Two Hoosiers will be spending their spring break wrestling against the best in the country in Madison Square Garden at the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships.
After the Big Ten Championships, IU Coach Duane Goldman did not want to give the two wrestlers any extended time to rest up for the championships. Rather, he wanted them to prepare as early as possible.
“We need to continue to push forward this week, because this is a week where we need to make up some ground so we can taper down next week,” Goldman said. “We want to be fresh for nationals, so we need to have some good practices in the next couple of weeks."
Junior Nate Jackson finished fourth at the Big Ten Championships and locked himself in the 174-pound weight class for the NCAA Championships.
Jackson also wrestled at the NCAAs last season, going 3-2 as a sophomore.
Jackson has said on multiple occasions those three wins made him realize he belongs with the best, and he hopes to better that performance from last year.
Going along for the ride with him is freshman Elijah Oliver. He also earned a podium finish at the Big Ten Championships, coming away with a fifth place finish, which locked him in the NCAA Championships field.
Oliver is 31-8 in his freshman season. He said he knows what it's like to compete with the best of the best after competing in his first Big Ten Championships.
"Competitions like this are always tough, but in this tournament everyone is really good," Oliver said. "Everyone knew what they had to do this weekend to get to the NCAA Championships, so everyone was at their best and wrestling at their hardest. The competition was very intense."
After that experience, Oliver will wrestle a familiar face in the first round of the NCAAs.
He drew Sean McCabe of Rutgers. Oliver wrestled him at the Big Ten Championships and won 8-6. After that match, depending on outcomes, Oliver could go up against another familiar face.
Oliver could wrestle unbeaten No. 1 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State who beat Oliver 17-5 earlier in the season.
Oliver has said all year long he has bigger plans than just making it to the NCAAs. That mindset has not changed and he hopes to perform well in his first NCAA Championships, despite being a freshman.
"I'm looking forward to the preparation," Oliver said. "I'm ready to get back in the room, look at some film, analyze my performances and find what I was doing wrong so I can succeed at the NCAA Championships in two weeks. That's my top priority, and now that I'm there, I have to show up."