Wrestlers to face N. Illinois in opener

Luke Plansky

After months of training, the ISU wrestling team will get its first taste of outside competition tonight at Hilton Coliseum.

The third-ranked Cyclones begin their five-month season today against Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. before hosting the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open on Saturday.

The Huskies return seven starters, including two NCAA qualifiers – 11th-ranked senior Pat Castillo (133) and 14th-ranked sophomore Duke Burk (174).

Iowa State brings back six starters but has seven ranked wrestlers.

Coach Cael Sanderson said the team is anxious and excited to begin the season.

“It’s a team that is going to be entertaining,” Sanderson said. “I’m looking forward just to watching them, myself. We’ve been putting a lot of hard months of training in. We’ve been beating up on each other for a long time, and now it’s time to get out there and compete against somebody else.”

The Cyclones will wrestle at Hilton for the first time since Feb. 9. Fans will get their first chance to see two redshirt freshmen, Jon Reader (165) and Mitch Artist (174), in the ISU lineup.

Artist is one of three wrestlers still competing for a starting spot. Seniors Ben Hanisch (125) and David Bertolino (197) will also start in the opener and have their first opportunity to secure a starting job.

Artist will get a stern test in Burk, who won his first match at the NCAA Tournament last season before losing a 6-0 decision to ISU 184-pounder Jake Varner.

“That will be a good test right out of the shoot for Mitch,” Sanderson said. “Wrestling someone that is experienced and someone that has been to the national tournament. That’s exactly what we want.”

Seventh-ranked sophomore Nick Fanthorpe (133) can avenge a loss in his first match of the season. Castillo beat Fanthorpe, 4-3, in the Kaufman-Brand Open in 2005, when the Cyclone was in his redshirt season.

“He wrestled at [1]25 last year, so he is in the same position as me, bumping up a weight class,” Fanthorpe said of Castillo. “He wrestles pretty hard, and he’s had some success in the past. I’m just going out there looking forward to being on the mat and wrestling hard and, obviously, beating him.”

The Huskies placed third in the Mid-American Conference last season, sending four wrestlers to the national tournament.

“They’ve got a solid team, and that’s what we want,” Sanderson said. “We want to get in as good of matches as we can find, and they’re bringing a competitive squad.”

On Saturday, the Cyclone Open will bring an assortment of top Div. II, Div. III and junior college teams, as well as various Div. I wrestlers from around the Midwest. Fourth-ranked Iowa will send some true freshmen to the tournament. The meet, which is run by the Cyclone Wrestling Club rather than the athletic department, starts at 10 a.m. at the Lied Recreation Athletic Center.

The tournament, named after 31-year Iowa State head coach Harold Nichols, had been held in Nichols’ hometown of Fort Dodge. Sanderson said it was a priority of the coaching staff to return the tournament to Ames.

“It’s the Dr. Harold Nichols Open,” Sanderson said. “You know, that’s our legendary coach, and it’s important for our fans, and it’s important for the program just to get it back on campus. It gives our fans a chance to come to campus and go to the tournament before the [football] game or come after the game. But the Dr. Harold Nichols Open needs to be in Ames, Iowa.”

No. 3 Iowa State vs. Northern Illinois

125 – Sr. Ben Hanisch (ISU) vs. Fr. TJ Wunnicke

133 – No. 7 So. Nick Fanthorpe (ISU) vs. No. 11 Sr. Pat Castillo

141 – No. 14 So. Nick Gallick (ISU) vs. RS Fr. Patrick McLemore

149 – No. 15 So. Mitch Mueller (ISU) vs. Sr. Kalen Knull

157 – No. 11 So. Cyler Sanderson (ISU) vs. Sr. Aaron Owen

165 – No. 9 RS Fr. Jon Reader (ISU) vs. RS Fr. Bryan Deutsch

174 – RS Fr. Mitch Artist (ISU) vs. No. 14 So. Duke Burk

184 – No. 1 So. Jake Varner (ISU) vs. Jr. Jesse Linczmaier

197 – Sr. David Bertolino (ISU) vs. RS Fr. Jake Smith

HWT – No. 8 So. David Zabriskie (ISU) vs. Sr. David Benner