DeKALB — Tucker Ikens and his coaches developed a plan.
After a loss to Sycamore's Zak Kozumplik by pin in DeKalb's dual with the Spartans on Jan. 11, Ikens came into the Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament on Jan. 26 with a different approach that led to the sophomore's first individual conference championship.
Ikens was one of nine Barbs to win individual titles as DeKalb won its second consecutive NI Big 12 tourney team title. DeKalb racked up 304 team points, well ahead of second place Yorkville with 132.5. Sycamore was fourth with 106.5 team points and Kaneland was 10th with 31.
“The coaches put together a great game plan for me against the kid [Kozumplik]," Ikens said. "We were planning on staying out from the headlock … and to wrestle my game instead of his, play into my strengths instead of his.”
DeKalb's nine champions included Ikens (170 pounds), Blah Dahnweih (195), Michael Clayton (152), Ben Aranda (106) and Fabian Lopez (132). Lopez's title was his third, while Dahnweih won his second conference championship. The Barbs' freshmen went 4-1 in their first conference championship matches. The freshmen who won titles are Tommy Curran (113), Danny Curran (120), Damien Lopez (138) and Bradley Gillum (145).
Sycamore's Kozumplik (170) and Trevor Boryla (120) earned runner-up finishes.
Kaneland's best performance was by Noah Butzman (182), who placed fourth.
Ikens secured his second takedown in the first period, but found himself leading only 5-3 after an escape early in the third.
“I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that it was 5-3, and I was thinking I need some more points, so I needed to take a shot or get something done on a single leg," Ikens said.
Butzman went 2-2 for the Knights with a major decision and by fall.
“He was really tough on his feet, moving around, pushing guys to the edge, pushing his single [leg]," Kaneland coach Ken Paoli said. "He had three really tough kids in front of him there."
The Knights' Adeleke Sanni (170) placed fifth and Jack Yore (145) took sixth.
“In [Sanni's] matches that he lost, same thing with Noah, he could have come out a little more aggressive, but we're proud of him," Paoli said. "Jack wanted to wrestle in the varsity tournament and I’m proud of him. He came out tough.”