Wrestling: Wildcats hope to send seniors out on a high note against Terrapins


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Mike McMullan shows his strength. The senior heavyweight will be competing in the final home match of his Northwestern career on Friday.

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

Despite a disappointing team record, Northwestern is still in high spirits heading into its final home match of the season.

The Wildcats (9-8, 1-7 Big Ten) will face Maryland (5-14, 0-8) on senior night, in what will also be their final conference meet of the year. NU has been forfeiting the 174-pound weight class for most of the season, which has contributed to its poor record. Although a team win against Maryland is expected, this Friday is much more about individual results.

Coach Drew Pariano will say farewell to three impressive seniors as they compete in the last home match of their careers. The trio comprises heavyweight Mike McMullan, Alex Polizzi at 197 pounds and Pierce Harger at 165 pounds. In their four years, they have helped carry the program to great heights.

“Resilient,” Pariano said of the group. “Pierce is exciting, Mike is quick, and Polizzi is strong — and when I say that I mean I think he’s the strongest athlete at NU, pound-for-pound.”

Each has performed impressively during his time at NU, but three-time All-American McMullan sticks out the most. With three top-three NCAA Championships finishes to his name and a 20-2 overall record this season, McMullan is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

He also found his coach’s description of him to be no surprise.

“I’m a smaller heavyweight, the guys I wrestle are a lot bigger than me,” McMullan said. “I always try to find a way to use my skills to my advantage … and I’ve done a good job of it throughout my career.”

Not to be outdone, Harger, a 2014 All-American, will pursue his 100th career victory Friday. Although his resume may not be as overflowing as McMullan’s, Harger boasts an equally impressive 22-4 record this season, and Pariano said he believes the durable Harger has never missed a match in his college career.

The coach also added that 100 wins is a milestone few college wrestlers reach in the modern era.

“I’m excited,” Harger said. “Hopefully things go according to plan and I can do it at home in front of my family and friends. It would be a cool accomplishment.”

Polizzi has stood out by amassing 47 wins over the past two seasons. The light-hearted senior wasn’t too sentimental about his time at school coming to a close.

“I’ve had some ups and downs,” he said. “Just having fun and wrestling and doing my thing.”

Despite the poor team record this season, all three seniors said they did not feel disappointed and were impressed with how individual wrestlers have pushed themselves to make up the deficit caused by a non-competed weight class.

Relief may be coming soon, too, in that Pariano expects his team to come away victorious Friday. The Terrapins are newcomers to the Big Ten and are hardly one of the perennial powerhouses that make up much of the conference.

Still, with the postseason just weeks away, Pariano said his focus is on individual wrestlers and their preparations for Big Ten Championships and NCAA Championships play.

“The last matches definitely give you momentum,” he said. “You have to peak twice: once for the Big Ten Tournament and once for the NCAA Tournament.”

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