After the break in action, multiple Hoosiers are ready and excited for the upcoming Big Ten Wrestling Tournament this weekend hosted at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan.
Five Hoosiers, led by sophomore Devin Skatzka, the sixth seed at 174 lbs., are listed in the initial draw posted Monday by the Big Ten Conference.
Even though Skatzka is the highest-ranked Hoosier in the tournament, junior Cole Weaver is Indiana’s highest-ranked poll wrestler and sits in the seventh seed at 141 lbs.
Other Hoosiers ranked in the polls are No. 10 junior Elijah Oliver at 125 lbs., No. 14 freshman A.J Raya at 149 lbs. and No. 11 junior Bryce Martin at 165 lbs.
Oliver, Raya and Martin were named in the rankings due to the Big Ten receiving more than eight NCAA Championship qualifier spots in their weights. They were able to field the entire field for the 125 lbs., 149 lbs. and 165 lbs.
For the weights not yet filled by the conference, there will be a random draw one day prior to the start of the tournament to fill the bracket. The remaining half of Indiana’s lineup will learn their fate in that preliminary drawing.
Martin, after spending half of the season out with an injury, returns just in time to try and see if he can make up for lost competing time with a strong showing against some of the best wrestlers in the country. If he can improve on his No. 11 ranking and jump into the top ten, then he may be able to get himself into the NCAA tournament.
IU Coach Duane Goldman spoke about this ability to make up ground for wrestlers like Martin.
“They need to win. That’s basically it at this point,” Goldman said. “This is an opportunity to win. Make up some ground. For others, they don’t want to lose ground. But when they get to the Big Ten tournament, hopefully the guys just do well.”
According to the NCAA website, each wrestler has a few opportunities to qualify for the tournament. Their first opportunity comes through the conference tournaments. For each weight class, the NCAA awards a certain amount of spots to each conference.
The Big Ten almost always has the most open spots because of their dominance in the sport, but if they do not qualify in the top spots for their conference, then they will join to pool players hoping to get an at-large bid. There will be 47 at-large bids given out on March 6th, based on a number of criteria from the season as well as the conference tournament.
With the rest of the Big Ten teams continuing to have an inordinate amount of success, they could not be more ready for the post season to begin. Penn State boasts four top-seeded wrestlers, Ohio State and Michigan have two for themselves and Illinois, Iowa and Rutgers have one top wrestler.
Two individual wrestlers, Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez at 165 lbs., and Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello at 125 lbs., look to become just the 15th and 16th wrestlers in Big Ten history to win four individual titles.
The Big Ten tournament begins on Saturday, March 3 with doors opening to the public at 8:30 a.m. and the first of the match ups starting at 10 a.m.