Wrestling: Northwestern crushed by pair of top foes


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior Alex Polizzi gets set to wrestle. The No. 13 at 197 pounds was one of the team’s few bright spots this weekend, nearly defeating Iowa No. 4 Nathan Burak on Friday and taking down Illinois’ Jeff Koepke on Sunday.

Alex Lederman, Reporter


No. 22 Northwestern (9-6, 1-5 Big Ten) turned in two disappointing performances this weekend, falling 38-3 to No. 2 Iowa (10-0, 5-0) and 31-9 to No. 10 Illinois (9-4, 3-3).

“The sense of urgency, the production needs to go up,” coach Drew Pariano said. “We were obviously in the matches, but we didn’t get the job done. It doesn’t make you feel any better to be close. If anything, it just gets you more upset.”

Iowa won nine of Friday’s 10 matchups, including a 3-2 victory by No. 3 Brandon Sorensen over No. 1 sophomore Jason Tsirtsis at 149 pounds. With the win, Sorensen handed the defending NCAA Champion Tsirtsis his first loss of the season and snapped his 40-match win streak dating back to last season.

The defensive matchup began with a scoreless first period and ended regulation tied at only one apiece, with an escape from Tsirtsis in the second and one from Sorensen in the third. Each recorded another escape in the first sudden victory, but after a scoreless second, Sorensen clinched the winning point with an escape he rode out in the second tie break.

Tsirtsis said the end of the win streak will be good for his wrestling. Even though he just picked up his first loss of the year, he said he hasn’t been happy with how he’s wrestled this season.

“It really doesn’t matter right now about wins and losses,” he said. “It’s about how I execute. I let myself get too caught up in the streak, and I haven’t been performing well this season because of it. Things have to change.”

Tsirtsis said he needs to open up and attack his positions more to improve his offense.

“He’s closing himself down,” Pariano said. “He’s got one of the best arsenals in the country. He’s just got to use it. That’s great that you can take everyone down, but if you go up here and you don’t use it, then it really doesn’t matter.”

One wrestler didn’t underperform for the Wildcats. No. 4 senior heavyweight Mike McMullan pulled out NU’s only win of the night in the final and most anticipated match. With his team on the brink of a complete sweep, McMullan notched a 3-1 decision in the second sudden victory period over No. 1 Bobby Telford.

McMullan served Telford his first loss of the season, breaking his 18-match win streak. McMullan now leads the all-time series against his familiar foe 4-3.

“I knew I was the better wrestler that match (at Midlands),” McMullan said. “I just had a mind lapse and made a tactical error. An opportunity to go into his house, a big arena in Iowa where there’s a bunch of fans, to shut them up and get the revenge was pretty cool.”

At 165 pounds, No. 6 senior Pierce Harger also took his match against No. 9 Nick Moore into overtime but lost in a heartbreaker.

No. 13 Alex Polizzi suffered a similar fate against No. 4 Nathan Burak at 197, as a late 3-1 advantage turned into a 4-3 loss.

Sunday at home vs. Illinois didn’t fare much better for the Cats. Tsirtsis, Harger and Polizzi did rebound, but every other wrestler for NU lost, including a forfeit by McMullan.

“You wrestle Iowa, you don’t get any of the results you want for the most part, and you expect our guys to put a show on here,” Pariano said. “But the first five guys were pretty uninspired, and that falls on me.”

McMullan said his struggling teammates just need to have confidence in their abilities. He said if they calm down and get back to what made them great in high school, they will get back on track.

As for the rest of the season, McMullan said it’s best to leave this weekend in the past. There’s good news for his team moving forward, he said.

“The best way to look at it is the next guys you wrestle aren’t going be as good as the people we’ve already wrestled,” he said. “The worst is behind us.”

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