OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Northwestern wrestler Jason Tsirtsis (Crown Point, Ind.) became the first freshman in school history to win an NCAA wrestling championship.
Fittingly, it took three straight overtime victories to take home the crown.
Tsirtsis (32-3) claimed NU's first individual NCAA title since 2009 (Jake Herbert 184 lbs) with a 3-1 OT win over Oklahoma State No. 11 seed Joshua Kindig. He's the Wildcats first national champion in the 149 lbs. weight class.
Northwestern finished No. 9 in the nation with 46.0 points. It's the Wildcats second top ten finish in the last three years under head coach Drew Pariano. The ‘Cats produced three All-Americans, with Pierce Harger (165 lbs.) and three-time NCAA finalist Mike McMullan (285) joining Tsirtsis.
"I don't think it's hit me yet that I'm an NCAA champ. I get to keep that claim for the rest of my life. It's what you work for as a wrestler ever since you set your goals as a little kid," Tsirtsis said. "So being out on that center stage, I don't think the big aspect of importance really hit me. I don't think it still has. But I think that's a good thing. I went out there, I was confident, and I wasn't worried about it being NCAA Finals. I was just focused on winning that match and wrestling tough."
Pariano has now coached three NCAA champions, while Tsirtsis is the first under Pariano's tenure leading the program. As an assistant coach, Pariano was instrumental working and coaching with NCAA champs Dustin Fox (2008) and Jake Herbert (2007, 2009).
With Tsirtsis winning the 149 lbs. title, heavyweight McMullan finished No. 3 and first time All-American Harger finished No. 8 at 165 lbs.
The freshman's win over Kindig (24-9) was Tsirtsis' third straight decision he'd need to pull out in overtime. After a scoreless first period, Kindig scored first with an escape after starting down in the second period. Tsirtsis tied things up to start the third at 1-1. He held a small 0:36 riding time advantage, but the match reached overtime after a stalling warning. In the extra session, Tsirtsis controlled Kindig and was able to grab both of the Cowboy's ankles to score a two-point takedown and secure the 3-1 OT win.
Tsirtsis reached the NCAA Championship title bout after winning two consecutive overtime matches. He defeated top-seeded Drake Houdashelt of Missouri in the semifinals and No. 4 seed Kendric Maple of host school Oklahoma in the quarterfinals, both 2-1 decisions in overtime.
"Jason is bar none the hardest working individual I've ever been around," Wildcats three-time All-American and NCAA finalist Mike McMullan said during the NCAA Championships. "He's never satisfied. He's always the last one to leave the room, always putting in the extra work."