Revenge is sweet.
After dropping their last two matches to North Dakota State over the past three years, Sunday’s win by No. 14 Northwestern Wrestling (2-1) was extra satisfying for Coach Matt Storniolo. With 7 individual victories (including one forfeit win for Mike DeAugustino), the Wildcats toppled the Bison, 28-18.
“That’s a good win to get over a team that we’ve come up short against the last couple of times,” said Storniolo.
For the second match in a row, Northwestern benefitted from a forfeit, taking a 6-0 lead after NDSU did not trot out a wrestler at 125. That set the stage for a high-profile match at 133 between Sebastian Rivera and No. 8 Cam Sykora.
Rivera, who is ranked No. 3 at 125 but is unranked at 133, attacked the larger Sykora early and often after struggling a bit from the outset. An escape and a takedown gave Rivera a 3-2 lead after the first period, and the reigning Big Ten champ cruised from there. Sykora was visibly worn out by the third period, contributing to Rivera’s riding time point. The final score was 7-3, giving NU a 9-0 team lead.
Storniolo believes Rivera can be even better: “I saw a lot of grit. I could tell he wasn’t feeling his best out there today...It was good to see Sebastian get tested like that. It doesn’t matter what weight he’s gonna be at, he’s gonna be in the hunt for a national title.”
At 141, Northwestern’s Alec McKenna looked solid from the start, getting an early takedown, before the Bisons’ Sawyer Degen came out of nowhere to flip McKenna and secure the fall.
“We’ve got to be a little stingier in the matches we don’t come out on top,” said Storniolo. “Can’t give up those bonus points.”
Northwestern cruised to the end of the half. At 149, No. 13 Yahya Thomas looked dominant in a win over Jaden Van Maanen. The Chicago native racked up takedowns and near falls, made a couple quick escapes, and was awarded a penalty point for stalling by Van Maanen, who failed to pick up a point in an 11-0 major decision. Then at 157, No. 3 Ryan Deakin won by the same margin of victory, riding Jared Franek for over 3 minutes in between a few big takedowns. After this match, NU was up 17-6 and looked like the better team top to bottom.
Like all good teams, NDSU did not fold. In a trend alluded to by Storniolo, all three of Northwestern’s individual losses on Sunday were by fall. Shayne Oster fell after the intermission, thoroughly outmatched by Andrew Fogarty, No. 9 in the nation at 165. Then, after the dual meet had been clinched, Jack Heyob fell to the much-larger Brandon Metz, No. 19 at 285.
The decisive turning point was Jack Jessen’s win. In a matchup of two redshirt freshmen, Jessen appeared to be the more experienced one, despite the fact that the win was his first at Northwestern. Jessen consistently put his opponent, Noah Cressell, in awkward positions where he could not do much damage. The riding time point at the end of the third period gave Jessen a 9-1 advantage, resulting in a major decision and a 24-12 team lead for NU.
“Nice for him to get the monkey off his back, and awesome to see him continue to put points on the board and come away with the major decision,” said Storniolo.
Tyler Morland and Lucas Davison also picked up decisions for Northwestern.
Next up: two tournaments. Without any dual meets in December, Northwestern instead heads to Las Vegas in two weekends for the 32-team Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Three weekends after that, the ‘Cats will host the 57th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at the Sears Centre, bringing together some of the top teams in the nation.
After a couple successful matches, Storniolo wants more of the same. Talking about the most important piece of training for the tournaments, he said, “Consistency and regimen. Just because we’re not competing next week doesn’t mean anything changes...It might be harder when they’re at home having Thanksgiving dinner, but every day matters.”