Pulling off an upset takes a lot of hard work, but usually a little luck, too. In their home opener on Sunday evening, No. 21 Northwestern Wrestling (1-1) followed just that formula, riding their superstars and benefitting from a timely forfeiture to secure a victory over No. 14 Northern Iowa. The Wildcats led the team score 24-20, and the wrestlers who picked up victories were Michael DeAugustino, Sebastian Rivera, Ryan Deakin, Shayne Oster, and Lucas Davison (kind of).

“We saw some great individual performances tonight,” said Northwestern coach Matt Storniolo. “Super proud of the effort put out by Mike DeAugustino and Shayne Oster.”

In the dual meet format, there are 10 matches, with the winning wrestler earning a certain amount of points for the team based on the type of victory. In the first, 125 lb. match, NU’s Michael DeAugustino netted 3 points for Northwestern with a decision victory over No. 9 Jay Scharm. One of the most closely contested matches of the meet, DeAugustino provided the ‘Cats with a much-needed early boost.

“When you’re the first guy out there, you’re the spark,” said Storniolo. “[DeAugustino] gave us exactly what we needed tonight.”

In the 133 lb. match, Sebastian Rivera did what he does best: dominate. The redshirt junior and reigning 125 lb. Big Ten Champion scored a major decision over UNI’s Jack Skudlarczyk to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 7-0. Rivera was up just 6-3 after the second period before exploding for a 13-4 victory.

UNI was not about to back down, however. The Panthers’ Michael Blockhus and No. 3 Max Thomsen defeated the Wildcats’ Jack Tolin and Yahya Thomas, respectively. In the latter match, at the 149 lb. class, Thomas was leading 3-1 heading into the third period. Thomsen recorded a go-ahead takedown, but the call went under review after outrage from the Northwestern coaches. Unfortunately for Northwestern, the call stood and Thomsen took a 4-3 victory, narrowly avoiding a significant upset.

Northwestern’s other superstar, No. 3 Ryan Deakin, quickly got the ‘Cats back on track with the meet’s first win by fall over Keaton Geerts just before halftime. The win by fall earned six points for Northwestern and gave them a 13-7 lead.

“Focus every second,” called out Storniolo as Shayne Oster took the mat after the break. That he did, and more. Oster barraged his opponent, Patrick Schoenfelder, with a series of takedowns before a late technical fall gave Oster a 15-0 victory and earned 5 points for Northwestern.

Every extra point mattered, as Northwestern’s Tyler Morland and Jack Jessen dropped the next two matches in convincing fashion. The Panthers’ No. 5 Taylor Lujan got a fall in the first period over Jessen, making the team score 18-17.  

The next match was the turning point. UNI’s No. 4 Jacob Holschlag battled NU’s Lucas Davison in the 197 lb. class for just a couple minutes before Holschlag screamed in pain, grabbed his right knee and laid face-down on the mat. Several minutes passed before Holschlag got up and UNI forfeited the match. By NCAA rules, a forfeiture is the same as a fall, so Northwestern earned six points and clinched the team victory. The Wildcats’ Jack Heyob fell 6-0 in a decision to No. 19 Carter Isley to close out the meet in the 285 lb. class, resulting in the final score of 24-20.

A forfeiture is certainly an anticlimactic way to win - and one that is difficult to celebrate - but Northwestern will take anything they get in a brutal schedule. The ‘Cats lost to No. 11 Virginia Tech to open the season, and next Sunday face North Dakota State, who beat them last year.

“North Dakota State has been a team that’s stolen a couple wins from us over the last few seasons. I’m looking forward to a different result next week,” said Storniolo postgame.

Team rankings come from the NWCA Coaches’ Poll, and individual rankings come from InterMat Wrestling.