After two straight weekends of traveling, IU head coach Angel Escobedo said he is happy to be home. The Hoosiers returned at 2 a.m. on Monday from West Point, New York. On Friday, IU will really be home, as the team will be back in the comfort of Wilkinson Hall for its first contest in Bloomington this season.
It was the second weekend in a row the Hoosiers wrestled in New York. This time it was to compete in the Black Knight Invite. The eight-team tournament was headlined by Penn State, Army University and Michigan.
Even though the invite was an individual event, team scores were tallied, with an assigned amount of points being awarded to placers. IU finished last with a total of 19.5 points. Army, who had 140 points and three overall champions, prevailed over Penn State for first place.
“Overall, we had some growing pains as far as still learning to trust in our offense and training,” Escobedo said. “I told them from day one that progress isn’t always pretty. There’s going to be some bumps in the road, but in those bumps we have to stay confident.”
Junior Jacob Covaciu, at 174 pounds, was the bright spot for the Hoosiers on Sunday. He breezed past Bloomsburg University’s Anthony Vetrano with a major decision of 14-1. In the semifinal, Covaciu edged out Army’s Ben Harvey, who was ranked No. 9 in the weight group, by a score of 5-3.
The victory marked Covaciu’s first finals appearance of the season and set an important matchup with No.1 ranked Mark Hall, from Penn State.
The bout would be a steep challenge for Covaciu. Hall, a senior for the Nittany Lions, is a three-time All-American, and 2017 national champion.
Covaciu was unable to pull off the upset as he fell 14-2 to Hall.
Before the season, Escobedo identified Covaciu as a key wrestler for IU this year.
“Every day he comes in to win and break his opponent, no matter who he is wrestling,” Escobedo said. “I think that attitude and that effort is what gets him better by 1% every day.”
Covaciu transferred to IU one year ago but only wrestled in the second semester last year. Even with only half a year of competition for the Hoosiers under his belt, he was still able to qualify for the NCAA national championships last spring. The junior has nailed down the starting spot at 174 pounds.
Covaciu was the only IU wrestler to place in the top six Sunday. The Hoosiers, including Covaciu, had a combined record of 6-25 on the day.
Junior Brock Hudkins did not make the trip with the team to West Point due to injury. But he is not expected to miss an extended period of time. Hudkins won the Michigan State Open on Nov. 2 and is currently ranked 10th by Flo wrestling at 125 pounds.
Escobedo said as of now, junior Liam Cronin will take over Hudkins’ spot.
“Liam is a great guy to fill in,” Escobedo said. “That’s the kind of luxury of having two guys compete for the same weight. As Brock heals up, Liam will have the opportunity to be a starter. I tell the guys that the best teams are comfortable with constant competition, and the competition is best when it's inside our room.”
Sophomore Paul Konrath suffered an injury on the trip to New York. The timetable for 141-pound Konrath is surrounded with more uncertainty as he could be sidelined for a longer period of time.
The meet was the last tournament before the Hoosiers begin their duel match schedule, as they host North Dakota State on Friday.
“It’s going to be nice to sit down and have a recovery day and train to get ready for Friday,” Escobedo said. “I think guys will be recovered.”