Nov. 3, 2011
With the 2011-12 season opener only days away, the Northern Illinois wrestling team's starting lineup is starting to come into focus. The team returns six starters from last season's squad, including defending 184 pound MAC champion Brad Dieckhaus and last year's wins leader in Nick Smith.
125 - Sophomore Nick Smith, who went 22-9 in 2010-11, highlights the 125 weight class for the Huskies. For his performance from a season ago, the Ida, Mich., native was also ranked 26th in the nation by WrestlingReport.com. Behind Smith will be a pair of highly-touted freshmen in Derek Elmore and Nick Harrison. Elmore won a state championship at Harlem High School last season and a folkstyle national championship in 2009, while Harrison, who comes to NIU from Stillman Valley, Ill., was a three-time state champion.
133 - Arguably one of the deepest weight classes for the Huskies will be 133, as the team boasts 2011 NCAA qualifier Rob Jillard and senior Izzy Montemayor as their top two. Jillard, who transferred to Northern after wrestling at Liberty a season ago, went 20-12 in 2010-11 en route to earning a spot to the national tournament. Meanwhile, Montemayor enters his fourth season with the Cardinal and Black with 34 career wins to his credit. Also at 133 are reshirt freshman Jason Montemayor (Izzy's younger brother) and true freshmen Ryan Smith and Thorian Twyner.
141 - Redshirt sophomore Kevin Fanta and redshirt freshman Shawn Fayette are dead even when it comes to starting at 141. Fanta moves up from 133, where he went 8-8 overall and 5-3 in dual meets last year. Meanwhile, Fayette went 11-8 in open tournaments with three pins as a redshirt. Rounding out the weight class is true freshman Ethan Davis, who was ranked as the 11th best recruit at the 145 weight class.
Redshirt freshman Matt Smith
headlines the very young 149 weight class. Smith, who went 7-2 with three pins in open tournaments, won the Harper Open and placed fourth at the Michigan State Fresh/Soph Open last season. True freshmen and Illinois natives Tyler Argue
(Matteson) and Steven Bradley
(Byron), along with Michigander Matt Frisch
, should also figure prominently at the position.
157 - Redshirt freshman Sam Bennett will likely get the nod at 157, as he tries to replace three-time NCAA qualifier Bryan Deutsch. The Anderson, Ind., native, though, is coming off a productive redshirt season in which he went 10-3 overall and placed in the top five at three open tournaments, including a first place showing at the Harper Open. True freshmen Eddie Breen and Tyler Loethen will also be looking to make their mark at the weight.
165 - Matt Mougin will return to his starting role at 165 in 2011, where he went 9-17 overall last year. The redshirt sophomore will be challenged by fellow redshirt sophomore Dan Burk. Burk went 5-7 in competition last season, but won his last four matches and five of his last six in 2010-11.
174 - Caleb Busson, a sophomore from Wadsworth, Ohio, returns as the starter at 174 this season after going 5-12 in his freshman season. Despite the sub-.500 record, Busson did place fourth at the 2011 MAC Championships and will look to move up this season. Joining Busson is freshman Jackson Bratcher, who signed with the Huskies after a stellar career at Eastbrook High School in Marion, Ind.
184 - Defending 184 pound MAC champion and NCAA qualifier Brad Dieckhaus will hold down this weight class for his final season in DeKalb. The St. Charles, Mo., native is coming off a 15-8 season with hopes of defending his conference title and returning to the NCAA Championships, which will be held only minutes from Dieckhaus' hometown in St. Louis, Mo. The 184 weight class will also feature junior college transfer Arber Bebo, who won NJCAA All-American honors twice at Harper College, and freshman Adrian Dickinson, who was a part of three team state championships and won two individual titles himself in Idaho.
197 - Another returning starter, Mike Lukowski enters his senior season at NIU after placing third at last year's MAC Championships. Behind Lukowski will be redshirt sophomore Shane Rosenberry, who placed in the top five at two open tournaments last season, and freshman Austin Pickering.
285 - Jared Torrence assumes the starting spot at heavyweight after spending the last two seasons in open tournament competition. Last year, the redshirt sophomore went 6-4 with one pin, while taking second at two tournaments. Redshirt freshman Parker Settecase and Arthur Bunce will also figure into the equation at heavyweight for the Huskies.