Created:Sunday, March 6, 2011 11:32 p.m.CDT

Pair of Huskies advance to NCAA tourney

Northern Illinois’ Mike Lukowski holds onto Central Michigan’s Chad Friend during their 197-pound match in the MAC Wrestling Championships on Saturday at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb. Lukowski, came into the tournament without a conference victory, was NIU’s biggest surprise over the weekend, taking third place in his weight class. (Kyle Bursaw –

DeKALB – There was just one thing that Northern Illinois wrestling coach Dave Grant wanted 184-pounder Brad Dieckhaus to do at the end of his championship match against top-seeded Casey Newburg of Kent State during Sunday’s Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships at the NIU Convocation Center.

“Keep him down,” Grant said. “Keep him down.”

The two were tied, but all Dieckhaus needed to do was keep Newburg on the ground to earn a point for the riding time advantage, something that’s awarded to a wrestler who controls his opponent on the mat for a minute longer than he’s controlled on the mat by his opponent.

When the buzzer sounded, Dieckhaus knew he had earned that point for a 3-2 victory. He shook the hands of both Newburg and the Kent State coaches and immediately went over and gave Grant a hug.

“I was just like, ‘If I keep his head down on the mat, I win this match,’ ” Dieckhaus said. “I was putting as much pressure on him as I could to keep his hips on the mat. … I just kept applying pressure, staying on my toes and behind his arms. Sure enough, it turned out in my favor.”

Dieckhaus’ victory earned him the MAC’s only 184-pound automatic qualifying spot to the NCAA Division I Championships, which will take place March 17-20 at Wells-Fargo Arena in Philadelphia.

“It was a pretty good feeling,” Dieckhaus said. “It almost seemed surreal.”

The Huskies took fifth overall as a team with 39.5 points, two points behind fourth-place Ohio. Central Michigan won its 10th straight team title with 79 points.

While the riding time advantage worked in Dieckhaus’ favor Sunday, it cost NIU 157-pounder Bryan Deutsch in his championship match.

Deutsch’s opponent, top-seeded Mark Lewandowski of Buffalo, was able to get an escape and a takedown late in the third period to tie Deutsch, and got a final point on the riding time advantage for a 10-9 decision.

Luckily for Deutsch, his weight class had three automatic bids to nationals, so the senior will make his third straight trip to the tournament. The MAC had 18 automatic bids, and the NCAA Division I wrestling committee will award 49 at-large bids this week.

“I just have to do what my coach has been telling me all along. If I would have just stayed a little more basic in that match, it wouldn’t have been close,” Deutsch said. “I came out kind of sluggish and was trying a lot of moves.”

NIU’s biggest surprise of the tournament was Mike Lukowski at 197 pounds. Lukowski, who Grant calls “Cannonball” because of his physique, came into the tournament without a conference victory.

He was able to get three this weekend and took home third place.

“You come in, you haven’t won a MAC match and you end up challenging for second,” Grant said. “That’s a heck of a guy.”

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?