Wrestling: Wildcats prepare for Big Ten Tournament


Daily file photo by Jai Broome

Redshirt senior Jason Welch wrestles during a home dual. Welch will look to earn his first conference championship at the Big Ten Championships.

Rohan Nadkarni, Sports Editor

After a subpar regular season, Northwestern can erase those poor memories at the Big Ten Championships.

The Wildcats finished 2-6 in the Big Ten during dual play, hampered by injuries and inexperience throughout the season. Redshirt senior Levi Mele went down early in the season after career-ending knee surgery, and redshirt sophomore Mike McMullan missed a handful of duals in the middle of the season.

With Mele and McMullan absent, the Cats turned to a pair of true freshmen, Garrison White and Jacob Berkowitz, to take the place of their injured stars. Berkowitz and White suffered the ups and downs of being talented but young in the tough Big Ten, but now both remain in the lineup, with Berkowitz moving to 184 pounds after the return of McMullan at heavyweight. 

The entire squad can rewrite their Big Ten records with a successful showing at the Big Ten Championships, the start of championship season for the Cats. In addition to earning conference glory, successful showings at the tournament help for seeding at the NCAA Championships later in March.

The Cats boast two top-three seeds in their lineup, with McMullan and redshirt senior All-American Jason Welch both seeded second at heavyweight and 157 pounds respectively.

Welch will embark on a quest for his first Big Ten championship. Last year, Welch completed an undefeated dual season but fell in the 157 final during the conference tournament for his first loss of the season. McMullan, who built from his Big Ten success to a third place finish at last year’s NCAA Championships, can also win his first Big Ten championship. 

Another wrestler who could upset his competition on the way to a high finish is redshirt sophomore Pierce Harger. Harger finished 5-3 against the Big Ten field in his weight class of 165 pounds en route to his 22-5 record in the regular season.

White could also surprise at 133 pounds. The youngster fared well during his first run through the conference, finishing a respectable 3-3 against the tournament field in his weight class. 

After the Big Ten Championships in Champaign, Ill., the Cats will finish their season in Des Moines, Iowa, at the NCAA Championships starting March 21.