A new nickname for redshirt freshman Graham Rooks surfaced on social media before IU took on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Friday night. “Gra-Hammer” stood in the Chattanooga practice room with a Thor-like hammer slung over his shoulder ahead of the match.
For Rooks and IU, the prop failed to increase the team's intensity in its 26-10 loss to Chattanooga to close out the regular season.
“I think that they just capitalized on some opportunities,” IU head coach Angel Escobedo said. “I didn’t think that we had enough fight. Most of the year we have been pushing the pace and have high effort. Tonight I felt like we didn’t do that as much.”
The Hoosiers took the first two bouts of the match to jump out to an early 7-0 advantage.
Junior No. 22 Liam Cronin defeated No. 16 Fabian Guiterriez 9-7 at 125 pounds to increase his winning streak to eight victories in a row. Cronin hasn’t lost a match in over a month, and his recent efforts earned him a spot in the national rankings. His dual match record finished at 9-3.
Freshman Cayden Rooks followed up Cronin with a win of his own. The 12-2 victory for the 133-pound freshman was Rooks’ 21st victory of the season and fourth major decision.
After wins in the first two matches, the Hoosiers endured a five-match drought, dropping them into a 12-point hole.
No. 14 Graham Rooks, who entered the day winning seven of his last nine matches, came up short in a four-point loss against No. 23 Tanner Smith.
Even with the setback, Graham Rooks and Cronin both present the biggest threat to make deep runs in the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA tournament’s. Entering Friday, Graham Rooks and Cronin had combined to win 14 of their last 16 matches and more than doubled their opponents' point totals.
“I think Graham needs to clean up a couple of things, but he was right in that match,” Escobedo said. “I told him just adjust and move forward.”
The Hoosiers finally broke the losing streak when 184-pound senior Jake Hinz upset Chattanooga’s No. 13 Matthew Waddell. The triumph marked Hinz’s second consecutive victory after he took down Austin Andres from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Sunday.
But even with the points from Hinz, the match was essentially already decided since Chattanooga still held a nine-point lead.
The Mocs took the last two matches, sending the Hoosiers back to Bloomington with a loss to end the season.
“Getting to our offensive and getting guys tired, that’s what we’ve been winning on,” Escobedo said. “We kind of got away from that a little bit. I think that we were sitting around a little too much in the first period.”
For the first time all season, Escobedo seemed irritated by the Hoosiers’ efforts. Usually after matches he praises their fight and grit, even when the score doesn’t turn their way.
IU’s record dropped to 2-10 on the year, which is one-third of the wins it collected last season. The Mocs beat the Hoosiers with a comfortable double-digit cushion, and the match was never really in doubt after the halfway mark. With the victory, Chattanooga improves to 7-9 on the season with a majority of its competition coming from the Southern Conference.
Escobedo mentioned his squad didn’t seem to have an identity on Friday.
Any indication that the team was breaking through in its 24-11 senior night victory over SIU Edwardsville was squandered. The Hoosiers will now head into the Big Ten Championship with two weeks to sit on the loss.
“I think it's about getting that spark back in us,” Escobedo said. “It’s not easy to be consistent — we need to get back to work.”