For the past few years, IU wrestling has struggled to finish well in the end of season standings.
On top of that, the Hoosiers haven't had a Big Ten Champion since 2010. But IU is looking to turn things around this season with a match Friday night in Madison, Wisconsin, against the Badgers.
That last champion wrestler for the Hoosiers, Angel Escobedo, has returned to his alma mater as an associate head coach for IU this season.
With the return of Escobedo, the Hoosiers now have an example of what hard work and dedication can do if you truly throw yourself into the sport.
But more than just being an example, Escobedo has brought with him a new outlook for some of the wrestlers on the team.
Junior Elijah Oliver is by far the most decorated Hoosier on this year’s team. He has qualified in consecutive years for the NCAA tournament and will look to return to the national stage this season.
However, Oliver's wrestling has been inconsistent due to injuries on the mat. But so far this year Oliver has been healthy and has been one of the more consistent wrestlers on the team.
Oliver said the time off he had due to injuries allowed him to think and prepare mentally for the hurdles with which he is now dealing.
But on top of that, Oliver also said he has changed the way he has been preparing and wrestling in his matches due to the help of coach Escobedo and volunteer assistant coach Brandon Wright.
“This whole time we’ve been practicing I’ve been working on wrestling through positions," Oliver said. “I don’t really focus much on winning or losing. Just continue to get better every match. I went from caring about winning or losing, to caring about just getting better.”
This change in thought process for Oliver has already had an effect. He has one of the top records on the team and looks to continue his success this weekend.
Another wrestler on the rise is redshirt junior Cole Weaver. Weaver is the highest-ranked wrestler on the team, as Flo Wrestling has him ranked No. 16.
“I just want to go into it with a positive mind and mainly just display effort,” Weaver said. “That’s what Angel has been pounding into our heads. He has helped build my confidence and my technique.”
Two other Hoosiers of note are a pair of freshmen, Dillon Hoey and Alejandro Raya.
Last time out against Michigan State, Hoey was forced to burn his redshirt status. According to IU Coach Duane Goldman, Raya will be doing the same Friday night against the Badgers.
“I think any time you can put on the singlet, get on the mat and understand what it takes is a good thing,” Goldman said. “Especially for those guys who have good potential, but one of the biggest things they are lacking is experience, so it’s really good for them to see what it takes.”
Hoey and Raya will look to gain invaluable experience this weekend in their matches against difficult opponents. Hoey will be going against one of the top wrestlers in the country in No. 5-ranked redshirt freshman Evan Wick of Wisconsin.
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IU will take a 12-8 nonconference slate into conference play.
IU has eight more points than last year at this juncture of the meet.
IU is 11-6 overall after its 4-3 win over University of Hawaii on March 14.