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Tuesday, Nov. 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports wrestling

Touted grapplers hope to pin competition as they open up season in B-town

With a national champion and two All-Americans last year, the IU wrestling team had what it generally considered a successful 2008-2009 season.

This year, junior Nathan Everheart said the team is aiming for a higher goal, and that goal has a ranking next to it.

“I think that at Nationals, we have a lot better chances of placing higher,” Everheart said. “If our team does well, I think we should definitely be top five. That would be a successful season for us.”

The IU wrestling team, ranked No. 16 in the nation by Wrestling International Newsmagazine and InterMat in pre-season polls, is preparing for the season opener on Sunday in the Michigan State Open.

IU coach Duane Goldman has similar expectations to those he has every year, he said. He hopes to take his individual wrestlers through the season healthy, fresh and prepared for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.

While they wrestle a tough schedule, Goldman said, the successes in the regular season do not compare to the importance of the National Tournament.

The Hoosiers face some challenges this year, as well. One of Goldman’s short-term goals, for now, is to get a set lineup and determine who his starters are and get them “hardened for battle.” The team has six weight classes left up for grabs due to wrestlers changing classes and senior class graduation.

“We have at least three weight classes where we need to regroup and improve,” Goldman said. “I think we have the talent, but I don’t know if we have the confidence of last year’s team.”

That’s not to say the team is not ready to perform. IU returns three previous All-American wrestlers who Goldman expects to step up and lead the team: defending national champion Angel Escobedo, junior Matt Coughlin and senior Andrae Hernandez, Escobedo’s cousin.

The team expects to improve on last year’s record, but it knows the Big Ten presents some of the most challenging opponents in the nation. Wrestling International ranked eight Big Ten teams besides IU in its top 25, including Nos. 1 and 2 Iowa and Ohio State, respectively.

“I think because it’s so tough in the Big Ten,” Everheart said. “I would say record-wise, it would be a success to finish about the same as last year.”

Members of the team are prepared to improve upon their individual results as well. Seeing as many of the wrestlers have experience in the national spotlight, they have set their sights high in anticipation of great seasons.

“You always go into the season with high expectations,” Escobedo said. “This year, I’m looking to go undefeated and hopefully win a national title again.”

Hernandez and others are going through changes to ensure success this year.

“I’m moving up a weight class,” Hernandez said. “Just moving up a weight class from last year is definitely going to help me out, because my body won’t have to go through as much strain and stress as last year.”

Compared to last year, several Hoosiers said there are many strengths as well as weaknesses they need to improve on. While there is more experience on the team as a whole and wrestlers are “hungry,” Everheart said, confidence is necessary for success in such a tough conference.

“I think it’s just believing in ourselves,” Hernandez said. “We’re competing in the Big Ten, and that’s the toughest conference, but we wanted to be in the Big Ten for a reason. We wanted to wrestle the best.”

The Michigan State Open, which will take place Sunday, will start the team’s season. Coughlin said he hopes to start off strong.

“When I go to the opens, I just shoot for one thing,” Coughlin said, “and that’s to win it.”

Most of the team will wrestle either as representatives of IU or as unattached wrestlers.

“Definitely on an individual level, we’re looking for guys to go in there and beat people,” Goldman said. “They need to be ready to go. Hopefully, we have a number of guys do well.”

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