Wrestling: NU not worried by mediocre record

Wade Askew

Not many teams in any sport can possess an overall losing record but still be considered one of the best 15 squads in the nation. No. 12 Northwestern is one of the few exceptions to that rule, flirting with a top-10 ranking despite being 6-7, including 1-3 in the Big Ten.

NU has been rewarded for having arguably the toughest schedule in the country to date, including a trio of Big Ten duals against teams (current-No. 1 Iowa, No. 4 Minnesota and No. 9 Penn State) that at one point were ranked atop the polls. While the Wildcats almost knocked off both Iowa and Penn State, the team suffered a letdown in intensity and was dominated by Minnesota, losing 33-12.

“We’d obviously like to have a better record, but, obviously, our record is not a true reflection of how our team is going to perform at NCAAs and Big Tens,” senior Nick Hayes said. “We have a lot of individual talent on our team, which makes us a great tournament team. … I’m pretty comfortable at where we’re at.”

With four Big Ten duals remaining on the schedule, including at Purdue tonight and home against No. 8 Illinois on Sunday, NU will focus on building momentum and improving individual rankings going into the Big Ten Championships.

So despite the mediocre record, the team retains confidence that it will be a national championship contender come March.

“A season is long enough to go from being down at the bottom of the nation to being at the top of the nation, or at least if you’re in the top 20 you can move up to being No. 1 if you keep improving,” senior Mike Tamillow said.

The Cats will have added incentive to move up in the rankings Sunday against rival Illinois on Senior Day.

Tamillow and the rest of the senior class have helped carry the team for the past four years. A quartet of seniors are currently ranked in the top 12 of their respective weight classes, including No. 1 heavyweight Dustin Fox, No. 2 197-pounder Tamillow, No. 6 149-pounder Ryan Lang and No. 12 174-pounder Hayes.

In 2004, NU finished last in the Big Ten. But ever since the class of 2008 stepped on campus, the program’s fortunes changed. The Cats finished 14th in the nation in 2005 and 13th in 2006, followed by a historic fourth-place finish at last year’s NCAA Championships.

“(The seniors) have really made Northwestern re-emerge as a power, in the Big Ten and nationally,” coach Tim Cysewski said. “These guys have brought a lot of credibility to the program. … They’ll look back three, four, five, 20 years from now and say, ‘We made the difference. We helped make Northwestern get back where they should be.'”

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