IU wrestling head coach Angel Escobedo wanted to make some changes after the Hoosiers’ last two competitions.
On Nov. 17, IU struggled at the Black Night Invite, posting a 6-25 record between all of the IU wrestlers. Then, in its first match at Wilkinson Hall on Nov. 22, the Hoosiers fell 26-12 to North Dakota State University, continuing its woes in the month.
After the match against North Dakota State, Escobedo re-evaluated the team’s mindset. The Bison controlled the pace against the Hoosiers, and didn’t allow IU to push the tempo.
“I was preaching to the guys that when you have the look to dominate,” Escobedo said. “When you’re only looking to win, things don’t work out the way that you want them to. We’re just trying to change our mindset to want to dominate opponents.”
That mindset is something Escobedo has driven into his wrestlers over the course of the season, but he continued to reinforce it after IU’s last two competitions. After all, Escobedo’s handle on Instagram is “driven2dominate."
Since its last match, Escobedo has altered IU’s practice routine to get the wrestlers used to being uncomfortable.
“Over the past two weeks we have been working on challenging our guys and putting them in areas where they have to solve problems,” Escobedo said. “In a wrestling match you don’t always know what’s going to happen and you have to figure out how to solve the problem in front of you.”
The Hoosiers’ brief break gave the team the opportunity to rest, and work on their technique. And it paid off at the UNI Open on Saturday.
Three Hoosiers, senior Fernando Silva (157) and sophomores Graham Rooks (149) and Kyle Luigs (141) all won tournament titles in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
“They were trying to dominate which separated them from the field,” Escobedo said.
Luigs showed off his tenacious mindset as he pinned South Dakota State University’s Rylee Moliter in the championship match.
Escobedo’s motivation must have also hit home with Rooks too, who controlled all of his three matches. The sophomore outscored his opponents 26-7, including a 12-4 major decision over the University of Northern Iowa’s Gable Fox in the tournament final.
Silva advanced through the first two rounds before prevailing over Derek Holschlag of Northern Iowa 6-5 to take home a tournament title.
Escobedo also saw junior Liam Cronin show resilience on Saturday. Even though Cronin only placed 5th in his draw, he showed poise in his last match.
Cronin fell into an early deficit to Corey Cabanban of Iowa State University.
“Liam was down by five points going into the third period and found a way to get the W,” Escobedo said. “You’re down by five, can you solve that problem. Instead of panic, it’s pick away at the lead. I felt that up and down the lineup we were able to do that.”
Among the three champions, freshman Donnell Washington placed second after being defeated in sudden victory in the championship match at 174 pounds.
IU will have another two weeks to continue working on the mat and sharpening its mindset before taking part in the Midlands Championships during the holiday season on Dec. 29 and 30 in Evanston, Illinois.
Escobedo said the tournament is always a good measuring stick heading into the Big 10 conference schedule. FloWrestling calls it “The most prestigious and arguably the toughest in-season college wrestling tournament.”
“Midlands is a big tournament for us,” Escobedo said. “If you get on the podium at midlands you may end up ranked. It’s a big opportunity for our guys.”