Wrestling: Wildcats unable to overcome Buckeyes

Josh Walfish, Reporter

Sports are all about momentum, and on Sunday the Wildcats were unable to overcome it.

No. 15 Northwestern lost the first four and last four matches of a 33-6 loss to No. 4 Ohio State at home. The Cats were without the services of two of their top wrestlers, and the Buckeyes took advantage of the depleted lineup to send NU to an 0-2 record in conference play.

“If you’re in a Big Ten dual and you don’t have the full complement of your lineup, it will be real hard to win,” coach Drew Pariano said. “You never want to lose the first three or four matches. We have good wrestlers but there has to be a more consistent effort. In wrestling, nobody’s going to give you anything you don’t earn.”

The tone of the dual was set at 125 pounds when freshman Dominick Malone took on Nikko Triggas. The matchup of two top-20 wrestlers ended quickly when Triggas scored a takedown out of a scramble and worked Malone onto his back for the pin. The sequence of events all started when Malone went in for his shot, but Triggas was able to catch him and use the momentum to grab a takedown and then three near-fall points before ending the match with the fall after just 2 minutes and 48 seconds.

NU was without the services of senior Levi Mele at 133 pounds, so it turned to true freshman Garrison White in his first action of the season as a member of the Cats. After giving up the first takedown, White was able to get a reversal to tie the score, but he was put on the defensive and trailed 4-2 after two periods. White brought the score within one at 6-5 with 18 seconds left but was unable to hit any of his shots and dropped his collegiate debut. Pariano said he could tell it was White’s first varsity match but was happy with what he saw out of the freshman.

“He was a little shellshocked,” Pariano said. “Garrison’s very, very talented, but he’s just got to tune all the stuff out and go out and perform the way he can.”

The Cats dropped relatively convincing decisions at 141 and 149 pounds to fall into a 15-0 deficit after just four bouts. It was a deep hole for them to crawl out of, even with some of their higher-ranked wrestlers still to come. Redshirt sophomore Pierce Harger said because wrestling is as much an individual sport as it is a team sport, the losses played no effect on his mentality.

“You kind of look at the dual as a whole after everything is over,” Harger said. “You got to go out there and do your job. It’s a team sport overall, but each match is an individual effort. You got to do your part, everyone does their part and things just build and you get the win as a team.”

Jason Welch was able to get the Cats back on track with a dominating 4-1 win at 157 pounds, but it was not the result he had hoped for. The redshirt senior was wrestling Josh Demas and scored a quick takedown to begin the match and rode out the remainder of the period on top. He added an escape in the second period but was unable to continue his offensive prowess, failing to tally another point in the match. The only point Welch gave up was when he was called for stalling in the third period, which was offset by his point for riding time advantage. Despite the win, Welch said there was a lot of room for improvement.

“I should have (gotten bonus points), but I didn’t,” Welch said. “I’m still in tournament mode from Midlands where I’m content with winning matches 4-0 and just dominating when I should have opened the match up and and gotten a takedown in the last period.”

Harger also showed tremendous room for improvement in his convincing 5-0 win over Mark Martin at 165 pounds. The redshirt sophomore jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind two takedowns and some excellent riding in the top position. He racked up nearly five minutes of riding time in the first two periods and looked to be set for at least a major decision. However, Harger was unable to escape in the third period and could only add the riding time point to his lead. He admitted he got a little too complacent at the end of the match and slacked off, but said it is an easy thing for him to fix in future bouts.

At 174 pounds, redshirt sophomore Lee Munster was locked in a battle with Nick Heflin but after three periods could not settle a winner. Heflin emerged the victor with an escape and ride out in the second extra session. Munster had plenty of opportunities to score points, but was unable to finish any of his moves and allowed Heflin to stay in the match long enough to win.

“Lee is good enough to win the national title and he knows that,” Pariano said. “When you wrestle No. 2 it should feel the same way as wrestling No. 16 or an unranked guy. It doesn’t matter.”

The Cats lost the final three bouts and were not close in any of them. NU had its wrestler, senior Marcus Shrewsbury, pinned at 184 pounds, redshirt sophomore Alex Polizzi lost in convincing fashion at 197 pounds and NU decided to forfeit at heavyweight when sophomore Mike McMullan was unable to go due to injury.