Wrestlers prepare for NCAA Championships

Kevin Fanta
Kevin Fanta

Northern Illinois sophomore Kevin Fanta and senior Brad Dieckhaus head to St. Louis this week, where they will compete at the NCAA Championships inside the Scottrade Center.

The meet begins at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 15, and runs through the finals Saturday night. This year marks the 41st consecutive season in which at least one NIU wrestler has competed at the NCAA meet.

“We have a strong and proud tradition at Northern,” said Huskie head coach Ryan Ludwig. “The goal is to reach new heights as we continue to build as a program.”

Fanta’s first meet at 141 pounds will be a tough one, as he faces ninth-seeded Nick Dardanes of Minnesota. Dardanes boasts a 19-8 record this season and placed fourth at the Big Ten Championships for the Golden Gophers.

In the following round, Fanta will face either Luke Goettl of Iowa State or No. 8 Darius Little of North Carolina State. Goettl earned an at-large bid after an 11-11 season with the Cyclones, while Little is 33-10 and finished in second place at the ACC Championships for the Wolfpack.

“Kevin has been working hard on the little things in the last week of training,” Ludwig said. “He has a great mindset entering the tournament. He’s focused on making the most of his opportunity this year at NCAAs.”

Brad Dieckhaus
Brad Dieckhaus

Dieckhaus will start the final meet of his college career with a match-up against Binghamton’s Nathan Schiedel at 184 pounds. Schiedel, who was the Colonial Athletic Association’s runner-up at 184, comes into the tournament with a 28-8 record.

“Brad is prepared mentally for his run in St. Louis,” Ludwig said. “He is one of the most focused individuals I have ever coached. He knows what to expect at this tournament and having been there before will add to his composure.”

Dieckhaus’ other Thursday opponent will be either No. 4 Steve Bosak of Cornell or Purdue’s Braden Atwood.

Bosak was 28-4 with the Big Red and took second place at the EIWA Championships, helping CU win the team title. Atwood, meanwhile, went 21-13 and placed seventh at the Big Ten Championships with the Boilermakers. The Huskie senior defeated Atwood earlier this season with a 6-1 decision Dec. 1, but lost to Bosak with a 16-0 technical fall at the 2011 NCAA Championships in Philadelphia.

Fans can watch all the action from St. Louis on ESPN3 and ESPNU. For more information, visit www.WatchESPN.com.

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

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