Huskies aiming for team title, NCAA qualifiers in Athens
The tournament, which is hosted by Ohio University, gets under way at 9 a.m. CT with the first round of each weight class. Championship and third-place matches are slated to begin at 5 p.m. CT inside the Convocation Center.
“The team has been training smart the past two weeks and the energy in the room has been outstanding,” said Huskie head coach Ryan Ludwig. “Everybody is looking forward to the tournament.”
The Huskies enter the tournament following an 8-9 regular season, earning the second-most dual wins in a season since the start of the 2006-07 season.
Eight Huskie regulars finished the season with double-digit wins, including Jared Torrence’s team-high 14 at heavyweight. In addition, senior Brad Dieckhaus became the first Huskie since 1964-65 to go undefeated in the regular season by going 11-0 in 2011-12.
Dieckhaus will also be looking to become the 12th NIU wrestler to win multiple MAC championships when he tries to defend his 184-pound crown. If the St. Charles, Mo., native repeats, he will join a list that includes Huskie greats Ben Heizer, Scott Owen, Jeremy Goeden and Mark Tiffany.
As a team, Northern is looking for their first conference title since 1985, when they dominated the meet with four individual champions to score 89 points and outdistance second place Miami (Ohio) by 40.
Ludwig, though, feels as though the team is more than prepared to handle this weekend’s tournament.
“Any pressures heading into big matches are all just perceived. We look at every match instead as an opportunity,” he said. “We will be taking each match one at a time and leaving it all on the mat every time we compete.”
Sunday will also serve as an opportunity for NIU to extend their NCAA Championships streak to 41 straight years in which at least one Huskie wrestler has advanced to the national championship meet.
Currently, three Huskies – Dieckhaus, Nick Smith (125 pounds) and Kevin Fanta (141 pounds) – would make the field according to the NCAA Coaches’ Poll. However, that number could rise or fall based on where each wrestler places in their weight class.
“In order to accomplish your goals as a competitor you have to expect success,” Ludwig said. “The guys have trained hard all season and battled through adversity. Every one of our guys wrestling at this tournament knows what his job is and is prepared to dig deep to get it done.”
For more information on NIU wrestling and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.