The Northern Illinois wrestling team put a scare into No. 12 Central Michigan Friday night at Victor E. Court, but they were unable to pull off the upset in a 23-12 defeat.
NIU drops to 7-5 overall and 0-3 in the MAC with the loss, while CMU moves to 9-3 and 3-0 in conference play.
“Clearly, Central has a great team this year,” said NIU head coach Ryan Ludwig. “We went into this match focused on not so much the outcome of the matches, but the energy, attitude and intensity we were putting into it for seven minutes. The guys approached the matches that way.
“I thought we won some very nice, hard-fought battles. I was proud of the way we competed for the most part.”
The first half was a seesaw battle between the Huskies and Chippewas, as the two sides had four lead changes within the first five matches. CMU drew first blood at 125 pounds when Joe Roth – last year’s MAC tournament champion – scored a 10-1 major decision against Derek Elmore.
However, NIU turned the momentum in their favor with two consecutive wins to claim a 6-4 lead. The run started when Nick Smith earned a 5-3 decision against Tyler Keselring to get Northern within one. Kevin Fanta gave the Huskies their first lead of the night when he cruised to an 8-2 win against Scott Mattingly. The victory was Fanta’s third over Mattingly since the start of the 2011-12 season.
Central moved back into the lead following Donnie Corby’s 7-4 win against Rob Jillard in a match that got a little chippy at times. Yet, the Huskies entered halftime with a 9-7 advantage and plenty of momentum courtesy of Andrew Morse, who knocked off Lucas Smith in a 5-1 win.
After the intermission, though, the Huskie dreams of a shocker slowly faded. Central moved back into the lead behind Mike Ottinger’s 13-5 major decision against Dan Burk. At 174, Matt Mougin pushed #20 Craig Kelliher to the brink, but could not beat the nationally-ranked opponent in a 5-1 defeat. Despite a scoreless first period, Kelliher’s big second period was too much to overcome.
Bryan Loughlin got his first taste of one of the MAC’s best at 184 when he faced defending MAC champion and 2012 All-American Ben Bennett. After a scoreless first two minutes in the first period, Bennett got a takedown and an 8-0 lead at the end of the period. The match ended when Loughlin was pinned midway through the second.
Parker Settecase helped narrow the deficit at 197 when he scored a tough 2-1 win against Jackson Lewis. Yet, CMU put the finishing touches on their win with a 4-0 win by #6 Jarod Trice over Jared Torrence.
“It’s back to work,” Ludwig said. “That team is not satisfied. We still lost the dual, but we made ground tonight and that’s something to build on.”
NIU keeps their home stand going Saturday, Jan. 26, when they host #7 Missouri and Eastern Michigan in a triangular. The action starts at 1 p.m. in Victor E. Court with NIU battling EMU, followed by a matchup with Missouri at approximately 5 p.m.
#12 Central Michigan 23, Northern Illinois 12
125: Joe Roth (CMU) maj. dec. Derek Elmore (NIU), 10-1
133: Nick Smith (NIU) dec. Tyler Keselring (CMU), 5-3
141: Kevin Fanta (NIU) dec. Scott Mattingly (CMU), 8-2
149: Donnie Corby (CMU) dec. Rob Jillard (NIU), 7-4
157: Andrew Morse (NIU) dec. Lucas Smith (CMU), 5-1
165: Mike Ottinger (CMU) maj. dec. Dan Burk (NIU), 13-5
174: #20 Craig Kelliher (CMU) dec. Matt Mougin (NIU), 5-1
184: #2 Ben Bennett (CMU) pins Bryan Loughlin (NIU), 3:42
197: Parker Settecase (NIU) dec. Jackson Lewis (CMU), 2-1
285: #6 Jarod Trice (CMU) dec. Jared Torrence (NIU), 4-0
For more information on NIU wrestling and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.