After a disappointing start to the season with a loss at Cal Poly, the morale from the IU wrestling team was low.
Since that loss, IU has beaten George Mason 35-6 and took home first place at the Navy Classic. As the results on the scoreboard started to change, so did the morale.
“The morale is really high, and I think leading into the Cal Poly match the morale wasn’t where it needed to be,” senior Nate Jackson said. “As a leader, I took some of the responsibility on myself, feeling I wasn’t doing some of the little things the team may have needed. I feel like right now we are where we need to be mentally and together as a unit.”
On Sunday, the Hoosiers look to keep things rolling as they face off against SIU-Edwardsville and North Dakota State in the second double dual of the season on the road.
SIUE will open its dual season, and NDSU is 1-1 on the season with a win against No. 14 Iowa State and a loss to No. 17 Oklahoma.
Neither team is ranked nationally, but each team has a ranked individual in the 125-pound weight class, which will be a challenge for the Hoosiers because IU's No. 14 Elijah Oliver is out this weekend due to an injury.
Jackson said the team needs and is ready for the challenge of missing one of its best wrestlers and still expects the weekend to be a good one for the team.
From an individual perspective, Jackson could not have gotten off to a much better start.
He is 8-0, all eight victories had bonus points involved, and he won the 184-pound weight class at the Navy Classic.
Jackson said one of his big goals coming into the season was not to have a lot of close matches. He said he wants to receive lots of bonus points and believes his dominance will stick in the mind of his opponents later this season.
The Hoosiers have been traveling all season up to this point. They have been on the West Coast, East Coast and will now stay in the midwest this weekend. Traveling has been a blessing to bring the team, especially the younger guys, together.
“The whole dynamic of those guys being together and forced to interact and get to know each other,” IU Coach Duane Goldman said about making the team chemistry strong . “We have a really close group of guys. For those guys that are just starting, it’s important. It’s been a blessing to have been on the road quite a bit.”
Heading into more traveling and matches this weekend, the wrestlers hope to get two more wins, and the coaches will look to do what they always do: keep their wrestlers loose.
“The coaches keep us loose. We don’t press too much,” Jackson said. “As individuals, we aren’t nervous going into our matches. We’re confident and comfortable. It’s going to come down to wrestling seven minutes.”