NU finding new star in grad student (Wrestling)

Wade Askew

Coach Tim Cysewski’s 2007 recruiting class featured a trio of high school All-Americans. One was the top prospect in Illinois; another was the best prep heavyweight in the nation. But the one addition that received easily the least attention is the one making the greatest impact.

Adil Kolovic, 23, spent last year as a volunteer assistant at his old high school, Niles West, in Chicago. Before that, Kolovic wrestled at Division III Elmhurst College, serving as captain his senior year.

But with one year of NCAA eligibility remaining and an accepted application into Northwestern’s applied mathematics graduate school, Kolovic seized an opportunity to compete at the Division I level.

After initiating contact with Cysewski last July, Kolovic reached an agreement to join the team and compete for the 184-pound weight slot vacated by former national champion Jake Herbert, who is redshirting to prepare for this summer’s Olympics in Beijing. Herbert plans to be back next year, but by that time Kolovic will have exhausted his eligibility.

“I just wanted to give wrestling another shot, whether I got to compete as a starter or not,” Kolovic said. “Definitely once I found out (Herbert) was redshirting, it did help the decision (to come to NU).”

Kolovic won his first Division I match in his first dual meet, on Nov. 30 against Northern Illinois, and he made an equally seamless transition fitting into a close-knit team with a variety of personalities.

“He’s been contributing all year, which is great, and he’s been a very pleasant surprise,” Cysewski said. “He’s fit right in – it’s like he’s been here four years already. It’s been an easy transition for him, even though he’s been in grad school.”

Added senior 174-pounder Nick Hayes: “His personality, his wrestling skills, he brings in a lot of stuff in the room that we’re just not used to seeing, coming from a different school.

“Every team has a specific style, and his style gives us different looks and shows us stuff that we’re not used to seeing, and it’s good for everybody.”

Kolovic will face his most daunting task yet starting Sunday night: the Big Ten schedule.

Traditionally the nation’s premier wrestling conference, the Big Ten is especially strong at Kolovic’s 184-pound weight class. Four of the top eight 184-pounders in the country hail from the Big Ten, including Sunday’s opponent from Iowa, sophomore Phil Keddy.

But perhaps more than anybody, Kolovic is excited for the challenge. A year away from competition allowed him to truly appreciate the sport he loves.

“That whole year I just missed competing,” Kolovic said. “I missed every part of it – practice, matches, everything.”

Although Kolovic finished 0-5 at the Wildcats’ most recent competition, the prestigious National Duals, Cysewski stressed the wrestler’s competitiveness in each of his matches this season. Cysewski said he believes Kolovic could qualify for the NCAA Championships with his continued improvement.

But if nothing else, Cysewski is proud of the example the former Division III stud has set for his wrestlers.

“He could have easily said, ‘This is not for me’ after the first few months of practice, and realized maybe it was over his head, but he’s not,” Cysewski said. “He’s taken the challenge, and he’s done a very good job thus far, and we’re glad to have him as a part of our program.

“He’s someone who didn’t have to do this, but he’s doing it, and I think that’s pretty special.”

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]