Wrestling: Northwestern defeats Maryland, falls to No. 3 Nebraska in Tri-Dual


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Yahya Thomas tries a takedown against an opponent. The junior is enjoying a hot start to the 2021 season, and is without a loss in three appearances since the Opener against Purdue.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Sports Editor


It’s been a while since No. 14 Northwestern last tasted victory. Not since February 2020, when the Wildcats took down SIU-Edwardsville in a dominating 38-9 scoreline. On Saturday at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NU took down the Terrapins 21-12. And then, they were thoroughly outclassed by No. 3 Nebraska.

A 26-10 loss. But one that looked close for a while.

“I think we got better as the day went on,” coach Matt Storniolo said. “Even though the team result in the Nebraska dual was worse, I felt like we approached that match a whole lot better and had better performances against tougher opponents.”

NU got strong performances from freshman Chris Cannon and junior Yahya Thomas, who each extended their undefeated starts to the season. But the day belonged to freshman Maxx Mayfield.

The Nebraska native graduated from Lincoln East High School, just miles away from the collegiate gym. After falling to Maryland’s Michael Doetsch in the early game, Mayfield would grab the first win of his Northwestern career when he faced off against Nebraska’s Caleb Licking at the 157 weight class. A back-and-forth battle ensued, with Licking tying the score just before the end of regulation. Mayfield would win it 6-4 in overtime.

Mayfield’s win gave NU a 10-7 lead over Nebraska. But it wouldn’t have been possible without Cannon’s scintillating performance at the 133. He matched up against top-25 wrestler Alex Thomsen, and gave the Nebraska sophomore all he could handle and then some. Cannon earned his first takedown mere seconds into the bout.

By the midway point of the second period, Cannon had already built a 7-1 lead, during which he accumulated an astounding two minutes of riding time. When it was all over, Cannon’s lead swelled to the tune of a 14-1 lead. He’d account for almost four and a half minutes of riding time — more than enough for a major decision victory

That performance, as well as Cannon’s earlier victory over Maryland’s Jackson Cockrell by pin, have Storniolo thinking about big things for his freshman star.

“I think Chris wrestled great in both matches,” Storniolo said. “I think he was the star performance of today’s event for us. It’s what you want to see out of a young kid in the lineup. He doesn’t go out there shying away from the lights or the challenge. He meets it head on. He wants to wrestle on the big stage.”

Thomas also continued his hot start. The junior was excellent in wins over Maryland’s Hunter Baxter and Nebraska’s Brock Hardy, giving up just a single point — on a late third period escape to Hardy — all afternoon. His great night didn’t come as a surprise to Storniolo.

“We have high expectations for Yahya because we know he can meet them. He’s been an All-American caliber wrestler ever since he stepped on campus,” Storniolo said. “He’s continued to develop. I think by the end of the season you’re gonna see Yahya Thomas high on that podium.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @gsvirnovskiy

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