EVANSTON, Ill. – After a top-10 finish at the 2012 NCAA Championships, two All-Americans, the best Midlands finish in school history and another winning dual season, there were a number of things to celebrate at Northwestern’s annual year-end banquet. Over the weekend, head coach Drew Pariano and his staff recognized the numerous achievements from the 2011-12 season and presented the team with a variety of awards.
The banquet began with the coaching staff handing out the letterwinner awards and honoring those who achieved Academic All-Big Ten status. Each year, NU has three team awards for most points, most net takedowns on the season and most falls. This year those three awards went to two different wrestlers.
Junior Jason Welch (157) took home two of the three trophies as the Stuteville High Point-Scorer and Lupton Takedown Award Winner. Welch had the best record of his three-year NU career, going 27-3 overall and 15-0 in dual action. He was rarely taken down throughout the course of the year but racked up points on a consistent basis, winning seven of his matches by major decision and another four by technical fall. Welch did not lose a dual match all season, helping NU score 67 points at 157 lbs. as Northwestern went 11-4 in dual action.
With a team-leading 13 pins on the season, junior Levi Mele (125) won the Jack Riley Fall Trophy. Mele had 13 of Northwestern’s 54 falls, an improvement upon the team’s 45 pins last season. Mele, a two-time NCAA qualifier, also had the most wins of his NU career, going 31-8 and 13-2 in duals.
A new award was added to the list this season as redshirt freshman Mike McMullan (heavyweight) won the Jake Herbert Freshman of the Year Award. This award was fitting for McMullan as he was the highest-placing NU freshman at NCAA’s since Herbert’s third-place finish in 2005. McMullan had a spectacular first season on the mat for Northwestern, finishing third at NCAA’s for his first All-America honor, placed fourth at Midlands and went 29-11 on the season.
Welch, McMullan and redshirt freshman Lee Munster also were honored for their performances at NCAA’s and Midlands. The team’s two 2012 All-Americans (Welch and McMullan) and two 2011 Midlands Champions (Munster and Welch) each received special awards commemorating their achievements at the tournaments. Welch became NU’s 15th two-time All-American as he took fourth at 157 lbs. while McMullan’s third-place finish gave the ’Cats two top-eight finishers in six of the last seven years and NU’s best finish in the team race (ninth) since finishing fourth during the 2006-07 season.
After 49 years of wrestling at the Midlands Championships, Northwestern had its best finish in school history, finishing second in 2011. NU added two new champions to the list as Welch (157) and Munster (174) both won titles. In total, five NU wrestlers placed at the team’s annual tournament as Mele (fourth, 125), McMullan (fourth, heavyweight) and senior John Schoen (eighth, 197) joined Welch and Munster on the medal stand.