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Twelfth-ranked Evan Silver (right), of Stanford, tries to sneak out from under Northwestern's Garrison White during their 125-pound bout Feb. 16 in Evanston. Silver won by fall.

Northwestern leads at right time

By Kevin McGavin        Photos courtesy of Ken Dado

Jacob Berkowitz and Alex Polizzi did what was necessary to put Northwestern in an ideal position.
The Wildcats’ 184- and 197-pounders secured back-to-back victories with takedowns in overtime Sunday afternoon, and top-ranked heavyweight Mike McMullan did his part in the Northwestern's nonconference dual meet over Stanford at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.

McMullan had the last of the Wildcats’ three-straight simple decisions to give Northwestern its 20-19 victory over the Cardinal in its final regular season home match.

Heavyweights Mike McMullan (right), of Northwestern, and Stanford's Josh Marchok get the measure of each other in the match that decided the dual. The top-ranked McMullan's 6-3 decision gave Northwestern a 20-19 victory.

The Wildcats, who improved to 7-7 overall with their sixth-straight out-of-conference win, did not lead until McMullan used two first-period takedowns as the linchpin of his 6-3 victory over red-shirt freshman Josh Marchok, a former Illinois state champion from Schaumburg.

“I was excited to be in that position,” said McMullan, the defending national runner-up at heavyweight. “(Berkowitz and Polizzi) put me in that sort of position to close out the match. As a team, we have struggled to put points on the board recently.”

Then again, that is not all that unusual in a college dual meet.

“A really good dual meet score is about 17-16,” Northwestern coach Drew Pariano said. “You don’t see too many bonus points (in a low-scoring dual).”

Northwestern's Dominick Malone (right) looks for an opening against 10th-ranked Ryan Mango in their 133-pound tilt. Mango came away with the 10-2 major decision.


But Stanford (17-5) did buck that trend in the opening two matches: Evan Silver had a first-period fall at 125 pounds; and Ryan Mango followed with a major decision at 133 pounds to give the Cardinal a quick 10-0 lead.

But Northwestern, ranked No. 10 in the nation, recovered and captured six of the final eight matches.

Wildcat senior Pat Greco (left) grimaces as he tries to pull Stanford wrestler Matt Garelli back on the mat. Greco scored a 14-4 major decision.

Pat Greco, one of three seniors honored before the match, had the last of his five takedowns against Elmhurst native Matt Garelli with nine seconds remaining to cement a 14-4 triumph against the Fenwick graduate.

“It’s weird,” said Greco, who grew up in St. Charles and graduated from Marmion Academy in Aurora. “Opposite ends of the country (the two schools), and (Garelli) lives closer to Northwestern than I do.”

“You don’t want to obsess too much about bonus points,” said Greco, who will forfeit his final year of eligibility to attend law school at DePaul next fall. “I went out there and got two takedowns right away.”

Fourth-ranked Jason Tsirtisis (left), of Northwestern, tries to escape the grip of Stanford's Donovan Halpin at 149. Tsirtisis went on to win the bout by major decision, 12-3.

Jason Tsirtisis’ major decision triumph in the ensuing match at 149 points brought the Wildcats to within 10-8; the Indiana native had few issues in his 12-3 win.

Northwestern's Ben Sullivan (top) looks to control Stanford's Peter Galli. The Cardinal took the bout with a 7-3 advantage.

Stanford 157-pounder Peter Galli ended the Wildcats’ run with a simple decision, but Northwestern pulled within two points after Pierce Harger, ranked seventh nationally, prevailed 11-7 at 165 pounds.

Seventh-ranked Pierce Harger (top) holds tight as 18th-ranked Jim Wilson attempts a takedown. Harger gave the Wildcats an 11-7 win.

It appeared disaster struck the Wildcats when nationally ranked Lee Munster, the former Grant High School standout rated in the top 15, was forced to retire at 174 pounds with an ankle injury.

The Cardinal ballooned its lead to 19-11 with the six-point injury-default verdict.

Kyle Meyer (right) locks on to Northwestern's Lee Munster. The Wildcats' 15th-ranked wrestler later had to default due to injury.

But Berkowitz and Polizzi saved the day for Northwestern.

Jacob Berkowitz (left), of Northwestern, controls Stanford's Tommy Kimbrell at 184 pounds. Berkowitz won 3-1 in overtime.

With their margin of error virtually nonexistent, Berkowitz scored his overtime takedown with 19 seconds remaining to earn the hard-fought 5-3 win over Tommy Kimbrell at 184 pounds. The 197-pound collision between nationally ranked Polizzi and Dan Scherer was a tactical engagement featuring penalty points against each combatant.

But Polizzi set the table for McMullan with his takedown 50 seconds into overtime.

Seventeenth-ranked Alex Polizzi (top), of Northwestern, puts the squeeze on Stanford's 19th-ranked Dan Scherer. Polizzi won the 197-pound match 5-3 in overtime.

“If we win either one of those overtime matches, the dual is over,” Stanford coach Tom Brands said. “You have to give Northwestern credit. Their upper weights came through for them.”

Northwestern will travel to North Carolina next weekend to conclude its regular season with a triangular meet against Atlantic Coast Conference members Duke and North Carolina State.

The Wildcats are a specious 1-7 in the Big Ten Conference, but surprisingly that is not as bad as it looks. Every member of the 12-team conference with the exception of Michigan State is ranked.

Northwestern head coach Drew Pariano can't believe the call of referee Jaime George during the 197-pound bout.

“They are definitely the three best states in the nation for high school wrestling,” Pariano said of Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania when asked to explain the national hegemony of the league.

Wisconsin hosts the conference tournament the second weekend in March.

Today's Schedule: Season Schedule