March 18, 2014
Meet Notes | TrackWrestling.com | ESPN3
DeKALB, Ill. – The 2013-14 season reaches its pinnacle this weekend, as seniors Nick Smith (Ida, Mich./Ida) and Rob Jillard (Franklinville, N.J./Delsea Regional) will represent Northern Illinois University at the 2014 NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The tournament starts Thursday with the first round starting at 11 a.m. inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Smith’s first match will begin at approximately noon, while Jillard starts his run around 12:45 p.m.
"When you get to the national championship event in any sport, it's a special time of year and the acme of the wrestling experience," said NIU head coach Ryan Ludwig. "The NCAA Division I championships are the epitome of what it's all about as a collegiate wrestler. These kids have worked their tails off to stand for three days and find out who's who."
Smith comes into the tournament with an 8-10 record on the season. The Ida, Mich., native punched his ticket to Oklahoma City with a fourth-place finish at the Mid-American Conference Championships. So far this year, the senior has faced eight different national tournament qualifiers, including Joe Colon (Northern Iowa), Vincent Pizzuto (Eastern Michigan) and Matt Manley (Missouri) twice each. Additionally, Smith has also battled Rossi Bruno (Michigan), Joe Roth (Central Michigan), Cashé Quiroga (Purdue), Mack McGuire (Kent State) and Division II qualifier Michael Labry (Ashland).
NIU’s 133-pounder confronts eighth-seeded David Thorn of Minnesota in his first match of the tournament. Thorn, an All-American last year at 133 and now three-time NCAA qualifier, holds a 24-6 record with the Golden Gophers and placed fourth at the Big Ten Championships. Win or lose, Smith takes on ninth-seeded Johnni DiJulius of Ohio State or Tyler Goodwin of Maryland in his second match of the tournament.
Jillard enters the championship with a 9-9 mark as a senior and also advanced to OKC with a fourth-place performance at the conference tournament. The Franklinville, N.J., native has taken on six different national qualifiers. In addition to facing Alexander Richardson (Old Dominion), Mike DePalma (Kent State) and Tywan Claxton (Ohio) twice, Jillard has also taken on Drake Houdashelt (Missouri), Dave Habat (Edinboro) and Alex Kocer (South Dakota State).
The senior 149-pounder’s first opponent of the tournament is seventh-seeded Gus Sako of Virginia. Sako took third place at the ACC Championships and comes to Oklahoma City with an 18-3 mark. In his second match, Jillard will take on either 10th-seeded Zach Neibert of Virginia Tech or Ken Theobold of Rutgers.
Fans catch watch every moment of the 2014 NCAA Championships on the ESPN family of networks. ESPNU will feature live coverage of the tournament for Sessions I (Thursday afternoon), II (Thursday night), III (Friday morning) and V (Saturday morning), while ESPN will broadcast Sessions IV (Friday night) and VI (Saturday night). ESPN3 will provide individual feeds for every mat, allowing fans to watch every match of the tournament - including wrestleback matches - with live commentary.
The NIU Matchups
133: Nick Smith (NIU) vs. #8 David Thorn (Minnesota)
Next round: #9 Johnni DiJulius (Ohio State) OR Tyler Goodwin (Maryland)
149: Rob Jillard (NIU) vs. #7 Gus Sako (Virginia)
Next round: #10 Zach Neibert (Virginia Tech) OR Ken Theobold (Rutgers)