Wrestling: Welch, McMullan take talents to nation’s capital

Daily file photo by Ben Breuner

Redshirt senior Jason Welch establishes position on Penn State’s Dylan Alton during a January dual in Evanston. Welch and Alton will renew their rivalry at the NWCA All-Star Classic on Saturday.

Rohan Nadkarni, Assistant Sports Editor

Two of Northwestern’s biggest stars will have an opportunity to reassert their dominance this weekend.

Redshirt sophomore Mike McMullan and redshirt senior Jason Welch will compete in the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic on Saturday in Washington, D.C. McMullan and Welch were selected for the exhibition event last month, and preparation for the matches began with the start of practice in mid-October.

“Right now, it’s just a lot of video review,” coach Drew Pariano said. “Mentally, they’re ready to go. It’s early in the year, early to have a huge competition like this. The way we see it, it’s kind of like a kickoff event. It’s a big deal and they need to be ready for it.”

The two returning All-Americans were chosen based on their stellar performances in the 2011-2012 season.

McMullan, in his first year competing attached to the team, completed a historic season with his third-place finish in heavyweight at the NCAA Championships. McMullan’s finish was the highest for an NU freshman since Olympian Jake Herbert also finished third in 2005.  McMullan went 6-1 in his matches after entering as the 10th seed.

“It’s a huge honor to be selected,” McMullan said. “Especially being selected as an underclassmen is a feat in itself. It’s something to build off of come the whole season.”

Not to be outdone, Welch also performed masterfully last season, sporting a spotless 15-0 record at 157 pounds during dual play, en route to winning his first 23 bouts before the Big Ten finals. He finished the year 27-3, placing second in the Big Ten championships and fourth at the NCAAs.

At the end of the season, Welch was named an All-American for the second time. Welch also competed in the All-Star Classic last year, joining Herbert as the only NU wrestlers to participate in back-to-back years.

“My preparation for Saturday’s been pretty normal,” Welch said. “It would be huge to get this win early on, and then have a solid season.”

Welch’s opponent will be Penn State’s Dylan Alton. The duo wrestled each other twice last year, splitting the two contests. Welch considers Alton to be “one of (his) toughest matches” before the start of conference play.

McMullan will face Missouri’s Dom Bradley for his bout at the All-Star Classic. Bradley had an Olympic redshirt season for 2011-2012 but posted an impressive record the last time he wrestled collegiately. Bradley went 30-4 in 2010-2011 and finished third at the NCAAs.

With two high-profile contests, the Wildcats have an opportunity to make a statement early in the year.

“I think it sends a message as to what your shape is, how hard you worked in the preseason,” Pariano said. “I think there’s a message to be sent to other guys who’ve had success. Everybody’s successful in this event, so it’s a big deal.”

The exhibition event will also serve as an early measuring stick for the Cats, who open their season Nov. 9 at Stanford. For Pariano, the All-Star Classic could quickly reveal the talent level of his team.

“You don’t know exactly what you have until the whistle blows,” he said.

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