Wrestling: Jennings saves Wildcats from second straight shutout


Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Luke Norland grapples with his opponent. Northwestern barely avoided its second-straight shutout on Sunday against Penn State.

Dan Waldman, Reporter


Less than five minutes into his match, Northwestern senior Dominick Malone found himself sprawled onto his back. He clung onto his opponent, trying to gain the leverage to get back onto his feet, but he couldn’t. The referee fell to his knees and ruled him pinned.

Malone’s loss was just one of many Sunday, as the Wildcats (1-7, 0-3 Big Ten) fell to No. 1 Penn State (9-0, 3-0) 46-4. For the second week in a row, NU has hosted a top-two team in the country, and the results were nearly identical after being shut out by then-No. 2 Iowa last weekend.

The Cats are off to their worst start since 2001, when they started 0-9 and didn’t win a game during the regular season. In the Cats’ first eight duals of the season, their opponents have outscored them 245-125.

Interim coach Matt Storniolo said the past few weeks have been tough for the wrestlers, and the team is looking forward to facing easier opponents next week.

“Not going to lie, we breathed a little sigh of relief now that we got through this part of the schedule,” Storniolo said. “Obviously seeing the number one and two teams in the country back-to-back is not the easiest stretch. From here on out the matches are a lot more manageable and we should put a lot more wins on the board.”

Prior to the dual, Storniolo said he emphasized the importance of individual wins during this tough stretch. But the team only came away with one individual win.

The Cats had to wait until the last match of the dual to pick up their first win, when redshirt freshman Conan Jennings defeated Wesley Phipps 10-0 to give NU 4 points — its first points in two weeks.

Jennings is now 5-11 on the season and used his 80-pound weight advantage to stifle the Penn State heavyweight.

“Getting shut out is always devastating because you know you probably could have done better,” Jennings said. “Just having a win on the mat just means that we can still do this, we’re here for a reason and we came to wrestle.”

Meanwhile, junior Jason Tsirtsis, who is ranked No. 4 nationally in the the 149-pound class, battled No.1 Zain Retherford in the day’s most-awaited match. But even Tsirtsis, who is a former NCAA Tournament champion, struggled and spent most of the match with his opponent on top of him.

Retherford defeated Tsirtsis 15-5 and dropped Tsirtsis’s season record to 5-4.

After Tsirtsis’s defeat, he walked to the locker room and did not return to Welsh-Ryan Arena. But a couple of the Cats seniors, especially Malone, made sure to stay for the entirety of the dual.

After being pinned, Malone found his seat at the end of the bench next to fellow senior Garrison White. Malone and White were two of the first three Cats to return after halftime to watch the end of the match — the other was freshman Anthony Petrone.

After Petrone got pinned on Sunday, Malone turned to him and placed his hand on his shoulder. Malone said he knows what it is like to wrestle as a true freshman.

“Coming from a guy who is also a true freshman wrestler, you just have to go out there and let it fly,” Malone said. “It’s one thing I’m trying to work on now even as a senior. Age doesn’t make that big of a difference, it’s just your mentality and mindset.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Jason Tsirtsis’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament. He is not in danger of missing the tournament. The Daily regrets the error.

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