March 10, 2006
EVANSTON, Ill. -- With less than a week to go before the start of the 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships, Northwestern's 12th-ranked wrestling team is preparing its seven qualifiers to make this one of the most successful seasons in program history. Its seven qualifiers are the most in program history.
Head coach Tim Cysewski, as well as all seven NCAA qualifiers, took a moment to reflect on the 2005-06 season and talk about the upcoming NCAA Championships.
Cysewski first spoke about the program's increased success at a conference and national level.
"I think qualifying seven guys for nationals, the increased success in our recruiting and our upgraded facilities proves our program is on the rise," Cysewski said. "I give tribute to my staff. We knew we were going to have a good group of guys, but then you've got to develop them. I give credit to the staff -- Rob Eiter, Andrew Pariano and Foley Dowd -- they have been doing a great job of getting the guys ready so they can be successful. Now with seven qualifiers, we've got a good chance of doing some damage at nationals."
The wrestlers set to do that damage have prepared for this week all season long, although their thoughts on how to train this week differ slightly.
"I think the best strategy to approach NCAAs is to go calm, collected and not stress out about it," senior John Velez (Kings Mills, Ohio/Kings) said. "I think a lot of people do stress out about it and they don't perform as well as they should or can. I just want to go in there, prepare like it's a normal match, have fun and don't let the stress get to me."
For sophomore All-American Jake Herbert (Wexford, Pa./North Allegheny), the work has been put in, now it's a matter of execution.
"All the training has been done in the past 18 years, now I'm just trying to get healthy, get the weight down, maintain myself," Herbert said. "I've already done all the training it takes to win a national title, I've just got to go do it now."
Sophomore Dustin Fox (Galion, Ohio/Galion) takes a slightly different approach in preparing for the national tournament.
"Short, fast-paced practices and drilling, it's essential," Fox said. It isn't just any other week, it is my goal to feel as though I am peaking Thursday, Friday and Saturday."
For senior Will Durkee (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shady Side Academy) and sophomore Mike Tamillow (Oak Park, Ill./Fenwick), this marks their first-career trips to nationals, yet both echoed goals to finish near the top of their respective weight classes.
"It's a pretty big deal," Tamillow said about qualifying for the NCAA Championships. "It's a dream come true, but I don't expect anything less."
"I'm going in there with the goal of making All-American," Durkee said.
The NCAA Championships offer a unique feel because it allows wrestlers to face opponents they haven't previously faced that season, or in their careers.
"I just have to keep wrestling my style and attack," senior Matt Delguyd said. "I need to stay focused and use conditioning to my advantage."
"I don't believe you wrestle your opponents, only those that aren't the best wrestle their
opponents," sophomore Ryan Lang (North Royalton, Ohio/St. Edward) said. "I wrestle myself and if I wrestle my best, I beat myself, knowing that I am the best
out there. If I lose, it's because I let myself lose. It does not matter whatsoever who you are wrestling when you are 'on."
After sending the most NCAA qualifiers in program history, winning the most conference matches since 1990 and finishing a strong fifth in the Big Ten Championships, Cysewski knows he has a special group on his hands.
"I think it's the best group we've had and the youngest group we've had," Cysewski said. "I'm excited about this year -- I want to finish strong and maybe break some records this year yet -- but we've got some great young talent coming up the ranks for the next few years too."
Northwestern finished 14th at the 2005 NCAA Championships with five wrestlers representing the Wildcats. With a record seven wrestlers going to nationals this season, Cysewski expects this could be one of the best showings in Northwestern wrestling history.
"If we can stay focused and wrestle well and get some breaks here and there, there are no limits," Cysewski said. "The seven guys we're sending are serious contenders and can make some major noise at the NCAA Championships. Again, it's a matter of getting there, winning the match in front of you and not worrying about looking beyond that. I think if we stay focused and wrestle well, we can finish top-10 and you never know what can happen from there."
The 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships take place Thursday though Saturday, March 16-18 in Oklahoma City.