Wrestling: Northwestern finishes perfect non-conference slate with North Carolina, Campbell wins

Rohan Nadkarni

For No. 17 Northwestern, its non-conference schedule, despite all the Wildcats’ success, is meaningless.

“(The record) means nothing to me,” coach Drew Pariano said. “It’s all about progression and understanding the process of the season. It really is about the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championships.”

The Wildcats (10-4) finished up their nonconference schedule on Saturday, ending that portion of the season with a sterling 7-0 record. NU wrestled twice on Saturday, taking on North Carolina and Campbell in back-to-back duals. The action started with North Carolina, where the Cats escaped with a 20-15 victory.

The dual was a back-and-forth affair. Tenth-ranked Levi Mele opened the showdown by defeating Brian Bokoski by major decision. However, the Tar Heels stormed back with three straight wins.

Freshman Jameson Oster and redshirt freshmen Colin Shober and Pat Greco fell in succession for NU, giving North Carolina a 9-4 lead. Greco got the start at 149 pounds over sophomore Kaleb Friedley, who was held out with flu-like symptoms.

The Cats responded with a three-bout win streak of their own. Second-ranked Jason Welch got the team back on track with an 18-2 technical fall win over Jonathan Burns.

Redshirt freshman Pierce Harger then topped Kyle Kiss, and 12th-ranked Lee Munster followed suit with a major decision win over Alex Utley, putting NU on top 16-9.

The Tar Heels won at 184 and 197 pounds, setting up a winner-take-all match at heavyweight with the score 16-15 in favor of the Cats. Thirteenth-ranked Mike McMullan answered the call, winning by major decision over Frank Abbondanza, cementing NU’s 20-15 victory.

“I was a little bit frustrated with the fact that we weren’t completely attacking enough,” Pariano said. “We addressed that with the team right after.”

With their coaches’ advice in mind, NU came out with an aggressive mentality against Campbell, defeating the host, 32-5.

Mele won the opening bout again, this time pinning his opponent in the second period. The Cats won the next two bouts, as Oster and Shober salvaged their days with a win.

Campbell lost a point during the Oster dual, when Joey Rizzolino received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing with the match official. Rizzolino was upset when his match ended after Oster was awarded a defensive fall.

At 149 pounds, Greco lost again, falling to Jordan Tolbert in overtime. But NU dominated the rest of the dual, winning five of the next six bouts.

Welch earned his second technical fall of the day, while Harger, Munster, and junior Marcus Shrewsbury all defeated their opponents by at least two points.

Shrewsbury got the start at 184 pounds after senior Robert Kellogg lost in his bout against North Carolina. Shrewsbury’s win came in a season filled with struggle in the 184-pound weight class.

“Both of those guys are working really hard,” Pariano said of Kellogg and Shrewsbury. “They’re working hard for the team, and they are doing the best that they can. It’s a tough weight nationally.”

McMullan earned his second win of the day over Joe Nolan, but John Schoen lost for the second time at 197 pounds.

Schoen’s loss furthered a cold streak for the senior, who is winless since a Jan. 15 win in Iowa.

“I feel good that John will be prepped and ready to go for Big Tens and Nationals,” Pariano said.

The Cats’ next dual will be their last, a conference matchup with Indiana on Feb. 17.

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