The Northern Illinois wrestling team closed out its preseason Friday night with the annual Wrestle-Offs, where the Black squad easily defeated Red, 21-9.
Despite the 12-point margin, all 10 matches came down to a minor decision, including five matches that were decided by three points or less and two that went to overtime.
“We really wrestled with a lot of fire tonight,” said NIU head coach Ryan Ludwig. “There were a lot of competitive matches, just like I thought there was going to be. Our young guys are bringing heat and pushing for spots in the lineup. That is always good to see.”
“Up and down the lineup, they’re doing things well. We have some standard things (that) we need to work on, as far as popping off bottom, working on our breakdowns, finishing single legs and our guys experienced a little bit of the new stalling rules that came into play this year.”
One of the biggest highlights of the night was the fact that NIU’s true freshmen went 5-0 in their matches on the night, with Braun Marquez, Andrew Morse, Trace Engelkes, Bryan Loughlin and Shawn Scott all tallying wins. In total, the quintet combined to outscore their opponents, 34-18.
“That’s extremely impressive,” Ludwig said. “These are guys that are making a very quick transistion. Obviously, we’re not there yet, but the competitiveness that these guys are bringing and the willingness to compete is impressive.”
The 125 pound match between Marquez and Nick Harrison quickly became a war of attrition, as both sides spent the first half of the match scoreless. However, Marquez soon scored an escape to break the deadlock after two periods. Harrison returned the favor with an escape of his own in the third period, but a late stalling call ultimately doomed him and gave the true freshman from Amarillo, Texas, a 2-1 victory and Black an early 3-0 lead.
A second hard-fought match ensued at 133 pounds between Thorian Twyner and Derek Elmore. However, Twyner, a redshirt freshman from Orion, Ill., would emerge with a 4-0 win following a takedown in both the second and third periods.
With Davis leading 4-2 and less than 10 seconds remaining, Argue got a takedown to make it 4-4 and force overtime. In the extra session, the sophomore would use the momentum to his advantage, racking up four points on a takedown and nearfall for an 8-4 win and a 9-0 Black advantage.
Rob Jillard and Shawn Fayette – two starters from a season ago – faced off at 149 pounds. Jillard, though, got off to a quick start and led 9-1 entering the final frame. From there, the two exchanged points at a frenetic pace before Jillard earned a 13-6 victory and gave the Red team their first points of the meet.
Yet, a pair of true freshmen put the momentum back in Black’s favor. Morse handled Josh Smith at 157 pounds to post a 7-0 win. Meanwhile, Engelkes and Sam Bennett battled back and forth in the tightly-contested 165 pound match that was not decided until the final buzzer.
With the score tied at 5-5, Engelkes kept Bennett from getting an escape for the entire third period, while also swinging the riding time in his favor for the one-point bonus.
At 174 pounds, longtime Huskies Caleb Busson and Matt Mougin battled it out in a low-scoring affair. With Busson leading 1-0 after two periods, Mougin got an escape to tie the match, then notched a takedown for the winning points in a 3-2 decision.
Loughlin defeated Shane Rosenberry at 184 pounds in the highest-scoring match of the night, 14-9. Meanwhile, fellow Red teammate Scott came from behind to force overtime against Arber Bebo at 197 before taking a 5-3 win.
The Huskies will open their regular season Saturday, Nov. 3, with the EMU Open in Ypsilanti, Mich. The tournament starts at 9 a.m. ET and features some of the Midwest’s best competition.
For more information on NIU wrestling and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.