Nothing to lose in wrestlers’last meet

Stacey Harms

Perhaps the third time will be the charm for the Northwestern wrestling team.

The Wildcats ended their dual-meet schedule without a Big Ten win for the second straight season.

So NU has nowhere to go but up as it approaches the conference championship meet this weekend.

“Everyone was doing all they could, it just didn’t come together like we wanted,” sophomore Ryan Kane said of NU’s winless run.

But opportunity knocks for the Cats as they travel to Illinois on Friday for a chance to improve on last year’s 11th-place finish at Big Tens.

“If every kid takes care of their individual goals,” Giacche said, “we’ll definitely do better than last year and get some points.”

The junior said prospects for the team in Champaign look good since NU is surprisingly healthy for this point in the season. The Cats have struggled with late-season injuries in past years, but they enter their last meet before the NCAA championships relatively injury-free.

“Guys are definitely in position to win some matches,” Giacche said. “The guys are pretty confident going into the weekend.”

NU has struggled to compete at the level of Big Ten opponents in recent years, playing in the toughest conference in the nation.

The conference boasts eight ranked teams, including five in the top 10. Only NU, Penn State and Indiana are unranked. But the Cats lost to both the Hoosiers and Nittany Lions in dual meets earlier this season.

The conference meet can pose a challenge for freshmen because many will be matched up with ranked wrestlers.

“If you’re not preparing yourself up to this point, it can be a big eye-opener,” Giacche said. “Everyone’s got to realize that going into Big Tens, a lot of upsets could be made.”

Kane said a lot can happen during the two-day competition but added that every NU wrestler needs to perform well for the team to improve on last year’s mark.

Although Giacche said he saw potential in the lineup, the Cats need to peak at the meet for them in order to be competitive.

“The biggest thing is that everyone’s got to let it loose,” Giacche said. “No one can hold it back.”

NU has a young team this year, with no seniors in the starting lineup. Prospects beyond this weekend look good since the Cats will have time to grow and mature together.

“It will be interesting to see what happens this weekend, whether it all pays off or whether we have to wait another year,” Kane said. “If we keep training the way that we have the last year, we should be a lot better.”

Despite failing to send any wrestlers to the 2001 NCAA championships, NU has a brighter outlook this year, Giacche said. Members of the team could qualify to travel to Albany, N.Y., later this month.

“I don’t think the season’s going to be ending for us with Big Tens this year,” Giacche said.