Wrestling: Tsirtsis and company impress at Midlands

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Daily file photo by Annabel Edwards

Senior Mike McMullan wrestles an opponent. Sophomore Jason Tsirtsis may garner the most attention, but McMullan is a three-time All-American at NU and currently ranks No. 2 in his weight class.

Alex Lederman, Reporter


Wrestling


No. 18 Northwestern continued its strong start to the season last week at the 52nd annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, with sophomore Jason Tsirtsis winning the 149-pound title and six more Wildcat wrestlers finishing in the top seven for their weight class.

“We made some great strides,” coach Drew Pariano said. “I like how we’re raising our intensity as the season goes.”

Still, Pariano said that although he’s excited, he’s “not overly satisfied.”

And just what could the Cats have done better in his mind?

“Ten guys could have won a championship,” he said.

Even so, NU’s results weren’t too shabby. Senior Mike McMullan and his classmate Pierce Harger each finished runner-up, at heavyweight and 165-pounds respectively. Freshman Stevan Micic finished third at 125, while senior Alex Polizzi finished fourth at 197, freshman Johnny Sebastian fifth at 174 and junior Dominick Malone seventh at 133.

Malone moved into the InterMat national top 20 rankings with his performance and Harger moved up a spot to No. 7. Tsirtsis and McMullan are No. 1 and No. 2 in the country respectively at their weights.

The Cats finished third overall with 106 points total behind Iowa’s 189 and Illinois’ 130.5.

“Several guys did extremely well, Pierce Harger being one of them,” Pariano said. “He didn’t win the championship, but he beat a guy from Iowa that I think we were 0-6 against lifetime, and it’s good to get over that hump.”

But it’s Tsirtsis who stole the show. The sophomore has experienced incredible success early in his career, winning the Big Ten and NCAA Championships last year, several “Freshman of the Year” awards and now his first Midlands title.

A key to the Indiana native’s quick success is his boisterous fans, although — and this is the scary thing — he can stand to please them more.

“He’s got a really good support unit in his family, as they come out in large numbers and he’s got a lot of local support,” Pariano said. “The goal for him now is to win matches in regulation and not in overtime, because he’s been winning a lot of matches in overtime.”

NU is 8-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten, but that conference loss was arguably the team’s most impressive performance of the season.

The Cats fought neck-and-neck December 18 against then-No. 1 Minnesota, ultimately falling short 21-19.

In fact, NU almost tied in the meet’s final match when then-No. 8 Harger pinned then-No. 18 Nick Wanzek, but in a controversial decision the call was overturned.

“Any time you go on the road and you’re wrestling the number one team in the country and you go in with two forfeits, I don’t think there’s one Minnesota fan in the crowd that thought we would get a pin with Harger,” Pariano said. “We have to live with the call being reversed, but the match was extremely exciting. As much as a loss can get your guys motivated, this one got us more motivated instead of hanging our heads.”

Overall, Pariano said he’s extremely encouraged between the performances at Minnesota and at the Midlands. He said his team is only getting better as the season progresses.

“When you take a step back sometimes, you get a little upset that you didn’t win more Midlands titles or whatever, but that’s not the endgame,” he said. “You want to be peaking in March. I really like where we’re heading.”

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