Wrestling: Oster, Northwestern nip Northern Illinois, 24-18

Rohan Nadkarni and Rohan Nadkarni

Although battling ups and downs in conference play, No. 19 Northwestern could always hang its hat on its undefeated nonconference record. With another win last Friday night, the Wildcats (8-4) pushed that perfect record to 5-0, defeating Northern Illinois 24-18.

The Huskies (6-8) entered the dual with a 6-3 record of their own in non-conference play and gave the Cats a tough fight to the finish.

Action began at 125 pounds, where 10th-ranked Levi Mele squared off against 20th-ranked Nick Smith in the night’s only matchup of two top-20 wrestlers.

Smith challenged Mele for all three periods. The only scoring came during the third period, when Mele scored a 2-point reversal. Mele won the bout 3-0, picking up another point from three minutes and nine seconds of riding time.

“Matches worth winning are the ones you have to fight for,” Mele said of defeating another top-20 opponent. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The most critical bout of the night may have been at 133 pounds, where NU freshman Jameson Oster toppled Rob Jillard in a major decision. Oster won the bout 11-2, scoring a bevy of reversals and takedowns.

“Jameson’s match was big,” coach Drew Pariano said. “I worked out with him this morning. We kept saying over and over to him, ‘You have to score points.'”

Oster, who owned a 12-12 record before the dual, exited with a victory and arguably his best display of wrestling on the year.

“I felt good, coming in,” Oster said. “I wrestled one of my best matches of the year today.”

After Oster, the Cats lost one bout before reeling off four straight wins. Redshirt freshman Pat Greco lost at 141 pounds after getting the start over redshirt freshman Colin Shober.

“In the room this week Pat did a really good job,” Pariano said of his decision to give the start to Greco. “We have to find out who really wants to be in the lineup. We just have to get better.”

After Greco, NU regained form with four impressive wins. At 149 pounds, sophomore Kaleb Friedley defeated Tyler Argue 12-3, earning the major-decision win with a slew of takedowns and reversals as well as a bonus point for riding time.

Second-ranked Jason Welch wrestled next, extending his undefeated record by pinning Tyler Loethen 13 seconds into the third period. In the next two bouts, Pierce Harger and 12th-ranked Lee Munster followed suit with wins. Harger won, 8-0, in another major decision, while a riding time bonus point aided Munster in a 4-1 victory.

After seven bouts, the Cats led 24-3. However, the Huskies pulled off three straight wins and ensured that the dual would not be a blowout.

Northern Illinois’ comeback began at 184 pounds, where opponents have been feasting on NU all year long. 18th-ranked Brad Dieckhaus, the Huskies’ highest ranked wrestler, put on a clinic against junior Marcus Shrewsbury.

Dieckhaus pinned Shrewsbury in the third period after already scoring three points for a near fall earlier in the dual.

At 197 pounds, Mike Lukowski defeated senior John Schoen in a feisty bout that’s become the norm for Schoen. Schoen and Lukowski repeatedly took each other to the edge of the mat, and Schoen even sent Lukowski down to the wood floor after a couple whistles.

On the mat, however, Lukowski proved more successful, earning a 3-1 win.

In the dual’s last match, the Huskies closed the score to 24-18 with Jared Torrence’s pin of senior Ben Kuhar.

In a scary moment, Kuhar lay on the mat after the pin in pain due to an apparent arm injury. Fortunately, according to Pariano, x-rays on Kuhar came back negative.

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