As March rapidly approaches, the world of college sports is soon to be in a craze of conference and NCAA tournaments. First, though, teams must survive the busy month of February and be sure not to find themselves slowing down.
Northwestern wrestling (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten) has succeeded in that regard, finding themselves continuing to improve throughout the month and picking up some decent momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
Following their tight loss against Illinois early in the month, NU returned to Evanston for their senior night against Michigan State on February 7th. Following a first match loss at 133 for Dylan Utterback, NU went on a four match tear that included two major decisions from Alec McKenna and Ryan Deakin. After an injury forfeit from Tyler Moreland at 174, the ‘Cats split their last four matches, taking home another major decision from Lucas Davison, who has made his way to the edge of the top 10 at 197, and securing a much-needed 25-15 victory.
Two days later, NU traveled to Columbus to take on the 6th-ranked Buckeyes. In a day that featured four top-ranked wrestlers in their respective classes, the ‘Cats struggled to overcome Ohio State’s experience gap, falling 10-28, taking only three of the ten matches. The day did have its highlights, however, with 18th-ranked Shayne Oster defeating 13th-ranked Ethan Smith in the opening match at 165.
Shayne Oster came up big on Sunday with two late takedowns to upset #13 Ethan Smith (OSU) and win his fifth-straight Big Ten bout.— Northwestern Wrestling (@NUWrestle) February 10, 2020
Re-live the excitement with the final minute of action ⬇#B1GCats • @shayne_oster pic.twitter.com/jtos6aCuto
Continuing their road trip, the ‘Cats met with Rutgers on February 14th in Piscataway. Much like in their meeting with Ohio State, NU’s lack of depth between weight classes seemed to hurt them down the line, losing to the Scarlet Knights 13-26. Still, though, there were yet more bright spots, with top-15 grapplers Deakin, Oster, and Davison all picking up nice wins.
In their third leg of a four-meet road trip (but their Big Ten regular season finale), NU picked up another needed victory in rather dominant fashion. Facing off against Maryland in College Park, the ‘Cats came out on top of eight of the ten matches, with five of their six ranked wrestlers earning impressive results.
Northwestern’s big 37-9 win included major decisions from Jack Heyob and Yahya Thomas, along with falls from Deakin and Sebastian Rivera, who competed on the mat for NU for the first time since The Midlands Championships in late December. As a whole, this was a nice conference win the for ‘Cats to push them to 3-6 in the Big Ten.
While their overall record isn’t stellar, this team has continued to do what they’ve been doing, and doing it well. Missing Rivera for a month and a half certainly hasn’t helped them, and it’s safe to assume that if they had him in there at 133, they’d probably have another two marks in the win column.
Regardless, as the team’s top performers continue to dominate and their younger core improves every week, this group should have good confidence heading to Piscataway for the Big Ten Tournament on March 7th. They have just one meet left before that: a trip to SIU-Edwardsville this Sunday.