Wrestling: Cats try to keep early season momentum rolling in duals

Josh Walfish and Josh Walfish

With its Big Ten schedule looming, Northwestern will travel to Pittsburgh this weekend for its final three non-conference duals.

The trip is more about preparation than preserving the team’s undefeated record, coach Drew Pariano said. NU will face a steep challenge in Pittsburgh, a team that just finished 5th out 44 teams at the Midlands Championships on Dec. 29 and 30.

“The Big Ten is the best wrestling conference in the nation,” Pariano said. “We might be putting our undefeated streak on the line, but I don’t care. I just want to make sure our guys get better.”

Coming off a strong meet at Midlands, NU will also face Millersville and Drexel.

The dual with Pittsburgh will be the toughest by far for the Cats. The Panthers are 4-4 in duals this season, and Pariano understands there are no weak spots in the Panthers lineup. Still, he said he sees the experience as a good test for his team.

One of the more intriguing matchups will be the rematch of the Midlands semifinal match in which redshirt senior Brandon Precin took on Anthony Zanetta in the 125-pound weight division. Precin won the Midlands match 6-0 en route to the championship.

“When you face someone multiple times, people start to learn the way you wrestle and vice versa,” Precin said. “You need to change your game plan each time and try to expect what they’re going to do. When I prepare for a match, I don’t want to change my style of wrestling, I want to make the match my match.”

The Cats will start the day off against Millersville, a Division II school from Pennsylvania. The Marauders are 0-2 in their duals this season and are relatively young with only six juniors and seniors.

Millersville is led by Shane Smith, a two-time winner of the NCAA East Regional crown at 174 pounds. NU redshirt sophomore Brian Roddy Jr., who is 8-1 in duals this season, is slated to face off against Smith.

The next opponent for NU will be Drexel, who is coached by Jack Childs, the winningest coach in Division I wrestling history. The Dragons are 4-7 on the year and are led by Joseph Booth at the 157-pound division.

Booth went 22-9 last season and qualified for the NCAA Championship and will likely face redshirt sophomore Jason Welch, who is 9-0 for NU in duals this season.

“Wrestling is such a particular sport that any change in environment can make a big difference,” Pariano said. “So any time you go on the road into an unfamiliar environment it makes your team stronger.”

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