Northern Illinois Wrestlers Open MAC Action With 25-12 Win Over Kent State


January 18, 2004
- Northern Illinois University vs. Kent State University / DeKalb, IL / Mid-American Conference Action / Sunday / January 18, 2004/ Attendance: 246

125-Pounds Drew Opfer (KSU) dec. Gralan Early (NIU), 10-9 0-3
133-Pounds Sam Hiatt (NIU) dec. Jared Opfer (KSU), 6-4 3-3
141-Pounds Andy Hiatt (NIU) major dec. Nate Daugherty (KSU), 14-5 7-3
149-Pounds Josh Wooton (NIU) dec. Jason Bake (KSU), 8-6 10-3
157-Pounds Mike Tolar (KSU) dec. Joe Henning (NIU), 10-5 10-6
165-Pounds Alex Nelson (NIU) dec. Nick Brenner (KSU), 9-2 14-6
174-Pounds George Kirgan (NIU) pinned A. Ramadani (KSU), 1:41 19-6
184-Pounds Ben Heizer (NIU) dec. Alex Camargo (KSU), 7-3 22-6
197-Pounds Greg Reardon (NIU) dec. Nick Hiller (KSU), 4-2 25-6
Heavyweight Willie Leonard (KSU) pinned Joe Sapp (NIU), 6:55 25-12

DeKalb, IL - Last season, the Northern Illinois University wrestling program was forced to share the Mid-American Conference regular season title with Central Michigan because of an early-season loss to Kent State. Do you think that defeat was on the minds of the Huskie grapplers as they opened the MAC season against those same Golden Flashes? The Huskies avenged last season's loss in a big way, defeating KSU 25-12 in front of 246 fans at the Convocation Center on Sunday (Nov. 18).

During the 13-point win, the Huskies won 7-of-10 matches including another impressive pin by George Kirgan to put the dual competition out of reach.

Prior to securing his fifth pin of the season, Kirgan, a native of Granite City, IL, had to scramble early on after being taken down by Kent State's Ardian Ramadani. After escaping, Kirgan quickly flipped Ramadani and pinned the freshman just 1:41 into the match.

"George did a great job getting us six team points," head coach Dave Grant said. "He was tough and aggressive. Before the match, we told our guys that we wanted them to come out and wrestle aggressively. They did that."

In addition to Kirgan's pin, 10th-ranked Sam Hiatt, a native of DeKalb, earned an impressive decision over Jared Opfer, a former NCAA qualifier, to improve to 15-4.

Trailing 3-0 in the team standings after freshman Gralan Early came up short (10-9) to Drew Opfer, Hiatt got the Huskies on the board with a 6-4 decision over Jared Opfer at 133 pounds. Facing the MAC's fourth-ranked 133-pound wrestler, Hiatt got a takedown midway through the opening period to gain a 2-0 lead. While an escape by Opfer made it 2-1 at the end of the first, Hiatt controlled the opening three minutes in building the one-point lead.

After starting the period down, Hiatt quickly escaped to make it 3-1 and took down Opfer for the second time, this one with just 11 seconds remaining, to gain a 5-1 lead after two periods.

Opfer escaped at the start of the third period to make it 5-2 and took down Hiatt late to make it 5-4, but the junior escaped as the clock expired for the 6-4 win.

Hiatt's younger brother, Andy Hiatt, continues his tear, as he stopped Kent State senior Nate Daugherty by a 14-5 major decision. Just a freshman, Hiatt built a 4-1 first-period lead after a pair of takedowns and upped his lead to 5-1 with an escape at the start of the second period. Another takedown made the lead 7-1, before Daugherty escaped to narrow the margin to 7-2. After the senior was called for a pair of stalling violations making it 9-2, Hiatt began looking for a major-decision win and got it with two more takedowns in the final period.

Josh Wooton made it three-in-a-row for Northern Illinois as he topped Jason Bake 8-6. Trailing 2-1 after the opening period, Wooton began the second frame with a reversal to grab his first lead. Bake regained the advantage, however, as he escaped and took down Wooton for the second time. An escape by Bake at the start of the third period gave him a 6-4 lead, but a stalling call against the Kent State wrestler and another takedown by Wooton gave the sophomore a 7-6 come-from-behind win.

Alex Nelson gave NIU another win at 165 pounds as he handled Nick Brenner by a 9-2 margin. Leading 2-0 after one period, Nelson increased his lead to 5-0 with an escape and takedown in the second. After Brenner escaped to start the third period, Nelson came through with his third takedown to make it 7-1. Brenner did manage one final escape to score his second point, while a stalling point against Brenner and riding time gave Nelson the 9-2 win.

Ben Heizer got NIU back on the board as the senior All-American earned a hard-fought 7-3 win over Alex Camargo at 184 pounds. In improving to 18-1 on the year, the nation's No. 2 ranked wrestler got the win thanks to patient wrestling. Tied 3-3 after each wrestler enjoyed a takedown and escape in the first period, Heizer grabbed the lead for good in the second period with an early escape. Camargo picked neutral to start the third period and Heizer made him pay with a late takedown to make it 6-3. Heizer got his final point via riding time.

"Camargo is a tough guy for Ben to wrestle," Grant said. "He backs out a lot and isn't very aggressive. Ben was still able to take him down twice and get a good win. Camargo is the No. 2 184-pounder in the MAC. He's a good wrestler, so this is a good win for Ben."

The final Huskie triumph came from Greg Reardon as he improved to 4-4 on the year. Scoreless through one period, Reardon started on bottom and quickly made it 2-0 after KSU's Nick Hiller was called for stalling and Reardon escaped shortly thereafter. Hiller made it 2-1 with an escape to begin the third period, but Reardon claimed a takedown with 1:04 remaining to put the match out of reach.

"You always want to start out the conference season with a win," Grant said. "We got that accomplished. I was happy with the way we wrestled. Even the guys who didn't win, could be happy with their efforts as they walked off the mat. That's what we look for as coaches, a consistent and solid effort."

With the win, Northern Illinois improves to 7-3, 1-0 in the MAC, while Kent State drops to 2-10, 1-2 in Mid-American Conference action.



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