Directly following the Michigan State Open last weekend, the young Hoosier wrestlers had a request for head coach Angel Escobedo.
After four freshmen, including Nick Willham who captured a championship at 197 pounds, placed in the top three in East Lansing in the freshman/sophomore draw, they wanted to meet with Escobedo.
“They didn’t want to wrestle in the underclassmen tournaments anymore,” Escobedo said. “They felt like they were ready to take a step up.”
Escobedo listened, and he agreed.
The IU wrestling team split its squad Sunday, sending the redshirted wrestlers to the Ohio Open and the older wrestlers to the Journeymen classic in Troy, New York.
The young group of IU wrestlers backed up to its calls to face superior competition.
Freshmen Cayden Rooks (133), Donnell Washington (174) and Nick South (165) all finished in second place in Ohio.
“It’s a special group,” Escobedo said of the freshman class.
In New York, rather than having a traditional bracket, the weight classes were broken up into multiple pools that small groups of wrestlers competed in. Escobedo said he likes the setup better because it guarantees three matches and ensures the Hoosiers will get match experience.
A quartet of Hoosiers had unblemished, 3-0 records. Sophomore Kyle Luigs (133), sophomore Joey Sanchez (157), junior Dillon Hoey (165) and freshman Greg Hagan (285) all dominated their competition in the Empire State and placed first in their respective divisions.
Sanchez breezed past his opponents, outscoring them by a total of 43-13, including a 21-6 technical fall over unattached wrestler Aladeen Hussein.
Hagan notched two pins in his first two matches and shutout Hofstra University’s Reggie Poulin 6-0 in his third.
Luigs had two big wins over conference competition in victories over Nebraska’s Zak Hensley and Rugters’ Zack Firestone.
Escobedo said he noticed a difference in the IU wrestlers’ demeanor after having a successful tournament in East Lansing.
“I saw our guys have a lot more confidence this weekend. We were taking more risks, going for bigger wins and getting more pins,” Escobedo said. “It was great to continue to see the hard work pay off for them.”
With two tuneup tournaments down, IU will head back to New York for the Black Knight invite Sunday and has its first home duel meet on Nov. 22 against North Dakota State University.
The young group of Hoosiers continues to drive the future for IU wrestling, and Escobedo said he is excited to see their ever-developing progress.
“There is no age on greatness,” Escobedo said.