Wrestling: Northwestern fails to overcome slow start in loss to No. 19 Wisconsin


Daily file photo by Susan Du

Despite a resounding victory from redshirt freshman Jason Tsirtsis at 149 pounds, No. 16 Northwestern fell to No. 19 Wisconsin on Sunday, 23-15. The loss was the Wildcats’ fourth straight against a fierce Big Ten schedule.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

No. 16 Northwestern (6-5, 1-5 Big Ten) fell to No. 19 Wisconsin (10-4, 4-1) on Sunday, the team’s fifth straight dual match against a ranked opponent.

The 23-15 defeat stretched the Wildcats’ losing streak to four matches.

The slow starts which have plagued the Cats in recent matches came back to bite them again. After three bouts, Wisconsin surged to an 11-0 lead.

“(Early losses) set the tone for the whole meet,” coach Drew Pariano said. “It’s hard to block that out when you’ve got three losses to start.”

NU tallied its first points when redshirt freshman Jason Tsirtsis defeated TJ Ruschell by major decision at 149 pounds.

The 13-2 margin of victory was Tsirtsis’ largest since a 17-4 win against Indiana on Jan. 4.

“I know I’m capable of putting those numbers up every match,” Tsirtsis said. “I’m heading in the right direction.”

Two bouts later, junior Pierce Harger brought the Cats within 14-6 with a 4-0 decision against Frank Cousins.

The Cats wrestled without junior Lee Munster, who missed the match because of a lower-body injury. Munster is one of NU’s top wrestlers, ranked No. 15 nationally at 174 pounds.

Redshirt freshman Robert Coukos filled in for Munster but struggled while wrestling up two weight classes. Coukos normally wrestles in the 157-pound class.

Scott Liegel pinned Coukos in 1:44 to extend the Badgers’ lead to 20-6.

“All the praise in the world for Robert Coukos,” Pariano said. “I told him yesterday, ‘By the way, you’re going to wrestle two weight classes up. And wrestle a kid that’s nationally ranked.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘OK.’ How can you not love a guy like that?”

Juniors Alex Polizzi and Mike McMullan won bouts at 197 and 285 pounds, respectively, but their victories were not enough to bring NU back.

Pariano praised Polizzi, who pinned Timmy McCall in 5:57.

“He got taken down, and then he was fine,” Pariano said. “He came right back at him.”

McMullan defeated Connor Medbery in a grueling 4-3 match. Both wrestlers were gassed by the third round, but McMullan outlasted Medbery.

“You’re used to your body feeling tired (in practice),” McMullan said. “So when you get to that point, you can kind of maintain it and fight through and come out on top.”

The Cats face a tall task again Friday against No. 2 Iowa. Pariano said the team remains confident, even with just a 1-5 record on the season against ranked opponents.

“We’re not going to let our guys get down because of our record,” Pariano said. “We still believe we’re a top-10 team in the country.”

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