Northwestern is sending eight wrestlers to the NCAA Tournament after solid performances at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan last weekend.
The ‘Cats wound up finishing seventh in the tournament with 78.5 points, and the squad also saw seven top-six finishes by individual wrestlers.
It became clear the Wildcats showed up to Ann Arbor motivated right away. Despite being only the sixth seed in the 125-pound bracket, Michael DeAugustino showed out, winning three matches en route to a berth in the third place match. He survived a tough match with Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett by winning a 3-2 decision, but was unable to complete the third place match due to a medical forfeit. DeAugustino wound up placing fourth, setting the tone for a competitive day for Northwestern.
Chris Cannon also set that tone in the 133-pound bracket. He bounced back from a tough loss in the quarterfinal by winning three straight matches in the consolation bracket. Unfortunately, Illinois’ Lucas Byrd was too much for him in the third place match and Cannon lost by sudden victory, 3-1.
Frankie Tal-Shahar slightly underwhelmed despite being the fourth seed in the 141-pound bracket. Tal-Shahar won his first two matches before struggling through a low-scoring loss by decision in the semifinal, then compounded that with two more losses. After his defeat at the hands of Purdue’s Parker Filius in the fifth place match, Tal-Shahar had to settle for sixth. However, finishing in sixth place was still good enough to qualify him for the national tournament.
In the 149-pound bracket, Yahya Thomas was also pretty streaky, though that was partially due to the high level of competition. Thomas lost to sixth seed Michael Blockhus of Minnesota by sudden victory in the quarterfinals, but then ripped off two wins in a row to reach the semifinals of the consolation bracket. However, in his match against Iowa’s Max Murrin, Thomas was injured, leading to declared losses in both that match and the fifth place match.
As for the 157-pound bracket, Trevor Chumbley also suffered a quarterfinal loss, but avoided injury in his run through the consolation bracket. Chumbley won some tight defensive matches, but couldn’t quite overcome sixth-seeded Will Lewan of Michigan in the third place match.
Maxx Mayfield was one of the few Northwestern wrestlers to overcome his seeding, finishing fifth in the 163-pound bracket despite being seeded sixth. Mayfield went 0-2 against higher seeds, but didn't lose at all to lower seeds, and upsets elsewhere in the bracket enabled him to make a run. He saved his best for last, holding Nebraska’s Bubba Wilson to just one point in the fifth place match.
In the 174-pound bracket, Troy Fisher suffered the same fate as Thomas. Fisher was injured in his consolation match against Rutgers’ Jackson Turley, and the result was no placement for Fisher.
Evan Bates didn't fare much better in the 184-pound bracket. He managed to avoid injury, but lost quickly in the second round of the consolation bracket to Iowa’s Abe Assad. For the second consecutive bracket, Northwestern didn't place a wrestler.
The 197-pound bracket was no better. Andrew Davison did win the first match of the consolation bracket, but fell quickly in the second match. He would need to bounce back strong in the ninth place bracket.
Davison was able to. He ripped off three straight wins, one by medical forfeit, to win the ninth-place bracket and clinch the automatic bid that came with it. That made Davison the seventh Wildcat to earn a trip to nationals.
Lucas Davison would soon become the eighth. He bounced back from a quarterfinal loss to make it all the way to the semifinals of the consolation bracket, and despite a loss there, would not be denied a spot at nationals. His victory by medical forfeit in the fifth place match ensured that his postseason would continue.
The eight wrestlers — DeAugustino, Cannon, Tal-Shahar, Thomas, Chumbley, Mayfield, Davison and Davison — will next take to the mats at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Those will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma from March 16-18.