Despite trailing 16-3 at the meet’s halfway point, the Huskies stunned LHU by winning the final five matches to overtake the Bald Eagles
“It was a major gutcheck,” said Huskie head coach Ryan Ludwig. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of these guys. They were able to pull themselves up, rally behind each other and understand that there was still a match to be wrestled.”
The NIU rally began with the 197-pound match, where senior Mike Lukowski manhandled Matt Parlier in a 15-7 major decision to get the Huskies within nine points. Jared Torrence followed that up in the heavyweight match with a close 2-1 decision against LHU’s Harry Turner.
The real shocker, though, came at 125. Minus starter Nick Smith, the Huskies sent true freshman Derek Elmore to the mat against the Bald Eagles’ Robert Rehm, a 23-match winner coming in to the day. Trailing 12-2 in the third period, Elmore was able to put Rehm on his back and get the pin to tie the match at 16.
“If there is time on the clock, there is time to score points,” Ludwig said. “Derek Elmore has been in big-time matches for many years now and he’s not going to get rattled by being behind. He’s going to stick with what he knows best and, eventually, it paid off for him.”
Rob Jillard gave NIU its first lead of the day at 19-16 when he got a 7-4 decision against John Trumbetti, setting up a winner-take-all showdown at 141 between Kevin Fanta and Matt Bonson.
With Bonson leading 1-0 after two periods, Fanta tied the match up early in the third with an escape. Bonson, though, kept Fanta at bay in order to protect the one minute advantage he had in riding time. However, Fanta finally brought Lock Haven’s nationally-ranked wrestler down in the final minute to take a 3-1 lead, then scored back points to secure the match and the Huskie victory.
“Kevin Fanta had a big win,” Ludwig said. “(Bonson) has been ranked in every national poll, so we’re looking for Kevin to break in nationally. We know he’s there, we know he should be ranked, so they may put him in the rankings now.”
Lock Haven got out to a blistering start to the match when they won the first three matches on the day to take an early 10-0 lead. Caleb Busson stemmed their momentum with a close 6-5 win at 174 to get NIU within seven, but LHU’s Fred Garcia pinned Shane Rosenberry in the 184-pound match to give the Bald Eagles a 16-3 lead at the midway point. At that point, the Huskies rally began.
The win gives NIU its sixth dual win on the year, already eclipsing their win total from last season. The victory was also the team’s second this season against the Eastern Wrestling League and fourth in a row, dating back to 2000.
The Huskies return to action Friday, Jan. 13, when they travel to Athens, Ohio, to take on the Ohio Bobcats in a critical Mid-American Conference showdown for both teams. The dual begins at 6 p.m. CST.
Northern Illinois 22, Lock Haven 16
149: Owen Wilkinson (LHU) maj. dec. Matt Smith (NIU), 14-1
157: Aaron Fry (LHU) dec. Tyler Loethen (NIU), 11-5
165: Seth Creasy (LHU) dec. Dan Burk (NIU), 7-1
174: Caleb Busson (NIU) dec. Aaron McKinney (LHU), 6-5
184: Fred Garcia (LHU) pins Shane Rosenberry (NIU), 6:16
197: Mike Lukowski (NIU) maj. dec. Matt Pariler (LHU), 15-7
285: Jared Torrence (NIU) dec. Harry Turner (LHU), 2-1
125: Derek Elmore (NIU) pins Robert Rehm (LHU), 6:35
133: Rob Jillard (NIU) dec. John Trumbetti (LHU), 7-4
141: Kevin Fanta (NIU) dec. Matt Bonson (LHU), 5-2