Wrestling: Northwestern attempts to rise up Big Ten against Wisconsin

Alex Lederman, Reporter


The Wildcats will resume Big Ten action on Friday with their Big Ten home opener against Wisconsin. And the team has been preparing hard for the occasion.

“Our practices have been really tough,” coach Drew Pariano said. “I think last Friday was probably one of the most difficult practices we’ve had all year. Then we took a day off so we could recoup and relax our bodies. But there’s been no let up in the practices, I’ll tell you that.”

And in the Big Ten, Northwestern can’t afford to let up. Eleven of InterMat’s top 25 teams in the country hail from the conference, including three of the top four — Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State.

So while the Cats (8-2, 0-1 Big Ten) are 18th in the country, they hold only the ninth highest rank from the Big Ten. On Friday, they look to move up the charts against No. 11 Wisconsin.

“(Wisconsin is) a very good dual meet team,” Pariano said. “They really don’t have any holes in their lineup, they’re strong throughout. They’re going to come in here and they’re going to be very aggressive.”

At the Midlands Championships last week, the Badgers (5-1, 3-0) finished seventh with 80.5 points while NU placed third with 106 points. Pariano said that Wisconsin’s lower result was due to the team sitting some of its top competitors in order to get healthy for Big Ten season.

Among the expected best matchups this weekend are Wisconsin’s No. 14 Ryan Taylor vs. NU junior No. 20 Dominick Malone at 133 pounds, No. 3 Isaac Jordan vs. NU senior No. 7 Pierce Harger at 165 pounds, No. 10 Timmy McCall vs. NU senior No. 12 Alex Polizzi at 197 pounds and, the most anticipated match, No. 5 Connor Medbery vs. NU senior No. 2 Mike McMullan at heavyweight.

“They’re going to bring everything they have, and we want to wrestle them like we have recently, which I feel like there’s a lot of heart,” Pariano said. “There’s a couple of meets at the beginning of the year where maybe we didn’t have the same effort that we’ve been having of late with Minnesota and with Midlands.”

The Cats may be 0-1 in the Big Ten, but they only lost by two points and in the final matchup on the road against then-No. 1 Minnesota. Last week, Tsirtsis won the Midlands title at 149 pounds, McMullan and Harger were runner-up at heavyweight and at 165 pounds respectively and four more Cats finished in the top seven.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, is riding a four-match winning streak in dual meets and is undefeated in conference, with wins over Maryland, Indiana and Nebraska.

But Pariano thinks that taking on only one team a week from now on rather than a whole slate of opponents works in his squad’s favor. The coach said he saw an extra edge and intensity from his group in its near-takedown of the Golden Gophers, a match that followed 12 days of break from competition.

Still, these meets are all just preparation for the big show.

“In our sport you have to peak twice,” Pariano said. “You have to peak at Big Tens and you have to peak at the NCAA Tournament ten days away. That’s not an easy feat, but I really like where we’re heading.”

Even so, Pariano is trying not to think too far ahead yet.

“It doesn’t get any easier in the Big Ten,” he said. “When you look at the schedule, the important thing is to just look at the match in front of you. As cliche as that is, that’s what we’re doing.”

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