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Wrestling: Wildcats try to snag first conference win in nearly 2 years

Matt Storniolo squats on the sideline. The coach will look to capture his first conference win against Michigan State on Friday.

Daily file photo by Keisha Johnson

Daily file photo by Keisha Johnson

Matt Storniolo squats on the sideline. The coach will look to capture his first conference win against Michigan State on Friday.

Dan Waldman, Assistant Sports Editor

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Wrestling


It’s been nearly two years since Northwestern last won a Big Ten wrestling match, but Friday’s bout against Michigan State could give the team its best chance this season to end the drought.

NU (5-3, 0-2 Big Ten) has lost 11 consecutive Big Ten duals — a streak dating back to former coach Drew Pariano’s tenure — and last recorded a conference win in February 2015. But with the conference’s last-place Spartans (2-5, 0-3) visiting the Cats this week, coach Matt Storniolo could finally snag his first Big Ten win at the program’s helm.

“It’s been too long since we won a Big Ten dual,” Storniolo said. “We’re trying to punch our ticket to compete at the National Duals event … but for us to do that we have to beat a couple of Big Ten teams along the way.”

Last year, Michigan State scored its lone conference win against NU, upsetting the Cats 19-15 in late January. Michigan State hasn’t won more than one conference dual in a campaign since the 2009-10 season and is a combined 4-41 in conference play since the 2011-12 season.

Following last year’s defeat, Storniolo said he was disappointed by his team’s effort and that “Michigan State is never a school that should beat us.”

NU won three of the first four matches in last year’s bout against the Spartans and took an early 12-3 lead. But after the half, the Cats could only scrape together one more win, eventually conceding the lead and the match to Michigan State.

Storniolo said his team had too many let-down performances in last year’s match from players who had previously wrestled well.

“The frustrating thing about last year’s loss was everybody just wasn’t on the same page the same day,” the second-year coach said. “We had guys that competed well on different weekends, it’s just we didn’t put it together as a team.”

After squandering their best opportunity to beat a conference opponent last year, the Cats enter Friday’s matchup with plenty of pressure to earn a victory.

NU is coming off of a tough loss against Purdue on Sunday, giving up 14 points in the first half and losing the match 20-16 despite a valiant second-half comeback. The Cats’ first five wrestlers weren’t able to get the job done against the Boilermakers — the opposite of what happened the last time NU played Michigan State — winning only one bout before halftime.

For the team to finally snap its winless streak on Friday, Storniolo said the younger wrestlers, who appear in the front half of the lineup, will need to step up.

“I’m about as confident as you can be with having so many young guys in a lineup,” Storniolo said. “They’re still learning, they’re still maturing and some of these guys have only been in a college wrestling room for a few months, so it’s always a little nerve-wracking when you have such a young team.”

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Twitter: @dan_waldman

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