Wrestlers send seniors, coach out with victory

Brad Dieckhaus
Brad Dieckhaus

NIU head coach Dave Grant couldn’t have scripted his final home regular season match at NIU any better Friday night as the Huskies posted a 21-18 win over Eastern Michigan in Victor E. Court on Senior Night. 

The victory, the first Mid-American Conference win for the Huskies (3-10, 1-4) this season, was Grant’s final home match of his 15-year coaching career at NIU and it was keyed by veteran leadership and young talent as Northern Illinois raced out to an early 18-0 lead after winning the first five matches. 

Seniors Tristen DeShazer (Wichita, Kan./West), Vince Castillo (Western Springs, Ill./Lyons Township) and Bryan Deutsch (Columbia City, Ind./Columbia City) made the most of their final home match, each recording wins and giving NIU a lead that proved too much to overcome in the process. 

Coach Dave Grant (with his wife, Kris) was honored before the meet.
Coach Dave Grant (with his wife, Kris) was honored before the meet.

“Tonight was about the seniors,” Grant said. “Tristen getting a pin, Deutsch stepping up and Vince having a win, you could just see their hearts were in it and they really wanted it bad. That’s what made the difference in a lot of these matches.” 

DeShazer posted his eighth pin fall victory of the season and his third straight, pinning Mike LeHolm in 2:47 at 141, while Castillo scored a 9-5 decision over Corey Phillips at 149. Deutsch improved to 17-8 on the season with a 6-2 win over Aaron Sulzer. 

Freshman Nick Smith (Ida, Mich./Ida) continues to impress. He opened the match with a 7-4 victory at 125. He jumped out to a 4-0 lead through two periods on a takedown and reversal. Kevin Fanta (Lake Zurich, Ill./Lake Zurich), a redshirt freshman who has missed NIU’s last five matches, returned to the line up with a 7-4 decision over Fliberto Colon at 133. 

“Nick Smith is one of the toughest wrestlers, as a true freshman,” Grant said. “This guy never ceases to amaze me. You can count on the guy to go hard. He’s mean. He’s tough. He’s really a great wrestler. 

“We really like starting at 125 because of what Nick provides for our team. We got Kevin Fanta back in the line up and that match really made a difference. Kevin wrestled his style.” 

After back-to-back losses at 165 and 174 in the second half, Brad Dieckhaus (St. Charles, Mo./Francis Howell Central) restored order by scoring a 5-1 victory over Khodor Hoballah to give NIU a 21-9 lead. 

The Huskies return to action Saturday, Feb. 12, when Northern Illinois travels to Edwardsville, Ill. to take on SIU-Edwardsville. First bout is set to begin at 3 p.m. 

For more information about NIU wrestling and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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