It was another tough evening on Saturday for the Northwestern wrestling squad, taking on Indiana and third-ranked Penn State at home in their second straight tri-dual of the season. Although able to keep it close against Indiana, the ‘Cats dropped both duals to move to 1-4 on the young season, but still had a handful of performances to be hopeful about.
Taking the mat for the first time at home this season, NU was a week removed from its first dual win of the season over Maryland, a win that came on the same evening as a difficult loss to a top-10 Nebraska squad. Still trying to find a more permanent starting lineup, a number of wrestlers were unavailable for either one or both matches, stretching the team points a little thinner than what they maybe could have been.
Starting the night off against Indiana, eighth-ranked Michael DeAugustino took the mat for the first time this year at 125, coming off of a breakout season a year ago. The former all-American brought a winning effort to his first match, securing a 5-3 decision over Jacob Moran. Following the 125 match, Chris Cannon managed to keep his undefeated streak alive with a high-scoring 12-10 decision over Kyle Luigs. Cannon suffered an apparent injury during the match, which may have kept him off of the mat for the rest of the night.
Yahya Thomas kept his unbeaten streak alive as well, winning handily with an 8-4 decision over Graham Rooks to move to 5-0. After three losses in the next three matches, including a late-match fall from IU’s Donnell Jefferson over Troy Fisher at 174, NU faced a 9-15 deficit with three matches remaining. Jack Jesson broke the drought with a 3-2 decision over Drayton Harris, followed by a huge 10-2 major decision for Lucas Davison at 197, giving NU a slight 16-15 lead.
Unfortunately, Indiana’s Jacob Bullock pulled a late surge against Brendan Devine in the heavyweight bout, earning an 8-2 victory and an 18-16 IU team win. While this maybe wasn’t the desired result, the absence of Ryan Deakin is likely at least a six-point swing in the team totals, which could’ve meant a solid ‘Cats victory.
Moving on from the Hoosiers, Northwestern took on the powerhouse Penn State Nittany Lions, a program that won eight NCAA team championships in nine seasons from 2011 to 2019.
Opening with a forfeit at 125, Dylan Utterback took the mat in place of Chris Cannon at 133, facing off against one of the country’s best pound-for-pound wrestlers in Roman Bravo-Young. After giving up a hefty sum of points early in the match, Utterback fell to RBY at the 3:47 mark. Frankie Tal-Shahar followed Utterback with another difficult match at 141, falling to No. 2 Nick Lee 12-2.
Yahya Thomas picked up the Wildcats’ first win on the mat at 149 with a hard-fought 3-2 decision over Terrell Barraclough. Facing five straight top-11 wrestlers after Thomas, NU held their own in some respects, with freshmen David Ferrante and Troy Fisher keeping it close against back-to-back top-six wrestlers. Lucas Davison picked up Northwestern’s second and final win on the mat against PSU with a dominant 12-3 major decision, with the final being a 29-13 rout in favor of the Nittany Lions.
With DeAugustino finally making his return, NU’s starting roster is beginning to round itself out, giving a much more solid idea of what to expect going forward. As mentioned early, the absence of top-ranked Ryan Deakin will hurt the team score on any given night, and not having a red-hot Chris Cannon against Penn State didn’t do them any favors either.
Nonetheless, the ‘Cats have five wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their respective classes and have had some young guys give eye-raising performances every week, which is more than one can ask for during a season that is so much different from the rest. With (hopefully) everyone back in the starting lineup, we can now see where this squad is really going to fall in the gauntlet of the Big Ten.
Northwestern will take the mat again on February 7 at Welsh-Ryan Arena against ninth-ranked Illinois.