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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports wrestling

IU wrestling counts on Liam Cronin, falters as a team

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IU wrestling was met with disappointment again as it dropped its match to Rutgers 29-7 on Friday, making it the team's sixth straight loss this year.

Junior Liam Cronin set the tempo in the first match of the night. He trailed to No. 14 Nicolas Aguilar 1-0 heading into the 3rd period, but he surged into the lead and took a 4-2 victory, giving IU the early 3-0 overall advantage.

It was exactly how the match began Monday when Purdue came to Wilkinson Hall. IU redshirt freshman Graham Rooks upset No. 15 Griffin Parriott 9-3 to open the competition. Like Cronin, Rooks overcame a two point deficit, turning it into a six-point win.

There was an evident swing of momentum in both matches, with IU falling behind and then fighting back. Both days signaled what seemed to be a breakthrough for the Hoosiers. And both scores ended in double-digit losses for the Hoosiers.

After Cronin, there were more struggles for the Hoosiers. Newly ranked at No. 22, Rooks dropped his match 13-7. His brother, Cayden Rooks, who was coming of off two consecutive wins, was dominated in a 14-5 loss. Junior Davey Tunon fell 12-3 after being controlled all eight minutes of the match. The overall score spiraled out of control at 17-3. Junior Jake Covaciu was the only other IU wrestler to earn a victory.

Cronin has become a key wrestler for the Hoosiers over the last two weeks.

Entering the season, Cronin was in a competition with junior Brock Hudkins for the starting spot at 125 pounds. IU head coach Angel Escobedo said whoever got the bid in the lineup would be an All-American. Hudkins ended up taking the spot and established himself as a top-10 wrestler in the weight class.

Cronin was forced to take a back seat. He was coming off arguably the most successful summer of his career, during which he nearly qualified for the U23 Greco-Roman World Team.

Then Hudkins got hurt. At first it was bumps and bruises, and then it was the serious knee injury he suffered at the end of December that has sidelined him since.

Enter Cronin.

His name has been rooted in the IU starting lineup since conference play started Jan. 10,  but he struggled at times. He was shut down by Iowa's No. 1 Spencer Lee, losing 15-0 in just more than three minutes. Losses to Illinois and Northwestern followed.

But then Cronin stepped up. On Monday, he upended No. 6 Devin Schroder 3-1. He was done taking a back seat.

Cronin said that in his head, he knew he was an all-conference wrestler. In his head, he was an All-American. In his head, he was a national champion.

“I believe that I deserved to be there,” Cronin said after Monday's match. “I’ve put in so much hard work. It felt good to break through and see my results match my hard work.”

And now, IU’s uphill battle only becomes steeper. But Friday’s win makes it Cronin's second conference victory in a row. He will have the opportunity to extend that streak Sunday against Maryland.

“We just have to keep counting on each other,” Cronin said.

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