Wrestling: Northwestern opens Big Ten season at Nebraska

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Wrestling: Northwestern opens Big Ten season at Nebraska

Redshirt freshman Jason Tsirtsis faces off against his Chicago adversary in Northwestern’s first match of the season. Coach Drew Pariano has high expectations for the four-time high school state champion.

Redshirt freshman Jason Tsirtsis faces off against his Chicago adversary in Northwestern’s first match of the season. Coach Drew Pariano has high expectations for the four-time high school state champion.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Redshirt freshman Jason Tsirtsis faces off against his Chicago adversary in Northwestern’s first match of the season. Coach Drew Pariano has high expectations for the four-time high school state champion.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Redshirt freshman Jason Tsirtsis faces off against his Chicago adversary in Northwestern’s first match of the season. Coach Drew Pariano has high expectations for the four-time high school state champion.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

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Northwestern will travel to Nebraska on Sunday for its first Big Ten duel of the season.

The Wildcats have not been on the mat since Nov. 8, and they have taken advantage of the long break to prepare for the No. 12 Cornhuskers.

“This week has been a little bit more intense,” junior Mike McMullan said. “We’ve got more time to prepare, so we’re just trying to take advantage of the long week and get our bodies ready for the weekend.”

A two-time All-American, McMullan finished as the runner-up for both the Big Ten and NCAA titles last season. The heavyweight star spent the offseason and the early part of this season honing a champion-caliber skill set.

“When he was younger, he would let some of the top level guys dictate the pace of the match every once in a while, and now he just doesn’t do that,” coach Drew Pariano said. “If you put hands on him, he’s going to clear immediately. He’s always on the attack. He’s the most gifted heavyweight that there is in the country right now.”

McMullan has also put a greater focus on maintaining his body weight to make him more effective in his class.

“I’m just focusing on putting on some size because the heavyweight class is very broad,” McMullan said. “It ranges from 197 all the way to 285, so I’m right in the middle at 245. With the season being long and so intense, you’re exercising every day and it’s easy to lose a lot of weight if you don’t stay on top of things. I’m just kind of trying to maintain that weight better than I have in the past.”

McMullan does not yet know whom he will face Sunday, but he said that’s the way he likes it.

“You can’t waste time worrying about possibilities and opponents,” he said. “The biggest opponent you’re facing is yourself. You’ve got to be able to defeat any doubts you’ve got in your mind.”

The Wildcats are also excited to send redshirt freshman Jason Tsirtsis, a four-time Indiana state champion in high school, back to the mat. His last time out, he recorded a pair of pins against Air Force and Northern Colorado.

Pariano said he has high expectations for his young star, saying there was “no question” he could compete from day one in the Big Ten. Tsirtsis will have his hands full Sunday with Nebraska’s Jake Sueflohn, a two-time NCAA championship qualifier.

“The hype’s a little bit bigger,” Tsirtsis said. “Personally, I have a real tough guy. I’m confident in the things I do training-wise so I’m just trying to keep that the same.”

Pariano said he expects Tsirtsis to be one of NU’s all-time greats and a four-time NCAA champion. Although it is an honorable goal to set, it is also a lofty one, as the feat has been accomplished only three times in NCAA history.

“That’s the only goal I can set for myself,” Tsirtsis said. “If I set anything lower than that, I’d be lying to myself. It’s not an easy feat, but it’s something I want to shoot for.”Northwester

Playing a highly ranked team on the road is never easy, but the Cats say they are confident in their ability to compete this weekend.

“It’s going to be a typical Big Ten match,” Pariano said. “They’re going to be ready for us. We’re going to be ready for them. They get us coming to their place, so they’re probably going to feel pretty good about it, but we feel pretty good about heading out there, too.”

Email: jessekramer2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @jesse_kramer

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