Dec. 1, 2008
DeKALB – Northern Illinois head wrestling coach Dave Grant announced the signing of three grapplers for the 2009-10 season, Monday.
Zach Neibert (Dayton, Ohio/St. Paris Graham), InterMatWrestle.com's 13th-ranked recruit in the nation, headlines the trio. Fellow Ohioan Jon McGookey (Sandusky/Perkins) and Connellsville, Pennsylvania native Zack Benzio (Connellsville Area).
"We love how aggressive and how physical these three are," Grant said. "We think these guys can make a big impact on our team next year."
Entering his senior season, Neibert holds a 132-12 career record, and placed in state in each of his three years. Neibert highlighted his career-to-date by going undefeated en route to winning NHSCA Junior Nationals. He is a three-time regional champion, who won the Ohio state title at 119 pounds as a junior. Neibert's performance helped the Falcons to an unbeaten record and the state and national championships. As a sophomore, Neibert tallied a 40-5 record and finished second in the state. He spent his first year of high school at Beaver Creek, where he was the first freshman in school history to go to state, where he placed sixth.
"He's won a lot of national tournaments, and state titles," Grant said of Neibert. "He's an outstanding recruit for us to pick up."
With his senior season still ahead of him, McGookey is a two-time placewinner in Ohio, and finished fourth the NHSCA Junior Nationals at 145 pounds. He placed third in state as a junior, and took eighth at 135 pounds as a sophomore. McGookey is a three-time all-conference selection, with first-team honors in each of his first two years, and third-team accolades as a junior, when he was also district champion.
"Jon is a solid, hard-nosed wrestler who is very physical, and he's a good student," Grant said.
Through three years at Connellsville Area High School, Benzio has accumulated a 97-29 record,, recorded fourth place finishes at NHSCA Junior and Sophomore Nationals, and placed at sectionals in each of his three seasons. Benzio won a sectional title as a sophomore, and placed second in both his freshman and junior seasons. He has placed in national tournaments four times, including a third place showing at the POWERade Christmas Tournament as a junior.
"We needed to fill in at those upper weights, and Zack can fill in at 184 or 197 pounds," Grant said. "He's a big, strong wrestler who is very aggressive."
Neibert, McGookey, and Benzio are the early half of what is shaping up to be another top notch recruiting class for the Huskies. The 2008-09 group, this year's freshmen, were tabbed 20th by Wrestling International Newsmagazine (W.I.N. Magazine) and 28th by IntermatWrestle.com.