Wrestling: Northwestern looking to snap eight-game losing streak

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Wrestling: Northwestern looking to snap eight-game losing streak

Conan Jennings wrestles with an opponent. The redshirt freshman lost his last bout against Michigan State last weekend.

Conan Jennings wrestles with an opponent. The redshirt freshman lost his last bout against Michigan State last weekend.

Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Conan Jennings wrestles with an opponent. The redshirt freshman lost his last bout against Michigan State last weekend.

Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Conan Jennings wrestles with an opponent. The redshirt freshman lost his last bout against Michigan State last weekend.

Dan Waldman, Reporter

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The Wildcats are in the midst of their worst losing streak since 2003 when the team lost nine consecutive matches, and this weekend Northwestern is in danger of eclipsing that mark.

The Cats (1-9, 0-5 Big Ten) host No. 17 Minnesota (7-7, 3-3) on Friday, and wrap up the weekend with a dual in Champaign, Illinois, against No. 13 Illinois (11-4, 2-4) on Sunday. NU is 0-8 against the Golden Gophers in the two teams’ last eight meetings, with Minnesota outscoring the Cats by a combined 134 points.

NU has struggled mightily thus far, and the injury-riddled team still has five duals left before the Big Ten Tournament next month. Despite the losses of redshirt-freshmen Bryce Brill and Johnny Sebastian for the remainder of the season as well as a recent, tough loss to then-last-place Michigan State, interim coach Matt Storniolo said he still has goals he wants to accomplish.

And this weekend, Storniolo will try to achieve something his predecessor Drew Pariano couldn’t do in his five years as the head coach of the program — a victory over Minnesota.

“The focus this week has been looking for points during more of the match,” Storniolo said. “We hung out a little bit too much in matches last week. We weren’t as aggressive as we should have been and we weren’t as hungry for points as we needed to be.”

Last season, the then-No.1 Golden Gophers edged out the then-No.18 Cats in a 21-19 win. In the match, NU forfeited the 157-pound class, which ultimately gave Minnesota the victory. Despite dealing with injuries this season, Storniolo said he expects to wrestle a full lineup and does not plan on conceding any points to forfeits this weekend.

Due to senior Jameson Oster’s injury, the Cats forfeited the 141-pound class in three of their first four Big Ten matches this year against Iowa, Penn State and Michigan. But Oster returned for the Cats last weekend in East Lansing, where he recorded an 8-6 victory.

On Friday, Oster will face Tommy Thorn, the No. 7 wrestler in the 141-pound class. The senior said he feels healthy and is ready to go.

“It’s good coming back — I wrestled a tough kid and got a big win,” Oster said. “It just kind of set things up for the rest of the season, so I can keep rolling with that momentum.”

Meanwhile, NU last defeated then-ranked No. 14 Illinois five years ago when Pariano was the coach. Since then, the Cats have dropped their last four matches to the Fighting Illini.

Illinois currently has four wrestlers who are ranked No. 6 or higher in their respective weight classes, including No. 2 in the 133-pound class, Zane Richards. Last season, Richards dominated current NU senior Dominick Malone in a 14-5 major decision. But after going 2-0 last weekend, Malone will have the chance to redeem himself Sunday.

“He’s had my number in the past, but I can’t think about that,” Malone said. “I feel like I’ve been wrestling really well and it’s just about carrying my momentum and going out there and trying to impose my stuff on him.”

Email: danielwaldman2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @Dan_Waldman

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