IU head coach Angel Escobedo didn't get everything he wanted for his birthday. His team was unable to gift him a win Sunday.
IU dropped its second conference match in three days to Illinois on Sunday after a drubbing by Iowa Friday night.
On Sunday, Escobedo's birthday, sophomore Graham Rooks was the only IU wrestler to pick up a victory as the Hoosiers struggled again en route to a 32-3 loss in Champaign, Illinois.
Rooks may have relied on some birthday energy of his own, as he turned 20 on Sunday. But while many matches were close, IU wasn’t able to put any other points on the scoreboard.
“I think Illinois was more aggressive in their attacks," Escobedo said. "When they saw the opening they took them. Both guys are trying to get there, but we were too hesitant.”
Outside of two technical falls by Illinois, six of the nine IU losses were by a slim margin of four points or less.
“We’re in the position to win matches, but we just have to be able to capitalize,” Escobedo said. “Now, it's just a belief thing of making it happen. Instead of being close, we have to try to make that next step of getting that signature win.”
Junior Jake Covaciu, sophomore Rudy Streck and freshmen Cayden Rooks and Nick Willham all came up short 3-1 in their respective matches.
IU’s dismal start to its conference slate began when Iowa came to town on Friday night.
The Hawkeyes flexed their muscles and No.1 ranking in Bloomington, leaving no doubt that they are one of the country’s premier squads. Iowa collected three pins on their way to a 41-0 beatdown of the Hoosiers in Wilkinson Hall.
Despite the score, Escobedo wasn’t discouraged by his team’s attitude.
“I thought for the most part up and down the lineup we competed,” Escobedo said in a press release. “I don’t think we took a back seat to them, and we were looking for our opportunities. We were in position to win some of those matches.”
Friday night opened with IU sophomore Graham Rooks facing off against No. 3 Pat Lugo in the 149-pound weight class. After trailing by as many as six points, Rooks scored consecutive takedowns to cut the score to 7-5. But in the end, Lugo prevailed with a 10-6 victory.
The bout set the tone for the rest of the weekend for the Hoosiers, whose conference record dropped to 0-2 on the season and 0-3 overall.
Against Illinois, many IU wrestlers were able to hang with Iowa for a period or two but were never able to break through.
At 174-pounds, junior Jake Covaviu put up a fight for the Hoosiers, only dropping his match 9-6 to No. 2 Michael Kemerer.
After Covaciu, IU senior Jake Hinz came up short 6-2 against Iowa’s Abe Assad.
“We’re in really good shape, so we need to be able to score when guys are tired,” Escobedo said. “Just knowing what you are going to do when a guy is tired. I’m really trying to get them to understand it. I felt like against Iowa and Illinois we let them off the hook when they were tired.”
While some matches were competitive, others were dominated by Iowa. Heavy-weight Rudy Streck fell in the first period.
Iowa’s two-time national champion Spencer Lee didn’t waste any time with Liam Cronin at 125-pounds, as the match ended early with a technical fall and 15-0 victory. Shortly after, sophomore Jonathan Moran, who filled in for the suspended Kyle Luigs, was pinned in the first period.
The match came more than a week after IU’s final individual tournament, the Midlands Championships, in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Three Hoosiers wrestlers secured spots on the podium.
One of the placers was No. 6 Brock Hudkins, who suffered a knee-injury in the semi-final match and had to sit out the both bouts. The timetable is still unclear for Hudkins’ return.
IU will be on to Big Ten competition with No.8 Northwestern up next on Saturday in Evanston, Illinois.
The clashes this weekend were a good gauge for IU to see how much progress it has made and how far it still has to go.
“You can’t wait on it and think that things are going to change,” Escobedo said. “It’s not about being sad that you lost, it’s about having that burning desire to get better from a loss and keeping it positive. We still have time to get better, but at the same time everyday counts.”