IU Coach Duane Goldman has one of the best problems a coach can have for the upcoming 2016-17 season — depth.
The Hoosiers had their fair share of success during the 2015-16 campaign, but this season IU will have a level of depth and experience that was not at its disposal a year ago.
Goldman said the added competition of multiple guys going for a spot can only be beneficial for the team. Many of the freshmen from a year ago either competed for the team or in open tournaments and have had time to grow and develop, he said.
“A lot of them did well in their open tournaments last year,” Goldman said. “All of them are better wrestlers now, as they should be. Once you put the singlet on, you have to perform, whether you’re a freshman or a senior. I think they’re ready to do that.”
Last season, the Hoosiers finished with a 3-6 Big Ten record, which is two more wins than the previous five seasons combined. With that taste of success, the expectations have risen in the locker room.
Goldman said he hopes the team has a lot of unity and support for one another, and that starts with senior Nate Jackson.
Jackson looks forward to seeing his team blossom, especially the younger wrestlers, as the season gets started.
“You’re going to see a lot of fire this year,” Jackson said. “We are going to have a good team this year, so it’s going to be fun knocking off some good teams, and it’s going to be fun watching a lot of guys no one knows about bloom as stars.”
If these stars do develop, the Hoosiers could send more than the two wrestlers that went to nationals last season.
Both of those Hoosiers return for another shot at their ultimate goal — winning a national championship.
Sophomore Elijah Oliver finished last season 32-10 and 1-2 at the NCAA Championships in Madison Square Garden. Despite the successful freshman season, he knew he had things to improve on for this season.
He said he used the offseason to mature a lot mentally. He knows he is better than most physically, but the mental improvements he has made can help propel him to achieving his goal for the season.
“I want to win a national championship,” Oliver said. “Not necessarily trying not to lose, but going out there and dominating every match. I can’t go another season without placing at a tournament.”
Jackson finished last season at 35-9, good for a fifth place and All-American performance at Nationals, but came one point short of reaching the championship match.
This is the season he aims to stop just talking about his dream, but also go out and achieve it.
“I’m going to be a national champ this year,” Jackson said. “I have been talking about this for awhile, and I am finally at the moment. There is no more talking — it’s National Championship time.”