After a season cut short and a long-delayed process to begin again, No. 21 Northwestern wrestling finally returned to the mat for the 2021 season last Friday. Facing No. 16 Purdue, coach Matt Storniolo’s squad showed plenty of new faces in a 28-8 team loss against the Boilermakers.
Surprisingly, opening the night in West Lafayette at 125-lb weight class was junior Matt Vinci, who dropped a 16-0 tech fall against Purdue’s Devin Schroder. With five assumed starters, including returning 125 National Wrestling Coaches Association All-American Michael DeAugustino, out of Friday’s lineup, the ‘Cats won just two of ten matches.
Despite the unusual lineup, Northwestern was still able to find some bright spots in the day, with victories from Chris Cannon (133-lb weight class) and Yahya Thomas (149) both coming by major decision. Tight performances from first-years Frankie Tal-Shahar (141) and Maxx Mayfield (157) also showed plenty of promise. In place of top-ranked Ryan Deakin at 157, Mayfield kept a very close match against fifth-ranked Kendall Coleman, falling 4-3.
Having lost three NCAA-qualifying starters in Sebastian Rivera, Shayne Oster and Tyler Morland, Storniolo has plenty of holes to fill this season. Despite the lopsided final, his squad showed promise going forward and may find itself increasingly competitive for as long as the shortened season will let them.
The ‘Cats next take the mat January 23 in Lincoln, Nebraska, in a double-header against the Cornhuskers and Maryland.