Wrestling: Northwestern can’t escape Purdue

Redshirt sophomore Mike McMullan competes during a dual last season. McMullan returned to the lineup with a win on Friday.

Daily file photo by Ben Breuner

Redshirt sophomore Mike McMullan competes during a dual last season. McMullan returned to the lineup with a win on Friday.

Josh Walfish, Reporter

Not even the return of an All-American could save Northwestern on Friday night.

Sophomore Mike McMullan returned to the mat for the Wildcats for the first time since the Midlands Championships in late December and put NU in a position to win its second Big Ten dual. However, the Cats gave up the first takedown in three critical matches, including the final bout of the dual in a 21-15 loss to No. 18 Purdue.

“You can’t just rely on a few guys to get a dual meet win,” coach Drew Pariano said. “You have to get everyone involved and we need to do a better job at that.”

The dual ended with the highly-anticipated matchup at 125 pounds between freshman No. 18 Dominick Malone and No. 14 Camden Eppert of Purdue.

The bout was going to decide the dual with Purdue holding a slim 17-15 lead heading into the match. Eppert scored the first takedown of the match and rode out Malone for the remainder of the first period. Malone would not respond for the rest of the match. He was put on his back twice in a 10-0 loss to Eppert.

The dual started out poorly for the Cats, who dropped the first three matches. At 133 pounds, freshman Garrison White held his own with No. 14 Cashe Quiroga but could not get the takedown in the final seconds and lost 6-5. At 141 pounds, sophomore Pat Greco had an exciting match with Brandon Nelsen but could not keep the momentum up in the third period, dropping a 9-4 decision.

The Boilermakers took a 10-0 lead when No. 9 Ivan Lopouchanski took home a dominant 12-4 win over sophomore Dylan Marriott.

NU got back in the dual in a big way thanks to senior captain Jason Welch. The second-ranked 157-pounder was ready from the opening whistle and put on a clinical performance against Tommy Churchard. After picking up three takedowns in the opening period, Welch extended his lead to 12-2 in the second by collecting back points.

By the time the third period came around, Welch said he was well aware of how many points he needed for the technical fall, a win by more than 15 points. However, it took a takedown with four seconds left and to secure the 5 team points for the Cats.

“I knew that I needed to get those extra bonus points for our team,” Welch said. “You have to kind of put it out of your mind for the first period or two and just keep working and building up your points. That third period is really where you got to turn it on and score some more points for the tech fall or pull something and get the pin.”

The Cats picked up wins at 165 and 174 pounds to take a 12-10 lead, but subsequently relinquished the spot when freshman Jacob Berkowitz was nearly pinned twice in a 13-2 loss to Patrick Kissel.

That led to another bout between two top-20 opponents when No. 17 sophomore Alex Polizzi took on No. 14 Braden Atwood. It was a very slow start to the match, and the only point in the opening period was a stalling call on Atwood. The matchup was tied at 2 after the second period, and Polizzi seemed to be in control.

However, Atwood picked up a takedown with 26 seconds left to win the match and give Purdue a 17-12 lead.

McMullan took the mat next and came back looking like the wrestler that finished third-place last year at the NCAA Championships. The eighth-ranked heavyweight picked up a takedown in the first period and then rode out Alex White in the second period to take a commanding hold on the dual.

McMullan added back points in the third period and collected more than four minutes of riding time in the 9-2 win.

“Watching the team wrestle and just sitting there is frustrating, so to be able to do my part felt good,” McMullan said. “When I got the green light it was just an opportunity to showcase what I’ve been working toward all season.”