson | February 16, 2014

The Huskies can’t shake their losing streak.Wrestling lost 27-6 to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits Friday at Frost Arena in Brookings, S.D. They dropped their fifth consecutive dual and need to turn things around in their final dual next week before...

Wrestler Kevin Fanta grapples with an opponent during a match.

Fanta, Argue battling for wrestling spot

By Mike Romor | December 3, 2013

For wrestling’s Kevin Fanta and Tyler Argue, practice means more than it ever has before.Redshirt senior Fanta has had his fair share of success during his five years on the NIU mats. The 141-pounder has made it to the NCAA Championships and has finished...

Wrestling finishes 5th in MAC tournament

By Ed Rietveld | March 17, 2013

Wrestling competed in the MAC tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., and finished in a tie for fifth with Ohio University with 63.5 points over spring break. The University of Missouri tallied 136 points, finishing first, which ended a streak of 11 straight conference...

Freshman Andrew Morse squares off with an opponent during a match.

Wrestling at NIU explained

By Ed Rietveld | January 28, 2013

The sport of wrestling is very interesting: On one hand, the sport is an individual competition where two combatants are facing each other; on the other hand, it is a team sport with a team score. Keeping track of points during a dual can be complicated...

Wrestling to take to the mats for season opener

By Mike Romor | October 31, 2012

After last weekend’s season-opening wrestle-offs, NIU wrestling will face opponents from outside the team for the first time this season at the Eastern Michigan Open. The open will feature 450 wrestlers from some of the top programs across the nation....

Wrestling looks to fill gaps left by graduates

By Mike Romor | October 28, 2012

The new era NIU wrestling started last season continues to look promising. Now that Ryan Ludwig has a full season under his belt as head coach of the program, the Huskies are adjusting to life without leaders Brad Dieckhaus and Mike Lukowski. The Huskies...

Ludwig sees bright future for men’s wrestling

By Mike Romor | March 20, 2012

Finishing the regular season 8-9 was not the vision Ryan Ludwig had in his first year, but there was plenty to be proud about in regards to the squad’s future. “We had some ups and downs as a team, which is pretty much the status quo when you’re...

Dieckhaus, Fanta fall short at NCAA nationals

By Mike Romor | March 18, 2012

Brad Dieckhaus’ wrestling career had all the makings of a storybook ending, but ended on a sour note. Competing for a national title in St. Louis, Mo., near his hometown where he started his career years ago, was seemingly the perfect end to his NIU...


Dieckhaus, Fanta heading to NCAA championships

By Mike Romor | March 8, 2012

With the wrestling NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo. under two weeks away, NIU wrestlers Brad Dieckhaus and Kevin Fanta are hard at work to improve in every way they can. Dieckhaus and Fanta lost in the finals at the MAC Championships at 184 and 141...

Fanta, Dieckhaus clinch NCAA berths

By Mike Romor | March 4, 2012

Three NIU wrestlers made it to the championship match in their weight classes and two Huskies earned trips to the NCAA Championships after solid performances in Sunday’s MAC Championships. Central Michigan University won the team title for the 11th...

Courtesy of Scott Walstrom, NIU Media Services Kevin Fanta

Fanta taking advantage of his latest opportunity

By Mike Romor | February 15, 2012

Entering his senior season at Lake Zurich High School, Kevin Fanta's name was not even a whisper through college wrestling recruiters' ears.In fact, it wasn't until after Fanta had won the Illinois State championship at 135 that he made a significant...