Nov. 30, 1997
1997-98 Northwestern Wrestling Season Outlook
With eight of 10 starters and four NCAA qualifiers returning, the Northwestern wrestling team has reloaded and is ready to shoot down the competition in 1997-98.
The 'Cats also return two of their top wrestlers from the 1995-96 team , All-Americans Mark Bybee and Scott Schatzman, who redshirted last season. The injuries that plagued NU last year should help them climb back to the top of the Big Ten heap this year. "Last year, we had an interesting year in which we redshirted a lot of people due to major injuries," says ninth-year head coach Tim Cysewski. "Because of that we'll be a much better team this year. We had some great individual performances a year ago and we look to build on those going into this season."
Experience is evident from the top of the lineup on down. It starts in the 118-pound weight class, where NU will look to two-year letterwinner Dominic Caruso to set the pace. Caruso has 32 career wins and had a solid 8-7 dual meet mark last season. "Dominic started off a lot better last year than he did the year before and he's really learned how to focus on the whole season," says Cysewski.
At 126 pounds, senior Micah Hey returns after filling in admirably last season for Schatzman. He tallied 11 wins and qualified for the NCAA Championships with an impressive fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships.
"Micah finished really strong last year," say Cysewski. "No one expected him to qualify for the NCAA's. Hopefully he can build on that for the upcoming season and pick up right where he left off last season." Occupying the 134-pound class is the junior Schatzman. Schatzman won All-American honors at 126 pounds as a true freshman, finished seventh at the NCAA Championships and won Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in leading the 'Cats with 32-8 record.
"Scott has improved tremendously over the past year and is one of the best kids on the team right now," praises Cysewski. "He could be one of the best we've ever had here if he continues to work hard." Moving up to take the reigns at 142 pounds is sophomore Malik Elliott. As a freshman at 134 pounds a year ago, Elliott made tremendous strides. He posted 16 wins, six in dual meet action and wrestled in one of the more difficult weight classes.
"Malik had a good year last year considering he was in one of the tougher weight classes, one that included the defending national champion," says Cysewski. "He's probably one of our most athletic guys and has a great work ethic.
Junior Drew Pariano returns at 150 pounds and looks for continued success this season. He posted an impressive 19 wins last season and qualified for the NCAA Championships with a fifth-place finish at Big Tens.
"Drew did a great job last year considering he had a bad shoulder," says Cysewski. "We've got that fixed and with two good shoulders he should be much more offensive this season. He'll be in the hunt for the Big Ten title at 150 and should qualify for the NCAA's. We're expecting a lot from him this season."
The 158-pound class is still up in the air. NCAA-qualifier Kurt Hudson graduated and sophomore Steve Bucciero has the inside line on the spot. He picked up three wins last year in limited action. Senior Chris Roberts returns at 167 pounds. He's a two-year letterwinner who brings valuable experience to the heavier weight classes. Looking for time at 167 pounds is another two-time letterwinner, senior Sean Ebert. Also in the hunt is senior Mark Bybee, who sat out last year recovering from a neck injury. The coaching staff is anxious to get Bybee back in action after his impressive 1995-96 campaign. He placed third at Big Tens and fourth at the Midlands Championships while leading the team with 12 falls and a 29-11 record.
"Bybee has come back from his injury in fantastic form," says an excited Cysewski. "He got a lot bigger, so we're not sure if he'll wrestle at 158 or 167. Wherever he winds up wrestling, he'll be very effective. He'll be right up there competing for the Big Ten and a top spot at nationals."
Sophomore Joel Goeden returns as the starter at 177 pounds. He tallied 19 wins as a true freshman and qualified for NCAA's. "Joel had a great year last year and I love his attitude. He's not pretty, but he's really effective," says Cysewski. At 190 pounds is senior Sam Neider. The two-time letterwinner was by far the top wrestler on the squad last year. He racked up 26 wins against just 12 losses and led the team with nine falls. He placed fifth at Big Tens and seventh at Midlands. He also qualified for the NCAA Championships.
"Even though this is probably the toughest weight class in the conference, Sam will dominate on the national level," praises Cysewski. "He loves a challenge and he'll definitely be in the hunt for the Big Ten title."
Senior Robert Chicoine, the only three-year letterwinner on the squad, is the heavyweight. He posted a 14-9 overall record last year, including a fourth-place finish at the Michigan Open, despite suffering a painful back injury midway through the season. "Robert had a great first half of the season, he was right on target for where we wanted him to be before he hurt his back," says Cysewski. "He'll come out on fire this season and as long as he stays healthy, he's got a good shot at a Big Ten title."
"We're a young team, but a very mature team," says Cysewski. "We're expecting to do really well this season, both in the tournaments and individually. I expect we'll be in the top twenty teams going into the season and we should have at least five guys who will be in the top eight. We're looking at a very good group and with the depth we've acquired and the work all these guys have done I don't see why we can't compete for the Big Ten title."