Wrestling: Cats, Fox falter in 2 losses

Wade Askew

After three straight Big Ten victories, No. 10 Northwestern dropped its final two conference duals of the regular season.

The first loss came Friday night to No. 8 Wisconsin in Madison, 21-19. The dual was decided when No. 1 heavyweight Dustin Fox lost his first match of the season, a 5-3 decision to No. 4 Kyle Massey. It was Fox’s first loss of his senior year. Two days later, NU fell to No. 21 Indiana 24-14.

The losses put the Wildcats at 8-9 on the year, 2-6 in the Big Ten.

“It was disappointing that in both duals, I felt that if we had wrestled well, we should’ve won,” coach Tim Cysewski said. “The Wisconsin match, it was unfortunate that we did wrestle well, but at the same time, we gave up pins. Anytime you give up pins, that really hurts, and that basically cost us both dual meets.”

Indiana pinned NU once and Wisconsin an astounding three times. Each pin is worth six points in the team score – twice the amount of a normal decision.

Still, the Cats looked to Fox, their anchor for four years, to bail them out at the end against Wisconsin. While the senior has done so time and again throughout his career, he could not manage to pull off a clinching victory against Massey.

“I just didn’t wrestle well,” Fox said. “Any sport, sometimes you just don’t perform to your capability. It’s really frustrating, but that’s what happened to me – I just didn’t perform.”

While disappointing, the loss does little else than taint what Fox hoped would be a perfect season. He will likely be the top seed in the Big Ten Championships on March 8-9. A win there would set him up for the No. 1 seed at the NCAA Championships on March 20-22.

The same attitude goes for the rest of the team – everything that truly matters in the wrestling season lies ahead of NU, not behind it. The Cats are a team geared to perform well in a tournament, as they were last year when the squad finished eighth in the Big Ten dual season but fourth at the NCAA Championships. As Fox said, the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments are “everything that matters.”

“I think we’re in real good position,” senior Nick Hayes said. “It’s always fun to win duals, but the individual wins are the most important thing out there. … Going into Big Tens, I think we’re as solid as we can be right now.”

Hayes has reason for such optimism after notching his fifth straight victory, two of which have come over ranked opponents. The 174-pounder is ranked 12th in the country, and like several of his teammates he hopes to finish the year as an All-American.

Even after the disappointing weekend, Hayes’ teammates share his optimistic outlook on the rest of the season. As Cysewski said, the season will essentially restart at 0-0 in two weeks at the conference tournament. Until then, Cysewski said there is only one thing his athletes should be focusing on.

“They have to continue to live, die and sleep this sport.”