Wrestling: Pariano frustrated following Northwestern’s third straight Big Ten loss


Luke Vogelzang/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern takes the initiative against Nebraska. The Wildcats’ home advantage did the team little good on Friday night, as NU won just three bouts on the way to a 25-11 overall loss.

Alex Lederman , Reporter


No. 22 Northwestern’s run of frustrating Big Ten dual meets continued Friday with a 25-11 loss to No. 10 Nebraska, its fifth defeat in the past six matches.

“Quite honestly, it’s up to the guys if they want to perform or not,” coach Drew Pariano said. “That’s a brutal statement, but it really falls on them. We run good practices.”

Against the Cornhuskers (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten), the story remained the same for the Wildcats (9-7, 1-6) as it has all conference season — NU’s top wrestlers performed while their teammates didn’t pick up the slack. For the third consecutive matchup, not a single wrestler besides Jason Tsirtsis, Pierce Harger, Alex Polizzi or Mike McMullan came away with a win.

The dual opened well for NU, with senior No. 4 heavyweight McMullan defeating No. 17 Collin Jensen 8-2. The victory quickly gave the Cats a 3-0 lead.

But the good vibes didn’t last long. Junior Garrison White followed McMullan with a 7-1 loss at 125 that put him below .500 for the season. His classmates No. 20 Dominick Malone at 133 and Jameson Oster at 141 walked off the mat in defeat, too, and just like that, the Cats were down 9-3.

Oster actually had a strong showing, nearly upsetting No. 8 Anthony Abidin. Down 7-2 in the third period, he came from behind to tie it at 7 before giving up an escape and losing the riding time point.

“(Nebraska’s wrestler) is a good kid,” Pariano said, “but we knew that Jameson could do that earlier in the match, and he just didn’t. We’ve got to get his motor running earlier.”

Pariano expressed irritation at his team’s overall inability to capitalize on opportunities.

“Can you work hard for seven minutes?” he said. “That’s my question to the team. It’s not that hard. They study for more than seven minutes a night, right?”

No. 3 sophomore Tsirtsis, up next for the Cats at 149, turned in one of his best showings of the season with a 10-2 major decision over Justin Arthur. Although the sophomore started the year 24-0 and has only one loss now, he hasn’t been happy with his execution for much of the season, particularly on offense. This bout, he said, was a step in the right direction.

Still, Tsirtsis was unhappy afterward, reflecting on the performances of his teammates.

“I’m an extreme competitor and I hate losing,” the defending NCAA Champion said. “It’s frustrating. Wrestling is an individual sport, but it’s also a team sport. Every guy’s just got to find their focus and what they need to do right to win matches.”

After a loss at 157 by sophomore Ben Sullivan, No. 8 senior Harger put on a show at 165. He cruised to a 13-3 major decision over Austin Wilson, advancing to 21-4 on the year and earning his 98th career victory.

Harger agreed with Pariano and Tsirtsis that the collaborative team performance has not been up to snuff. But he said he feels his effort will set an example for the team, and he thinks some teammates are on the verge of changing their fates.

“I think a lot of the guys kind of got the smack in the face they needed this week to turn things around and wake them up a little bit and say, ‘Hey, this is what counts here,’” he said.

The remainder of NU’s wrestlers lost, including No. 12 senior Polizzi at 197, who fell 7-5 in the first sudden victory period to No. 20 Aaron Studebaker. Pariano said that loss was especially difficult to swallow.

Over the next two weekends, NU takes on a couple of new conference foes: Rutgers and Maryland. Neither of these schools holds the prestige of NU’s previous Big Ten opponents.

With the meet against Rutgers next Sunday, Pariano plans to take full advantage of his extra day of practice this coming week. He’s not making any exceptions for a certain football spectacle.

“I could care less about the Super Bowl,” he said. “I care about making our guys better, and it’s gonna be good to see new blood.”

Email: [email protected]u.northwestern.edu