Oct. 29, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. – Wrestling season is officially here. The first step of the season takes place this Saturday, Nov. 3, when the team hosts Wrestle-Offs at 10 a.m. Fans are invited to attend the annual event, which takes place in the Ken Kraft Wrestling Complex, located inside Anderson Hall.
The next step takes the Wildcats to Palo Alto, Calif., for the first dual of the 2012-13 season against Stanford on Friday, Nov. 18, at 8:30 p.m. CT. Stanford is one of 17 dual opponents the Wildcats will face and two competitive regular-season tournaments, including the 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at Welsh-Ryan Arena, are also on this year’s schedule. The complete 2012-13 Northwestern wrestling schedule can be found here and fans can also purchase tickets to Midlands now by calling 888-GO-PURPLE or with this online ticket form.
Third-year head coach Drew Pariano returns a strong core from last year’s squad that placed in the top 10 at NCAA’s and crowned two All-Americans. Nine starters, including two-time All-American Jason Welch (157) and All-American heavyweight Mike McMullan, return to this year’s squad.
Below is a Q&A with Pariano, along with a weight-by-weight breakdown, to preview the 2012-13 Northwestern Wrestling Season.
1.) Weight-by-Weight Preview
125: Senior Levi Mele is a two-time NCAA Qualifier and is ranked among the top 10 in several national preseason polls. He is poised to finish his career on top of the podium. From day one, freshman Dominick Malone is doing an outstanding job in the room and has exceptional technique. This will be a good competition for both guys and we have two guys at this weight who have the tools necessary to be All-Americans in March. Freshman Garrison White also is transitioning really well for a young guy and he will challenge at either 125 or 133.
133: Sophomore Jameson Oster had an exciting freshman year and he's ready to have an even better sophomore campaign. His style is one that can put big points on the board and he can wrestle with anyone in the room from 125 all the way up to 149. Garrison White (as previously mentioned) and sophomore John Coukos will be the challengers at 133.
141: It’s always a close contest for the starting position at 141. Sophomores Colin Shober and Pat Greco saw time in the starting lineup last season. They both had success along the way and one of these athletes could emerge as the starter again this season. Production on the competition end of things will be the key and we expect a grind out competition for this spot. Freshman Jason Tsirtsis is training extremely hard and was recognized as the No. 1 recruit in the nation coming out of the high school ranks. If he doesn't come out of redshirt this year, be looking for him to do well at the 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships. Freshmen Matt Greene and Justin Meyers also will compete for time at this weight.
149: Junior Kaleb Friedley was the starter last season and is now a two-time NCAA qualifier. Sophomore Dylan Marriott and junior David Helmer have made big gains over the summer and will challenge for a coveted spot in the starting lineup. Nov. 3rd will determine our guy as we prepare for the opening dual vs. Stanford on Nov. 9th.
157: Senior Jason Welch is now a two-time NCAA All-American, a Midlands Champion, a two-time Big Ten finalist, a two-time NCAA semi-finalist and yet his best wrestling is still in front of him. He will challenge for a national title this season and will begin his quest on Nov. 3rd at the NWCA All-Star Classic. Welch is ranked among the top three in several national preseason polls. Freshman Ben Sullivan is one of the hardest workers in the room and will keep pressure on all of our 157 pounders, which also includes freshman Robert Coukos.
165: Sophomore Pierce Harger took charge of this weight class last year and will be aiming to do that again this season. He had an outstanding freshman career that resulted in two tournament finals appearances and a trip to the NCAA championships. He will be looking to earn his first All-America honor this year. Harger is ranked among the top 15 in several national preseason polls.
174: Sophomore Lee Munster had an outstanding debut at this weight class last year. He ascended to the top of the podium at the 49th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, while beating several nationally ranked competitors along the way. Munster will be aiming to win additional titles this season and finish among the nation's elite at NCAA's in March. Munster is ranked among the top eight in several national preseason polls. Senior Paul Jackson will be in the mix at 174 as well.
184: Junior Kevin Bialka and senior Marcus Shrewsbury will go head-to-head to determine our starter at 184. This is a clash of two very different styles as Bialka and Shrewsbury are two very different wrestlers. Both of them will compete hard for the honor to represent NU at 184. Also at this weight is freshman Jacob Berkowitz.
197: Sophomore Alex Polizzi is ready to make big strides at 197. He is pound-for-pound one of the strongest athletes in the country at this weight and his technique has improved dramatically over the summer. Polizzi wasn't able to compete last year due to injury and that fire will be burning this year as he looks to put his mark on the 197 lbs. weight class nationally.
285: Sophomore Mike McMullan capped off an outstanding freshman year with a third-place finish at the 2012 NCAA Championships. McMullan has everything needed to be an NCAA champion this season. He will face strong competition from the Big Ten and nationally at this weight, but we believe that he is the best heavyweight in the country. McMullan is ranked top three in several national preseason polls.
2.) How would you describe this year's team?
This team has a very good mix of senior talent coupled with young guys that are excited to put their mark on the beginning of their college careers. We have good competition at multiple weight classes and that pressure to have a good practice every day will help our guys as they enter Big Ten competition as well as the NCAA championships.
3.) What are your expectations for Jason Welch in his senior season?
An NCAA title.
4.) How have you seen some of the underclassmen like Mike McMullan, Lee Munster, Pierce Harger progress since last year?
Mike, Lee, and Pierce have more confidence now. They have been through the grind and they know what to expect and they know how to get the most out of their own abilities. Furthermore, they continue to listen to the coaching staff that will provide them with training techniques that will help them as the season progresses. We are excited about this group and we believe that all of them will be on the podium come March 23rd.
5.) Who are some newcomers fans can look forward to watching this year?
We have numerous guys who are doing big things in the room and saw some strong potential come out of this group in the preseason training workouts. Malone and White have impressed the staff at the lower weights and Tsirtsis and Sullivan have been adapting well at the 141-157 range. Generally, all of the freshmen have been doing a great job and they must continue to push themselves daily if they want to reach their goals.
6.) How can the team top last year's ninth-place finish at NCAA's?
Hard work and attention to detail. Yesterday at practice, we had a great workout and yet I put it on the guys to do even more. In wrestling, you really need to concentrate on your own technique, your own mental preparation and your own abilities. However, it is ok to every now and again know that you are training harder than the guy to your left or right or even guys at other programs. That's ok in my book.
7.) What is the significance of hosting the 50th Midlands Championships?
It's an honor and it's an honor directly attributed to Ken Kraft and all of the people who have and continue to make Midlands the best mid-season event in the country. We are expecting big crowds and as a team, we want to win the historic event in our own gym.
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