IU wrestling head coach Angel Escobedo has been trying to take the season one match at a time. The Hoosiers dropped their first two conference matches by a combined score of 73-3.
"It’s not about being sad that you lost," Escobedo said after the first two competitions. "It’s about having that burning desire to get better from a loss and keeping it positive.”
The Hoosiers didn’t turn the season around with one match. In fact, they didn’t even win the meeting. IU fell to No. 15 Northwestern 21-15 Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois.
The Wildcats clinched the day one match early when Lucas Davidson finished off freshman Nick Willham 6-2 in the 197-pound weight class.
Even with the loss, the match was a step in the right direction for Escobedo and his team.
The Rooks brothers, 133-pound freshman Cayden and 149-pound sophomore Graham, who are regulars in the starting lineup, got IU off to a solid start with two wins and knotted the score early at six.
Graham, who is now 2-1 in Big Ten matches this year, rallied in a battle with No.14 Yahya Thomas. In the second sudden victory period, Rooks escaped from Thomas for one point and then held Thomas without a point in the next 30-second period to secure a win.
The younger of the two, Cayden, controlled his match on the way to a 8-2 triumph and the first Big Ten conference win.
“They are two of the hardest workers in the room,” Escobedo said. “They want to work and get better and make the most out of practice. I think that they get better from week to week because of that.”
Despite early progress, two straight IU losses from senior Fernando Silva and junior Davey Tunon set the Hoosiers back.
Silva battled No.1 Ryan Deakin, holding even at the end of the first period 0-0. Deakin, however, separated himself in the next two periods, taking a major decision 13-3.
At 174 pounds, No. 25 junior Jake Covaciu made quick work out of Northwestern’s Ankhaa Enkhmandakh, pinning him in the first period.
“We can always look to Jake to lead the guys, and I think they all respect him,” Escobedo said. “He’s our staple leader right now and we’ll keep trying to build off of him.”
The Hoosiers weren't consistent Saturday as Jake Hinz and Nick Willham both dropped their bouts, ending any hope for a comeback attempt.
With the defeat, the Hoosiers are still searching for their first conference victory. IU’s next opportunity will come Monday night in Wilkinson Hall with a primetime matchup against No. 9 Purdue.
“We need to keep focusing on every guy doing their job, going out there and focusing on their match,” Escobedo said. “Control what they can control, capitalize on the moment.”
The upcoming competition is an Indiana rivalry with only one team ranked, but a number means little to Escobedo.
“In rivalry week, I think ranked teams go out the door,” Escobedo said.
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