Cats hang tough before falling in final match (Wrestling)

Andrew Simon

For the second time in as many weeks, Northwestern had a chance to beat one of top five teams in the nation but came up just short.

The Wildcats’ upset bid was still alive heading into their final bout against the No. 4 Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday. But Michigan’s senior heavyweight Greg Wagner, ranked third in the country, earned a 4-0 decision against ninth-ranked NU sophomore Dustin Fox to seal the 22-15 victory.

The loss dropped NU to 6-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten and came on the heels of its 24-11 defeat at the hands of top-ranked Minnesota on Jan. 20.

By sticking with two highly ranked squads the last two weeks, NU has shown it can hold its own among the best of the Big Ten and in the nation. The question is how it can take the next step and start consistently beating these teams.

“It’s a matter of not panicking, staying the course, working hard every day and staying healthy,” coach Tim Cysewski said. “There are no easy weekends in the Big Ten. That’s why these guys are wrestling here at Northwestern. They want that challenge.”

The Cats got off to a promising start against the Wolverines, taking an early 4-0 lead with eighth-ranked senior John Velez’s 15-7 throttling of freshman Michael Watts at 125 pounds.

However, Michigan took five consecutive weight classes on its way to building a 19-4 lead.

Despite the significant deficit, the Cats refused to fold and rallied behind sophomore Jake Herbert. The second-ranked Herbert jumpstarted the NU attack by pummeling sixth-ranked Michigan junior Nick Roy at 174 pounds.

After an early Roy escape cut Herbert’s lead to 2-1, NU’s All-American unleashed a barrage of takedowns and near falls that led to an 18-1 victory by technical fall. It was Herbert’s 29th win in a row and 23rd this season.

“Jake took that guy apart,” Cysewski said. “He wrestled fantastically like he has all year. He’s put the team on his shoulders and said, ‘Follow me because we’re going to get it done.'”

NU sophomore Mike Tamillow, ranked 12th at 184 pounds, followed with a 7-2 decision against sophomore Omar Maktabi. Senior Matt Delguyd, ranked 11th at 197 pounds, continued the run with a hard-fought 4-2 overtime victory against Michigan senior Willie Breyer.

After the small winning streak brought the Cats back to within four points, the pressure was on Fox to come up with an upset against Wagner in the day’s final bout.

Needing a major decision to earn the tie and a technical fall or fall to snatch the victory, Fox came away with nothing against a tough opponent. His performance was just one instance of the Cats’ inability to get over the proverbial hump.

In a crucial competition at 141 pounds early in the match, sixth-ranked sophomore Ryan Lang let a strong effort slip away at the end against fifth-ranked Michigan sophomore Josh Churella. Lang tied the bout at three early in the third period with an escape, but a Churella takedown shortly after put Lang at a deficit he couldn’t make up in an 8-4 loss.

Sophomore Greg Hagel also came close to pulling out a win at 157 pounds when he took Michigan sophomore Jeff Marsh to overtime. However, Marsh took Hagel down during the overtime period to grab the victory.

“We had a chance at 157 pounds, but we just couldn’t quite get it done,” Cysewski said. “That hurt because we needed that to get us to 5-5 in matches and make it come down to the scores.”

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