NIU is represented at the national championships for the 42nd consecutive season.
The tournament’s first round gets under way at 11 a.m. inside Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena. Mougin, who earned one of the Mid-American Conference’s five automatic bids at 174 pounds, will have his first match begin at approximately 1 p.m.
“The best way to approach any tournament, let alone the NCAA Championships, is to take things one match at a time and that is exactly what Matt is prepared to do,” said NIU head coach Ryan Ludwig.
“Clearly, every match won in the championship bracket places you further toward your ultimate goal. There are, however, many routes to doing big things come this weekend. Right now, it’s all about the very first match and that is the mindset.”
Mougin comes into the tournament with a 22-15 record on the season at 174.
The redshirt junior from Columbus Junction, Iowa, has placed at three tournaments this season with a third place showing at the EMU Open, a fourth place performance at the Kaufman-Brand Open and a fifth place finish at the MAC Championships. In his 37 matches thus far, 11 have come against eight different NCAA qualifiers.
The battle-tested Huskie has faced MAC foes Sam Wheeler (Kent State), Todd Porter (Missouri) and Cody Walters (Ohio) twice each, along with Craig Kelliher (Central Michigan) once. Mougin also went up against Mat Miller (Navy), Chad Welch (Purdue), Lee Munster (Northwestern) and Hunter Gamble (Gardner-Webb).
He is also one of 15 Iowa natives to be competing this weekend in Des Moines. Mougin won an Iowa state title as a senior with the Columbus Community High School Wildcats. Interestingly, the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the arena where the Iowa state championships are held, is located across the street from Wells Fargo Arena.
Arizona State’s Blake Stauffer, Mougin’s first round opponent, comes into Thursday’s meeting with a 22-3 record and the No. 11 seed in the 174-pound weight class. The redshirt freshman from Neosho, Mo., placed second at the Pac-12 Championships after entering the tournament as the top seed at 174. Stauffer also took third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and sixth at the Southern Scuffle. He has had nine matches against NCAA qualifiers, posting a 6-3 record in those matches.
“I think Matt matches up very well with Stauffer,” Ludwig said. “He is a very solid opponent, but we believe Matt has the proper game plan to open things up and get to his scoring opportunities.”
Win or lose, Mougin’s second opponent will be either No. 6 Logan Storley of Minnesota or Bryce Hammond of Cal State-Bakersfield. Storley has a 24-3 record on the year with the Golden Gophers and will be aiming for his second-straight All-American honor. Meanwhile, Hammond boasts a 32-8 mark on the year with the Roadrunners and defeated Stauffer for the Pac-12 title at 174.
Fans can watch the entire tournament on the ESPN family of networks.
Thursday’s competition will be carried on ESPN3, Friday and Saturday morning can be seen on ESPNU and Saturday night’s finals will be broadcast on ESPN. Live scoring will also be available on TrackWrestling.com, while updates throughout the day can be found @NIUWrestling.