Wrestling: Northwestern dominant in opener against Stanford

Rohan Nadkarni

No. 19 Northwestern was dominant in its season opener, pummeling No. 14 Stanford 27-8 at Marist High School in Chicago.

The Wildcats have had the Cardinal’s number recently. Last season, NU came back from a 10-3 deficit against Stanford to give coach Drew Pariano his first victory as the Cats’ head coach.

This season’s victory might have been even sweeter, as NU dominated a higher-ranked Stanford squad. The Cats won 8 of 10 bouts, including three by major decision.

“I wasn’t surprised by what happened,” Pariano said. “For the bouts we won, we deserved to win. And in the matches we lost, we deserved to lose. But if we have 10 bouts, we expect to win all 10.”

The Cats trained and studied extensively for their opponent. Aside from all the hours in the gym, studying tape of Stanford wrestlers helped NU on its way to a double-digit point victory.

“We watched a lot of video,” Pariano said. “We knew some of the guys we had wrestled before. We knew we had opportunities to win.”

Jason Welch, perhaps the Cats’ most recognizable wrestling name, won his bout against the Cardinal’s Mike Kent, 6-1. Welch enters this season as the third-ranked wrestler in the nation in his weight class of 157 pounds, after making it to the semifinals of the NCAA Championships and earning NCAA All-American honors last year.

“I’m not really surprised at what happened,” Welch said. “We don’t put too much thought in any of the rankings, we expect to win.”

For Welch, preparing for an opponent is a serious task, but making sure he is mentally ready is just as important as training.

“I try to train the same for every match,” Welch said. “I’m in the gym for a while, but I also like to get out of the gym so I can refocus my mind.”

The win on Saturday was a total team effort, as only two NU wrestlers failed to defeat their opponent.

The Cats jumped out to a 4-0 lead as Levi Mele defeated Stanford’s Matt Sencenbaugh 13-3 in the 125-pound weight class, a promising start for the junior after he qualified for the NCAA Championships last year. The Cardinal got those points right back, however, as No. 7 Ryan Mango defeated freshman Jameson Oster 12-4 in the 133-pound weight class. NU won the next four bouts to break a 4-4 tie and take a commanding lead.

Through six bouts, the Cats held a 17-4 lead, and the Cardinals won just one more bout on the day. That win came in one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of the day, as top-ranked Nick Amuchastegui defeated redshirt freshman Lee Munster, the 10th-ranked wrestler in his weight class, 9-1, to secure four points for Stanford.

Another one of NU’s NCAA Championships qualifiers from last year, sophomore Kaleb Friedley, came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Timmy Boone 6-2.

“I try not to adapt to anybody,” Friedley said. “I always try to wrestle my match and take care of what I can do to win.”

For now, Pariano and the Cats are looking ahead to their next tournament, as they travel to the Michigan State Open in East Lansing on Saturday, Nov. 12.

“It was definitely a good effort,” Pariano said. “This was a good jumping-off point. Next weekend is a different mindset.”

Their next dual match isn’t until Dec. 11, when they square off against SIU-Edwardsville and Indianapolis at the NU Duals.

For Friedley, the win over Stanford helped justify NU’s lofty goals for the season.

“[(I want) to be a national champion,” Friedley said. “That’s been my dream since I was a little kid.”