Wrestling: Jason Tsirtsis, Mike McMullan capture Big Ten titles in Columbus


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Mike McMullan battles Wisconsin’s Connor Medbery. The senior heavyweight captured his first Big Ten title Sunday by defeating rival Bobby Telford in the finals.

Alex Lederman, Reporter


Jason Tsirtsis and Mike McMullan each walked off the mat in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend with a rewarding title: Big Ten champion.

The 149-pound sophomore and heavyweight senior won their weight classes on Sunday at the Big Ten Championships hosted by Ohio State to earn conference glory.

It was McMullan’s first Big Ten title and ended a significant victory drought.

“It’s been a while since I actually won a tournament,” McMullan said. “I’ve had success placing high, but it’s been a while since the Cleveland State Open my redshirt year in 2010 that I actually won one. To break that dry spell and that drought and to do it on this type of stage, it was incredible.”

No. 3 McMullan defeated a farmiliar foe in the final: Iowa’s No. 4 Bobby Telford. The two have wrestled eight times throughout their careers, and McMullan now holds the 5-3 head-to-head lead.

The first time the two faced off this season, Telford beat McMullan in Evanston at the Midlands Championships. McMullan returned the favor a few weeks later on Telford’s home turf in Iowa.

When it mattered most, though, McMullan pulled out a 4-3 win.

“When he beat me at Midlands, it really resonated with me,” McMullan said, “I lost that big tournament in front of the home crowd. To be able to get redemption on a big stage like Big Tens, it feels awesome.”

Not only did McMullan top Telford this time around, he did it in exciting fashion. With just one minute left in the second period, McMullan fell behind 3-0. But before the period ended, he tied it up. He then rode Telford for the final 13 seconds of the period, not letting him escape and take the lead.

To start the third, Telford let McMullan escape — giving McMullan the 1-point advantage — so he could go for a takedown and the title. But McMullan would not budge. He held on to the 4-3 lead for the win.

No. 2 Tsirtsis, meanwhile, repeated as conference champion, making the sophomore two-for-two at Big Tens. He also defeated a rival from Iowa: No. 4 Brandon Sorensen.

Sorensen is the only wrestler to defeat Tsirtsis this season, but like McMullan, the sophomore won on the bigger stage.

“Last time I wrestled him,” Tsirtsis said, “I was tentative, hesitant and wasn’t too aggressive trying to wear him down. This match, I tried to dictate the pace and dictate the action a lot more, and I think I ended up wearing him down to where I was able to control him on top and ride him out to get the win.”

After a scoreless first, Tsirtsis got an escape early in the second and gained the riding time advantage in the third. Sorensen escaped with 15 seconds left but was unable to get a takedown. Tsirtsis’ riding time point gave him the 2-1 victory.

Yet even as a two-time Big Ten champion, the sophomore is not completely satisfied.

“There’s still room to improve,” Tsirtsis said. “I wasn’t extremely pleased with how I wrestled on my feet and I didn’t get my offense going like I wanted to. But I toughed it out … and gutted out a win.”

Of NU’s other wrestlers, senior Pierce Harger placed highest in a fourth-place showing at 165. Junior Jameson Oster was seventh at 141, junior Garrison White eighth at 125, junior Dominick Malone 11th at 133 and freshman Mitch Sliga 12th at 184.

Senior Alex Polizzi at 197 pounds was forced to forfeit both his first round and seventh-place matchup due to injury.

Overall, NU placed ninth out of 14 teams with 72 total points. Co-winners Iowa and Ohio State scored 120 apiece.

The season’s climax and finale comes in two weeks at the NCAA Championships.

Email: alexlederman2017@u.northwestern.edu