Wrestling: Wildcats take break from Big Ten

Rohan Nadkarni, Sports Editor

After an unimpressive start to the conference season, Northwestern has a chance to pad its record against competition Sunday.

The No. 21 Wildcats (4-4) will head to Edwardsville, Ill., for a double-header against Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois Edwardsville. Despite the Cats’ struggles in the Big Ten, they have excelled out of conference, posting a 4-1 record, with the only loss coming on the road to No. 20 Edinboro

NU’s last performance left much to be desired. The Cats welcomed Nebraska to Evanston for the first time as members of the Big Ten and lost to the Cornhuskers. Redshirt senior Jason Welch lost for the first time during the last two regular seasons to Nebraska’s James Green, and NU won only three bouts overall, all by underclassmen.

In addition to redshirt sophomores Alex Polizzi and Pierce Harger, true freshman Dominick Malone made a splash at 125 pounds with his win and is currently ranked 18th in the nation in his weight class. True freshman Jacob Berkowitz made his first career start at heavyweight last weekend, in place of the injured Mike McMullan.

Injuries have taken a serious toll on the Cats. On Wednesday night, redshirt senior Levi Mele announced his retirement from collegiate wrestling via his Facebook page. Mele, a top-25 wrestler at 133 pounds this season and 125 last year, announced that he is scheduled to have surgery to repair torn ligaments in his knee, injuries suffered early in the season.

“Tomorrow begins a new chapter in my life,” Mele wrote on Facebook. “Wrestling has always been a huge part of my life and with surgery tomorrow my competitive wrestling career is finished.”

True freshman Garrison White, who was filling in for Mele since he initially suffered the injury, will continue to wrestle at 133 pounds. If Berkowitz starts at heavyweight on Sunday, the Cats will have nine underclassmen in their starting lineup.

— Rohan Nadkarni