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.
“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.