Starting on Saturday, Dec. 27, InsideNU will be counting down the top five moments of the year in Northwestern sports. With an emphasis on the revenue sports, and from games to controversies to championships, we'll bring you one moment per day in descending order, with the top moment of 2014 being revealed on New Year's Eve.
Northwestern found success in a different kind of march madness this year. Jason Tsirtsis won the national championship for wrestling's 149 pound class at Chesapeake Bay Arena in Oklahoma City in late March. Tsirtsis became the first freshman in school history to win an NCAA wrestling championship.
Tsirtsis went into the tournament as the number 5 seed in a bracket of 33 competitors. He won his first two matches on 4-1 and 4-3 decisions, but from there on out, it was anything but easy going. The freshmen won three consecutive matches in overtime to claim the national title.
In the final, Tsirtsis's opponent, Oklahoma State's Joshua Kindig, got on the board first with an escape in the second period. Tsirtsis tied it up at 1-1 in the third and after a stalling warning, the match went into OT. With about 20 seconds left in the extra session, Tsirtsis controlled Kindig and grabbed both of his ankles for a two-point takedown and a 3-1 sudden victory.
The title was Northwestern's first national championship in the 149 lb. weight class and the first title during Drew Pariano's tenure as head coach. Pariano was an assistant coach during the championship runs of Dustin Fox (2008) and Jake Herbert (2007, 2009).
Tsirtsis's victories helped the Wildcats finish 9th in the nation with 46 points. Three-time all-american Mike McMullan finished 3rd in the 285 lb. class, and first-time all-american Pierce Harger finished 8th in the 165 lb. class. McMullan and Harger, both seniors now, are back and alongside Tsirstis have led Northwestern to the nation's number 18 spot. The Wildcats narrowly lost to the nation's top team, Minnesota, ten days ago.
After winning the final match, Tsirtsis said, "Ever since I got to Northwestern, I told myself I was going to win this tournament." Sure enough, he won the national championship, and even more impressively, as a redshirt freshman. This definitely won't be the last you hear of Jason Tsirtsis.