Wrestling: Wildcats continue school win-streak over Spartans

Rohan Nadkarni

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It might be a long time before anyone from East Lansing, Mich. travels to Evanston again. Like its basketball counterparts, No. 18 Northwestern (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten) defeated Michigan State (3-5, 1-3) in a dual Friday.

For the Wildcats, the 30-12 win was their first dual victory since a Jan. 8 showdown with Wisconsin. The team earned their second conference win in five tries after starting the season with four straight non-conference victories.

“In the Big Ten, because it is so tough, if you overlook somebody, you will get hurt,” coach Drew Pariano said.

Friday’s match became a battle of runs, with NU winning four of the first five bouts, then losing three in a row before picking up the last two. The Cats did score big victories throughout the dual, aiding their cause with four wins via fall.

“We did a good job of scoring bonus points and getting falls,” Pariano said. “But whenever you have four guys not win, four guys are not happy. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

The action kicked off at 133 pounds, with freshman Jameson Oster pinning Brandon Fifield to give NU a 6-0 lead it would never relinquish. Colin Shober returned to action after injuring his knee against Penn State, but the redshirt freshman lost to Brian Gibbs at 141 pounds.

After Shober, the Cats reeled off three straight wins. Sophomore Kaleb Friedley scored a pin at 149 pounds and redshirt freshman Pierce Harger did the same at 165 pounds.

In one of the night’s marquee matchups, third-ranked Jason Welch defeated 13th-ranked Anthony Jones at 157 pounds. Welch recovered after suffering a takedown and facing a 2-1 deficit after the first period. The methodical All-American would win by a final score of 6-3, with two points coming from penalties and a bonus point for riding time.

The Spartans responded to the Cats’ streak with three straight wins of their own. In an upset at 174 pounds, Michigan State’s Curran Jacobs defeated 11th-ranked Lee Munster 3-1.

“(Michigan State) won some big matches,” Pariano said. “So I don’t think they left totally dejected.”

Two bouts later, Nick McDiarmid beat senior John Schoen at 197 pounds 3-2. The bout was closely contested, with the two wrestlers frequently pushing each other to the edge of the mat. Schoen was visibly frustrated after losing the match, throwing his headgear off while returning to the bench.

Michigan State crept closer to NU with the three victories, closing a 21-3 gap to 21-12. But the Cats assured themselves the victory by sweeping the last two bouts.

“Perfection is always the thing you’re searching for, you always want to win all 10 matches,” Pariano said. “But it doesn’t always work out that way, and you just have to learn from the experience.”

At heavyweight, a top-20 showdown ended in the Cats’ favor as 17th-ranked Mike McMullan beat 10th-ranked Mike McClure 3-1. McClure scored the bout’s first point with an escape, giving him a 1-0 edge. In the match’s turning point, McMullan scored a takedown on the very edge of the mat, just barely keeping his right toe in the circle. The wrestlers were originally ruled out-of-bounds until NU’s coaches ran off the bench to point at McMullan’s toe, causing the second referee to reverse the decision.

The dual concluded at 125 pounds, in which 10th-ranked Levi Mele bookended the contest with another pin. The junior’s pin of Eric Olanowski gave the Cats the last six points.

Having concluded a two-match losing streak with the win, NU will look to keep alive the momentum in next two duals on the road against Illinois and Purdue.