Wrestling: Northwestern falls to No. 4 Penn State and Indiana 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 five appearances since the Opener against Purdue.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Sports Editor


Northwestern’s two losses on Saturday, against Penn State and Indiana, in many ways stand out as a microcosm of the season and its early stages. The Wildcats (1-4, 1-4 Big Ten) have only beaten lowly-ranked Maryland all year. A cast of young athletes has continued to struggle against some of the Big Ten’s top wrestlers.

And yet, junior Yahya Thomas and freshman Chris Cannon both extended their undefeated starts to the season. And they did it in dominating fashion.

Thomas was perhaps most impressive when he faced off against Indiana’s Graham Rooks, who is also a Top 20 ranked wrestler. Up 5-2 by the midway point of the second period, after racking up a pair of early takedowns, Thomas didn’t give Rooks a sniff of offense.

That’s what he’s good at — stifling defensive tactics, a mentality which never lets an opponent back in a match once Thomas has taken a lead.

“Yahya’s got a couple years in the lineup under his belt,” coach Matt Storniolo said. “He’s had some great experience in the last couple years and isn’t a stranger to the big stage. For Yahya, this is where he should be right now.”

His win helped give NU a commanding lead in its matchup against Indiana. But it’s one the Cats eventually gave up, sunk by losses from freshmen Maxx Mayfield, David Ferrante and Troy Fisher.

Fisher lost in stunning fashion against DJ Washington l. Up 7-5 with just over 40 seconds remaining in the third period, Fisher fell after being pinned down outside the mat. It was an extra-point loss that solidified the win for Indiana.

“Troy definitely learned a lesson at the end of that first match,” Storniolo said. “Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a free lesson. That one’s gonna sting for a while. He had that kid dead in the rights with a short time left.”

As for Cannon, Stroniolo could only shrug. He validated his climb up the national charts with a hard-fought victory over Indiana’s Kyle Luigs, battling an apparent hamstring injury in the process.

Only four weeks remain in the season. During that time, Northwestern will take on Illinois and Wisconsin at home before heading to Iowa City and Minneapolis in consecutive weeks to take on the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers.

They’ll look to improve their record against teams they don’t beat often. Before taking down Illinois by a 25-12 scoreline back in February 2019, the Cats hadn’t beat the Illini in nine years. They lost again last season.

“There’s nothing fun about being 1-4,” Storniolo said. “Success is gonna come for all the guys on the team. We’re still early in the season, three weekends of competition deep. That success is coming.”

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Twitter: @gsvirnovskiy

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