Wrestling: Welch finishes perfect dual season as Northwestern dominates Indiana, 27-7

Rohan Nadkarni

In a weekend marked by historic achievements, John Shurna wasn’t the only athlete celebrating. A night before Shurna broke the Northwestern men’s basketball scoring record, second-ranked Jason Welch wrapped up an undefeated dual season, aiding No. 18 NU (11-4, 4-4 Big Ten) in toppling Indiana (11-8, 0-8) 27-7.

Welch’s win at 157 pounds improved his record to 21-0, with the final defeat coming against the Hoosiers’ Sawyer Morris.

“(It felt) good,” Welch said. “I wasn’t thinking about it much. I don’t think anything really goes through my mind during a bout anyway.”

The junior dominated his match, defeating Morris 15-3, using a bevy of takedowns to cruise to victory.

“It’s impressive,” coach Drew Pariano said. “It’s not surprising, but it’s impressive. His maturity has prepared him to win a lot of duals.”

In addition to Welch, the season’s final dual was one of excitement. The night began with special introductions for the seniors, and halftime featured sumo wrestling as a fundraiser for Dance Marathon.

On the mat, the action was fierce. In the night’s most exciting bout, No. 13 Mike McMullan scored a takedown with three seconds remaining to defeat the Hoosiers’ Adam Chalfant 5-4.

McMullan was trailing 4-3 and battling Chalfant near the edge of the mat when the redshirt freshman hooked Chalfant’s leg with his own and lifted the Indiana wrestler in the air before scoring the takedown to thunderous applause from the crowd.

“I was in an awkward situation at the edge of the mat,” McMullan said. “I just kind of went for it. Only one in a million (times) does that happen. Sometimes in practice we’ll do those home run moves, but only once or twice have I done it.”

The dual did not begin in the Cats’ favor. The Hoosiers stormed out to a 7-0 lead, defeating seniors Robert Kellogg at 184 pounds and John Schoen at 197 pounds in the process.

However, NU responded to the losses by pulling off eight straight wins, including three by major decision.

After McMullan, 10th-ranked Levi Mele notched the Cats’ second straight win at 125 pounds, putting away Zach Zimmer, 9-4.

In the eight-bout win streak, NU racked up three shutouts. Freshman Jameson Oster at 133 pounds, sophomore Kaleb Friedley at 149 pounds and freshman Pierce Harger at 165 pounds all held their opponents scoreless. Oster and Friedley also won their matches via major decision.

With the dual season over, the focus will shift to the Big Ten Championships. The Cats had an up-and-down season in the Big Ten, defeating all the unranked teams in their conference, but losing to all the ranked ones.

“4-4 is hardly the goal,” Pariano said. “Some of the losses were disappointing, but I think we learned from them, and that’s what we take to the Big Tens. If you lose a match and you don’t learn anything, that’s a problem.”

The good news for NU is that they will end their season without any significant injuries. Unless a wrestler goes down in practice before the start of the Big Ten tournament, the team will be at full strength.

“I’m excited about (NU’s health),” Pariano said. “I feel good about it. I feel physically we’re going to be fresh, but mentally – that’s what it comes down to.”

With the end of the dual season also come new goals for the team.

“I’m not going to make predictions,” Pariano said. “But I will tell you, we want to qualify every guy for nationals.”