IU wrestling traveled to the Midlands Tournament hosted by Northwestern, a tournament full of ranked talent, and two Hoosiers came away with top-five finishes.
Along with the team’s overall finish at 13th out of 42, six Hoosier grapplers advanced to session two of the tournament. The tournament spread four sessions across two days, with two sessions on Thursday and two on Friday.
Sophomore Cole Weaver of the 141-pound weight class recovered well after dropping his first match of the tournament by reeling off three straight wins, including one pin, before dropping a match to Nick Zanetta of Pittsburgh 5-1.
149-pound junior Luke Blanton went 2-2 in the tournament, advancing by forfeit and defeating Tyshawn Williams of SIU-Edwardsville before dropping a match against No. 19 Davion Jefferies of Oklahoma to end his run in the Midlands.
Sophomore Jake Danishek went 2-2 in the 157-pound class during the tournament and his campaign came to an end in dramatic fashion, dropping a close bout with No. 8 DeWaylon Barnes of Oklahoma in sudden-death overtime.
Unattached freshman and 197-pound Blake Rypel went 2-2, including a win over No. 15 Brad Johnson of Oklahoma.
Beyond these four, No. 6 senior Nate Jackson of the 184-pound class and freshman Devin Skatzka of the 174-pound class advanced to the second day of the tournament.
Jackson cruised through day one, going 3-0 and outscoring his opponents 39-8. In session three, he went 2-1 defeating No. 5 Sammy Brooks, 3-1.
In the semifinals he dropped his first match of the season, 10-6, against No. 2 T.J. Dudley of Nebraska. Jackson bounced back in the consolation bracket defeating Pete Renda of North Carolina State, 8-6.
The consolation match win led to a rematch with Brooks in a battle for third place in the best class of the tournament, where seven of the top 12 national wrestlers in the class were present.
Jackson got off to a good start, recording an early takedown and accumulating some early riding time in the first period, leading 2-1.The start was not enough, however, as Brooks got a takedown and 4-point near fall in the second to put the match out of reach, handing Jackson a fourth-place finish.
Despite dropping the third place match, IU Coach Duane Goldman said Jackson learned a lot during the competitive tournament.
“In the end, he was winning his match for third and made one mistake that cost him the match,” Goldman said. “He beat the guy earlier in the tournament, and they are going to meet later in the year. I think he learned a little bit and understands what he needs to do because this is not the ultimate goal. To place in the Midlands is a great accomplishment.”
Skatzka said he wanted to place this year, as he came up one win short of placing last season, and he did just that.
He went 3-1 in day one, including a pin over No. 15 C.J. Brucki of Central Michigan. In the first session of day two, Skatzka went 2-1, including another pin, and lost to No. 4 Alex Meyer of Iowa, setting up a fifth place bout with No. 22 Ryan Christensen of Wisconsin — whom he lost to earlier in the season — in the final session of the tournament.
In the rematch, Skatzka came out firing by securing an early takedown and riding Christensen out the rest of the first period. In the second, he recorded a takedown along with a 2-point near fall to extend his lead to 6-1 heading to the final period. jz
Skatzka didn't stop there. In the third, he recorded his third takedown of the match and received a bonus point for riding time, defeating Christensen 9-2 to take fifth place for the tournament.
“Devin had a great tournament,” Goldman said. “He made a lot of improvements in his wrestling. He beat some really good guys, I think he beat three guys that are or were in the top 20 at some point in time. He wrestled a really good tournament and seemed to get better with each round as his confidence went up.”
Jackson, Skatzka and the Hoosiers look to keep building as the hardest part of the season is right around the corner starting on Friday, Jan. 13 when the Hoosiers travel to West Lafayette to take on Purdue in Mackey Arena to start a stretch of eight straight Big Ten dual matches.
“We need, as I have said before, everybody on the same page if we are going to have a chance in these duals,” Goldman said. “It’s very challenging, we have a lot of tough stuff coming up. We have Purdue and they are doing a ‘Pack the Mack Night,’ and they have a really strong dual meet team. We have a lot of challenges, but I like our group and I know they are working hard.”