Middle-weights The Weak Link In Team’s Losses (Wrestling)

Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

Missing top-ranked Ryan Lang for the second straight weekend, No. 8 Northwestern lost a pair of Big Ten dual meets against rivals No. 16 Illinois and No. 5 Iowa.

The loss to Illinois, a 21-13 upset, was indicative of both NU’s struggles and strengths seen throughout the year. The end of the Cats’ lineup has been consistently stout, led by top-ranked 184-pounder Jake Herbert, No. 2 197-pounder Mike Tamillow and No. 4 heavyweight Dustin Fox, but against the Illini only those three wrestlers and 174-pounder Nick Hayes won their matches.

Against the Hawkeyes, Herbert, Tamillow and Fox continued to dominate, but NU’s other seven positions, from 125 through 174 pounds, lost, handing the Cats a 24-14 defeat.

It is those middle-weights that have given NU trouble throughout the season. Youth abounds in in the light- and middle-weights; Brandon Precin and Eric Metzler have both performed well during the season at 125 and 133 pounds, respectively, but both are freshmen and lost

matches against both Illinois and Iowa.

The middle-weights have been of particular concern. Sophomore Mardy Gould, who has battled fellow-sophomore Vincent Colletti for the 149-pound spot, sophomore 157-pounder Dominic Marella and junior 165-pounder Greg Hagel have often struggled against high-level competition.

“It’s just a matter of at 149, 157, 165 – everybody has good guys there, and we have good guys there, too,” coach Tim Cysewski said. “They have to come back and work even harder, watch a little more videotape, make sure they stay healthy. It’s just a matter of really making an effort to pay attention to details right now. And that goes across the board – not just for the middle-weights, but for everybody.”

With the middle-weights struggling, it is hard to overstate the significance of Lang to the team. At 141 pounds, Lang has been a dependable anchor in the lineup.

Cysewski believes Lang’s injury is no small factor in this past weekend’s losses.

“We need to have our lineup at full strength, and we’re definitely not at that,” Cysewski said. “With Ryan being out it hurts the whole team chemistry and it puts pressure on other kids to do more to win. I think with Lang getting back in the lineup that will help that a lot.”

Still, Herbert refuses to use the Lang injury as an excuse.

“I know having Lang out hurts, but it still shouldn’t be a problem just because we’re missing one guy,” Herbert said. “We’re a team and we’ve got to make it up, and the middle-weights just really need to pick it up in that aspect.”

For the heavyweights, winning individual matches while losing as a team can be especially frustrating. While only controlling seven minutes of a dual meet, wrestlers have to put faith in their teammates to come through.

To Herbert, the individual wrestlers represent the larger team and NU as a whole, and his own successes take a back seat.

Fox expressed similar sentiments.

“Of course it is (frustrating), but we can only take responsibility for our matches,” Fox said. “We understand that everyone on the team is working really hard. They’re our brothers. If they lose, we lose.”

Still, while NU is entering what Fox describes as “the toughest conference schedule in all sports,” Cysewski remains optimistic.

The coach maintains the ultimate goal for NU remains Big Ten and NCAA championships, so bumps along the way are acceptable given that wrestlers learn from their mistakes and successes.

“It’s upsetting to lose, and it’s inexcusable,” Fox said, “But at the same time you look at it and all you can do is control your seven minutes.”

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]