NU wrestlers dominating in weekend matches

Zachary Benjamin

Like a disease that spreads quickly with little regard for its host, the Northwestern wrestlers descended upon their opponents this weekend, overwhelming Eastern Illinois on Friday and sweeping the Wendy’s Duals on Sunday with decisive victories over Gardner-Webb, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Ashland.

The Wildcats dominated the weekend’s four dual matches by a total score of 136-23.

“We had a big weekend,” assistant coach Lindsey Durlacher said.

“You’ve got to beat those smaller schools to prove that you can win.”

Jason Erwinski, a 174-pound junior, opened competition against Eastern Illinois with a 5-4 victory over the Panthers’ Louis Taylor. Teammate Andrew Curran followed Erwinski’s example by pinning his opponent as NU leapt to an early 9-0 lead.

John Giacche, a perennial threat for NU, defeated Nick Cirrincione 23-8 in the 141-pound weight class, while junior Ryan Kane posted his fifth consecutive victory in the 161-pound weight class, pinning Sam Smith to improve his dual meets record to 7-1.

The Cats continued their dominance in Ashland, Ohio, at the Wendy’s Duals, as six wrestlers notched 4-0 records.

Erwinski needed only 46 seconds to pin his Gardner-Webb opponent, while Giacche and freshman Tommy Vargas also posted victories.

Vargas again proved overpowering in the 125-pound weight class, defeating his Tennessee-Chattanooga opponent 15-2.

NU finished the weekend against Ashland, the host of the Wendy’s Duals, beating the Eagles 28-9 behind a strong performance from Kane, who defeated his opponent 20-5 to earn his team-leading 20th victory.

The Cats find themselves sitting on a 7-4 record as they prepare for their Big Ten opener Friday at Purdue. NU also faces Northern Illinois on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

“We’re going to have some good, competitive matches that we’re going to be ready for,” head coach Tim Cysewski said, pointing to Northern Illinois’ victory over Indiana last weekend. “We can’t overlook them.”

As the Big Ten season approaches, several wrestlers have shifted weight classes. Vargas, who before this weekend had wrestled in the 121-pound weight class, went 4-0 at 133 pounds this weekend. Erwinski wrestled in the 157-pound weight class last year before injuring his knee. This season, he is competing at 174 pounds.

NU will face a balanced Purdue team, which has nationally ranked competitors in the 133-pound and heavyweight classes. The Cats didn’t win a Big Ten match last season, but several wrestlers who were unable to compete due to injury are healthy this year.

With Erwinski gaining strength, Giacche dominating the 131-pound weight class and Kane having a career year, NU hopes to make an early statement that it will climb out of the Big Ten cellar this year.

“It should be interesting to see how we match up against a Big Ten team right now,” Cysewski said. “Purdue is a big match, and we want to start off on the right foot.”