Rinse and repeat. The cyclical conundrum of a season for the IU wrestling team continued this weekend against Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Nebraska.
In what is beginning to feel like a pattern, the top half of the Hoosiers lineup had most of the success, while the bottom half once again squandered a lead.
On Friday night in Madison, the Hoosiers lost 24-19 and on Sunday afternoon in Lincoln, the Hoosiers lost 23-18.
While discouraging, the overall weekend was not a total disappointment for IU Coach Duane Goldman and his staff.
The Hoosiers had been preaching improvement in the days leading up to their matches this weekend. Goldman and the assistant coaches made it a point to let the players know their success this season doesn’t come down to the wins and losses, but how each wrestler competes and fights.
These values could not be more evident than in the scores and outcomes for the Hoosiers top wrestlers.
Junior Elijah Oliver recorded his second pin of the season Friday night and won in a sudden victory Sunday with a winning drop to stay unbeaten in conference duel meets.
Sophomore Garrett Pepple was unable to pull out a victory against the Badgers, but against the Huskers, Pepple recorded his fifth fall of the season with a pin in the first period.
Junior and No. 16-ranked Cole Weaver, who has had arguably the best season for the Hoosiers, continued the early success with a 34-second pin against the Badgers. And in the biggest match-up of the night against No. 13 ranked Chad Red Jr. from Nebraska, Weaver took the match to overtime and with a big reversal, and won with a 6-5 decision.
Sophomore Devin Skatzka, the Hoosier’s other Flowrestling-ranked wrestler at No. 19, had a big win for his first major decision of the year, scoring four points for the Hoosiers against the Badgers. Against the Huskers, Skatzka continued his success with an 8-3 decision that brought IU to within only one point of the Huskers.
In both match-ups, the stars for the Hoosiers were able to prevail and get big wins for the squad, but at the end of the day, the rest of the team could not continue the success.
The improvement mentioned earlier is a big positive step for the Hoosiers. But the dual losses just keep coming. In a difficult Big Ten conference, the Hoosiers are still situated at the bottom of the standings. But the losing has not held IU back from competing and giving each match everything it has.
In Oliver, Skatzka and Weaver, the Hoosiers have three of the top wrestlers for their weight. Oliver and Weaver have an extra year of eligibility, and Skatza has two. This will allow Goldman to continue to build the program and individual successes for the Hoosiers.
With more improvement expected by the end of the season, the Hoosiers should fully expect to send multiple wrestlers to the NCAA tournament at season's end. The total number of wrestlers who qualify will offer a better sense of the quality of the program going into next season.
The road matches for the Hoosiers are over for the remainder of the season as they return home for their final three home matches. The first of them being this Friday against No. 15 Illinois and the second Sunday against No. 24 Purdue.