Facing some of the best teams in the nation, the Northern Illinois wrestling team placed two wrestlers in the top six Saturday at the Michigan State Open.
“We’d like to finish with some odd numbers in championship matches, but it was a good tournament,” said Huskie head coach Ryan Ludwig. “We had a mission of coming out and competing with fire and we did that.”
Smith, who was wrestling less than two hours from his hometown of Ida, Mich., pinned Central Michigan’s Logan Shanks in the first round, then defeated Grant Pizzo of Michigan and Michigan State’s Eric Olanowski to advance to the finals. He would fall in the finals to Northwestern’s Levi Mele by pin fall to sustain his first loss of the season.
Jillard, meanwhile, rebounded from a rough opening weekend with two straight wins, topping Tyler Keselring of Central Michigan in a decision and Purdue’s Danny Sabatello by a first period pin. The sophomore, however, would drop a close semifinal match with Edinboro’s A.J. Schopp and the consolation final to Ryen Nieman of Indiana.
Six other NIU wrestlers did not place, but won multiple matches on the day.
Among the top performers was Caleb Busson at 174, who took down Columbia’s Stephen West and Edinboro’s Chris Hrunka on the day.
Meanwhile, Shawn Fayette and Dan Burk both advanced to the quarterfinals at 141 and 165, respectively, before bowing out to eventual place winners. Tyler Loethen (157), Arber Bebo (184) and Parker Settecase (285) also won a pair of matches during the tournament.
In the fresh/soph tournament, Ethan Davis, Tyler Argue and Jackson Bratcher each placed as unattached wrestlers. Bratcher took third at 174, Argue was fourth at 149 and Davis earned a sixth place showing at 141.
NIU will return to action in two weeks when they head to the Hoosier Duals in Bloomington, Ind. Along with host Indiana, the Huskies will also face the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars and the Fighting Camels of Campbell.
For more information on NIU wrestling and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.