No. 16 Northwestern pinned its first win to its schedule after a 21-13 victory Saturday at Stanford in its dual meet season debut.
“It was our opening meet on the road with lots of travel,” coach Drew Pariano said, “but I thought some of the guys responded really well to it. Stanford’s not a bad program, and they have some really talented guys in the lineup. But at the same time, we wanted to put a little more emphasis in dominating our opponents, and that’s something we can definitely improve on.”
The meet opened with No. 5 senior Pierce Harger, an All-American, topping No. 16 Jim Wilson of Stanford 8-4 in the 165-pound weight class, putting the Wildcats up 3-0.
But the Cardinals fought back. First 174-pound sophomore Ben Sullivan lost 7-4, and then redshirt freshman Mitch Sliga dropped the 184-pound matchup 4-2. Stanford pulled ahead 6-3 in the team score.
Next, No. 11 Alex Polizzi, a 2013 and 2014 NCAA qualifier, notched a technical fall in the 197-pound bout to bring NU back ahead 8-6.
“Polizzi did a phenomenal job,” Pariano said. “He’s a senior, he’s a team leader and he’s really just starting to click. We’re really looking forward to him becoming an All-American. He works as hard as anybody, and we want him to reach all of his goals.”
Senior heavyweight No. 1 Mike McMullan, a three time All-American, racked up another win for the Cats, 3-1, giving them the 11-6 lead.
“I think Stanford wrestled us in a particular way that they’re trying to keep the score close, and we’re trying to widen the gap,” Pariano said. “They’re very happy to lose to Mike McMullan by a 3-1 score.”
Cycling down to the lightest wrestlers, NU’s 125-pound junior Garrison White dropped his bout against No. 15 Evan Silver by major decision. The bonus points pulled Stanford back within one.
Then, an upset by Stanford 133-pounder Connor Schram over No. 19 junior Dominick Malone propelled Stanford into the lead 13-11.
But the advantage would not last long. NU won each of the last three decisions, without giving up another point to Stanford.
First, 141-pound junior Jameson Oster secured the lead with an 11-6 win over Isaiah Locsin. Then No. 1 sophomore Jason Tsirtsis, defending NCAA Champion at 149 pounds, won by major decision over Garrett Schaner. Finally, 157-pound freshman Bryce Brill, a three-time Illinois state champion in high school, cruised to a 7-0 victory over Maxwell Hvolbek.
“Tsirtsis put a lot of points on the board,” Pariano said, “but I think we can do more with him. I think we can, obviously, dominate our opponents. We did a pretty good job at 157 too with Bryce shutting his opponent out. He’s a true freshman, so that’s really hard to do.”
Just like that, NU pulled from two behind with three wrestlers left to winning by eight, a final score of 21-13.
“Wrestling is a little bit predictable when it comes down to matchups,” Pariano said. “There were some tight matches that we wanted to go our way that didn’t. It really could have been a blowout win. I’m not making excuses. We didn’t blow them out. In fact, it was closer, in my opinion, than it should have been.”
In total, the Cats won six of 10 bouts to beat the Cardinals for the sixth time in seven meetings since 2008.
NU returns to action Saturday at Eastern Michigan for the EMU Duals.
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