The Northern Illinois wrestling team fell to No. 19 Central Michigan, 24-9, Friday night in McGuirk Arena.
Despite the return of Nick Smith at 125 pounds and Matt Mougin at 165, the Huskies fell to 6-6 overall and 0-3 in the Mid-American Conference, while the Chippewas improved to 12-2 and 4-0 on the year.
The defeat was also NIU’s fifth to a team in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll.
“We had a slow start,” said Huskie head coach Ryan Ludwig. “We came with more competitive fire in the middle weights and some young guys lost some very tight battles. They found out they are close to turning the corner and need to build on that effort.”
After missing the past three meets with an injury, Smith struggled in his return to the mat, falling to CMU’s Joe Roth in a 17-8 major decision. The Chippewas extended their lead to 8-0 in the 133-pound match, when Tyler Keselring toppled Rob Jillard, 12-1.
NIU struck back, though, courtesy of Kevin Fanta at 141. The sophomore outdueled Scott Mattingly, 7-2, to improve his overall record to 8-3 and 2-1 in the conference – his second straight victory in MAC action.
The Huskies, though, were unable to draw closer to the Chippewas, as CMU won the next two matches to take a 14-3 lead. Tyler Argue dropped a close at 149 with a 5-2 loss to Joey Kielbasa. Following that loss, Tyler Loethen suffered a heart-breaking 2-1 defeat to Donnie Corby at 157.
Northern would strike back in the 165-pound match, when Mougin won a close 4-3 decision against Dakota Cooley to get NIU within 14-6.
However, CMU would put the match away with wins at 174 and 184. Caleb Busson lost to Craig Kelliher, 4-3, with a takedown in the final minute, followed by Shane Rosenberry‘s 14-4 defeat against 2011 NCAA qualifier Ben Bennett.
NIU’s third and final victory came in the 197-pound match, when Mike Lukowski earned his second-straight conference win, defeating Chad Friend, 6-4. CMU would put the finishing touches on their win with an overtime win by Peter Sturgeon against Jared Torrence in the heavyweight match.
The Huskies will have a short turnaround, as they head to Ypsilanti, Mich., Sunday to face the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The match begins at 3 p.m. inside the Bowen Field House.
For more information on NIU wrestling and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.