Wrestling: Wildcats prepare for final dual meets

Alex Lederman, Reporter


March is almost here, but the Wildcats still have one more set of duals.

All season long, Northwestern has aimed to peak at the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Championships in March, but in its final two regular season matchups, the team will square off against two nonconference foes. This weekend, the team takes a road trip to D.C. to wrestle American and George Mason.

“We’re viewing it as a positive to get out of the Big Ten a little bit,” coach Drew Pariano said. “But at the same time, both of these teams have really good individuals that are nationally ranked, and we have some big matches upon us. These matches will be very important when it comes down to the final NCAA rankings.”

Just like last week, the lighter weight classes will be crucial. Junior Garrison White will wrestle RPI’s No. 24 David Terao at 125, and classmate No. 25 Dominick Malone is up against David Terao’s brother Josh at 133.

After struggling to pick up wins all season, White and Malone, along with junior Jameson Oster at 141, finally came through with impressive victories against Maryland.

“We’re really looking at 125 and 133 to get us started on the right foot,” Pariano said. “We did a good job of that in the last dual when those first three matches were key. It’s nice to see Garrison, Dom and Oster get us started in the right way, and then you have a national champ at 149.”

American, in particular, matches up well against the Cats. At two of NU’s weakest weight classes — 157 and 184 — the Eagles have nationally recognized wrestlers in the newly released RPI rankings.

At 157, sophomore Ben Sullivan takes on American’s No. 19 John Boyle and George Mason’s No. 24 Greg Flournoy, and at 184, redshirt freshman Mitch Sliga battles American’s No. 29 Jeric Kasunic. Sullivan is 5-13 overall this year, 2-11 in dual meets, 0-7 in the Big Ten and has been pinned four times this season. Sliga, meanwhile, is also under .500 with only two conference wins in his first season.

Even star senior heavyweight No. 6 Mike McMullan faces a challenge this weekend in No. 26 Jake Kettler of George Mason.

“(American and George Mason are) ready for us,” Pariano said. “They’re ready for a Big Ten team to come into their house and they’re excited for that. We have to be ready for all nine weight classes that are contested.”

Pariano said he thinks wins this weekend are important, but that’s not all he’s focusing on.

“It would be big to have momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament, but I also think the progress in the practice room is big,” he said. “We’ve been having good practices this week.”

He said the team has actually “turned down the volume a little bit” this week in practice but is going to pick it right back up after these duals.

And now that March is almost here, practices are going to be even more specific to individual needs. Everybody will be involved in prepping the nine starters for nationals, including the redshirts and all of the coaches.

“(March is) only two weeks away now,” McMullan said. “Everything has culminated to these next few weeks. We want to be in the best physical shape possible. Our minds have got to be right, and I think we’re prepped and ready and excited to do some damage.”

But first, this weekend.

“It’s good to be on the road to get that feel one more time,” Pariano said.

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