DeKALB – Dave Grant wants to see one thing out of his wrestling team tonight.
"I expect us to go forward," the Northern Illinois wrestling coach said. "That's what I expect. I don't expect us to take one step backwards."
The Huskies (3-2) have their annual showcase meet at 7 p.m. against Northwestern (1-2-1) at the Convocation Center. The meet is treated a little differently than any other wrestling meet, as it takes place on the main floor at the Convocation Center, on an elevated stage and has spotlights.
"You get a little more excited for it because of the lights and the spotlight on and the elevated stage," 133-pound junior Tristen DeShazer said. "It just feels like it's you and another person out there because of the lights.
"It's always a big meet. It's always good to try and take on a Big Ten team. It's always good to stick it to them, with the MAC conference against the Big Ten."
Grant said DeShazer, along with Bryan Deutsch and Pat McLemore, are wrestling better than he's seen them in their time at NIU.
"Tristen and Bryan have been the guys that have been pretty consistent for us," Grant said. "We're pretty strong in the lower weights."
DeShazer, who went 4-0 at last week's Hoosier Duals, said part of that is because he is over an illness that slowed him to start the season. He also felt there was one more reason why he's performing better this season.
"I'm just more experienced," he said. "I have more mat experience from wrestling against different guys and different styles and then when I get on the mat, I see the same styles. It helps you prepare for once you get out there."
The Huskies start a lineup of mostly juniors and sophomores, but the underclassmen are experienced after Grant fielded a lineup last season consisting of those same wrestlers who were sophomores and freshmen.
Tonight's meet will be a test to see how far that group has come and if they are moving forward like Grant wants.
"We're a better team than we were last year," Grant said. "Guys training in a room, an environment, getting older and having bigger goals for themselves, it takes a while to learn this game and you get stronger."