Preview: Chippewa wrestlers host NIU in MAC showdown


Indiana sophomore Drew Hildebrandt wins his match against Purdue opponent at the McGuirk Arena on Sunday, Feb. 24.

CMU's wrestling team is back on the mat for another challenge. 

Northern Illinois comes into McGuirk Arena for a Mid-American Conference dual against the Chippewas (1-2, 0-1 MAC). The Huskies (2-0, 1-0 MAC) took down Bellarmine 46-0 and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 18-16 at SIUE on Jan. 10. 

The Chippewas, on the other hand, struggled last weekend at Missouri, where the team took part in a triangular against the No. 10 Tigers and Wyoming. Missouri beat CMU handily, 30-6, and the Cowboys took a 24-12 win in the second match. 

CMU's top wrestlers on either end of the lineup, redshirt seniors Drew Hildebrandt and Matt Stencel, both picked up a pair of victories at Missouri, leaving Hildebrandt ranked third nationally at the 125-pound weight class and Stencel fourth in the country at heavyweight. 

Stencel was named MAC Wrestler of the Week for his pair of top-10 victories over No. 8 Zach Elam from Missouri and No. 9 Brian Andrews from Wyoming. 

Both Stencel and Hildebrandt are guys to watch when the Huskies come to town at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Redshirt senior Dresden Simon (141) and redshirt sophomore Corbyn Munson (149) both went 1-1 at Missouri -- both wins came against Wyoming wrestlers -- and are guys to keep an eye on against NIU. 

The Huskies swept the Knights and scored bonus points in seven of the 10 matches, similar to the Chippewas' season-opening performance against Olivet on Jan. 3. NIU then battled against the Cougars to the wire. A decision victory at 197 for redshirt sophomore Gage Braun gave NIU a five-point lead heading into the final bout, where redshirt senior Max Ihry lost in overtime, but the Huskies were able to hold on to the victory. 

Last season, the Huskies beat the Chippewas 19-12 at the NIU Convocation Center in January. CMU then turned in a remarkable run of winning six duals in a row before finishing second at the MAC Championships to now eight-time defending champion Missouri. 

Central holds a 37-23-2 dual record all-time against the Huskies. 

Matches to watch

Note: All matches below are projected wrestlers for Sunday's dual. 

125: Drew Hildebrandt (C) vs. Lucian Brink 

Hildebrandt, a redshirt senior, is ranked third in the weight class going against Brink, a true freshman. Both went 2-0 last weekend with Hildebrandt taking a ranked, come-from-behind overtime victory over Missouri's Connor Brown, ranked No. 24. 

174: Jake Lowell (C) vs. Mason Kaufman

Lowell, a redshirt junior, dropped both matches at Missouri but aims to right the ship against NIU. However, Lowell will have to face EMU-transfer and redshirt junior Mason Kaufman, who won both of his matches last weekend by 3-2 decisions. Kaufman has a career record of 13-16 in duals and 2-0 in MAC duals. 

197: Landon Pelham (C) vs. Gage Braun

Braun, just a redshirt sophomore, picked up a huge victory with his win against SIUE to help propel his team to the victory. Pelham, a redshirt senior, will also look to propel his team to a victory in the penultimate match after dropping both matches at Missouri. Braun has a career record of 10-7 in duals and 1-3 in MAC duals. 

285: Matt Stencel (C) vs. Max Ihry

With Stencel why he is No. 4 in the country and reigning MAC Wrestler of the Week, he is primed for the best season of his career. Ihry comes into the match with a 1-1 record on the year and a 13-21 dual record and 1-4 MAC dual record.