Northwestern University senior Jason Welch, a Las Lomas High graduate, competed in his fourth and final Big Ten Championships on March 10 and captured his first conference crown at 157 pounds.
Welch, the No. 2 seed, won the weight class with an third-period pin of No. 4 seed James Green from Nebraska to become the 30th different Wildcats wrestler to win a Big Ten title and first since two-time NCAA Champion Jake Herbert won the 184 crown in 2009.
Now Welch has a chance to win a national championship, as he is the No. 1 seed at 157 pounds at this week's NCAA championships in Des Moines, Iowa. The tournament begins March 21 and continues to March 23.
Welch was one of two Wildcats to wrestle in the finals along with sophomore heavyweight Mike McMullan. The No. 2 seed took on top-seeded Tony Nelson from Minnesota, who was the defending Big Ten and NCAA Champion, and lost in a narrow 4-1 decision.
Welch pinned his finals opponent, Green in 6:38 to secure the 2013 Big Ten title. It was an exciting, back-and-forth match, that saw Welch trailing by one before the fall. After a scoreless first period, Welch started the second period down and escaped to take the 1-0 lead. Green then caught Welch out of position and took advantage with a takedown to go ahead 2-1 after two.
Green began the third period down and went up 4-1 after a reversal, but Welch quickly countered with a reversal of his own to trail by one at 4-3. Welch then started to rack up riding time and a ride out would have earned him the 4-4 tie, but he caught Green in a cradle and the official awarded Welch backpoints before he secured the third-period fall. Welch's win avenged his lone loss of the season, a 9-8 decision by Green during the dual season.
Competing in his final Big Ten Championships, Welch, a redshirt senior, has finished runner-up twice and third once and caps his career with a conference title. Ranked No. 1 in the country in a number of wrestling polls, the two-time All-American enters the 2013 NCAA Championships with a 30-1 record.
Welch is the first 157-pound wrestler in Northwestern history to win a Big Ten title.