This weekend in East Lansing, two of the Hoosiers top wrestlers qualified for the NCAA tournament that will take place the weekend of March 15 to 17 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
While many believed the two qualifiers would be top wrestlers sophomore Devin Skatzka and junior Cole Weaver, it was two different competitors that bought their tickets to Cleveland. Those two are junior Elijah Oliver, making his third consecutive appearance, and junior Bryce Martin, appearing in his first.
Martin's season has a story. As mentioned in the tournament preview, Martin was injured during the first half of IU’s season. He had one last opportunity to earn a big win and make his way into the tournament, and he did just that.
After losing his first matchup versus Minnesota senior Nick Wanzek, Martin rebounded and won his next match to make it into the second session of the tournament. He then lost his next match, which placed him against Purdue’s No. 18-ranked senior, Jacob Morrissey in the ninth-place duel. Martin was injured during the last Purdue bout at University Gym, so he had not yet had the opportunity to wrestle Morrissey.
Morrissey started the match strong with a takedown late in the third period, but Martin rebounded quickly by escaping. In the second period, Martin started in the down position, but after another quick escape, Martin lunged for a takedown. Martin converted the drop, and rolled Morrissey over for four big points
By this point in the match, the decision was all but given, with little opportunities for Morrissey to come back. From there, Martin cruised to two more takedowns and a near fall in the final minute to give him an 18-4 decision.
This decision was possibly one of the best the Hoosiers have had all season. Martin started strong, and continued to put his opponent away without even allowing him the opportunity to sniff a victory. Martin became the 170th wrestler in program history to qualify for the tournament and the 55th under IU Coach Duane Goldman.
Then there was Oliver.
Oliver, who has been one of the singular standouts on a team that has struggled the last few years, was able to qualify by beating freshman Travis Piotrowski from Illinois. Oliver lost to Piotrowski the last time the two faced on Feb. 2 at University Gym. With a 2-2 tie going into the second period, Oliver fought hard to secure a 7-3 decision in the second consolation round to help earn him the eighth-place finish.
Both Weaver and Skatzka were prepared to move on to the tournament next month. But in disappointing fashion, Weaver was only able to get 2 wins which earned him the ninth-place finish, and Skatzka ended his weekend in the same way, but in the eighth-place finish. Both of these wrestlers had a solid weekend, but each finished one spot short of an automatic qualification to the tournament.
However, that does not mean that their seasons are over quite yet. Each of these wrestlers are ranked in the top 25 in both the Coaches and NCAA RPI Polls. This means they each have a good shot at earning one of the 47 at large bids during the NCAA selection show on Wednesday night.