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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports wrestling

IU wrestling overwhelmed in weekend bouts, builds future

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Young Hoosier wrestling fans scurried across the Wilkinson Hall floor for the youth clinic Sunday ahead of the IU’s matchup with No. 5 Minnesota.

The youth had the energy that the team seemed to lack against the Golden Gophers in IU’s 38-9 defeat, similar to when they dropped to Wisconsin 27-12 on Friday. 

“We just have to do a better job,” IU head coach Angel Escobedo said. “We have to see why we didn’t have enough pop today and go back to the drawing board. It’s on us. Sometimes as a coaching staff, you just have to look back at what the difference is.”

157-pound senior Fernando Silva, who came off his first conference win Friday, took No. 22 Ryan Thomas from Minnesota to a sudden-victory period Sunday. In the extra period, Thomas picked up a walk-off win.

The Hoosiers fell flat the rest of the day. Over the next five matches after Silva, not one IU wrestler made it to the third period.

Junior Dylan Hoey was pinned at 165 pounds. Then sophomore Diego Lemley, who’s filling in for the injured Jake Covaciu at 174 pounds, was drubbed in technical fall in the first period.

Three consecutive pins followed, including a bout from Minnesota’s No. 1 heavyweight Gable Steveson who made easy work of sophomore Rudy Streck, earning a fall with only one minute off the clock.

Halfway through the match on Sunday, when Minnesota already held a commanding 26-0 advantage, a young fan posed the question: “Where did all of our points go?”

IU finally put points on the board when Minnesota failed to have a wrestler in the 125-pound weight class. Junior Liam Cronin ran onto the mat to collect a forfeit. Cronin has won four straight conference victory, as he’s outscored his opponents 27-11 over the recent stretch.

“I think that my abilities have always been there,” Cronin said. “I put in a lot of work over the summer wrestling Greco. I think the thing that separated the beginning of the season to now was my mindset and being confident that I can beat anyone out there.”

Escobedo said he has seen Cronin emerge as a leader over the last few weeks. Cronin is the lone wrestler at 125 pounds after junior Brock Hudkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in December.

“He’s always worked really hard and now he’s vocal, and that in turn builds his confidence,” Escobedo said. “You walk around with your head high.”

IU squared off against five ranked wrestlers against Wisconsin on Friday. Among them, freshman Cayden Rooks fell 12-4 to No. 1 Seth Gross. 

“Seeing the competition we see, especially for the freshman, carrying into their sophomore, junior and senior years, it will definitely help out," Cronin said. "It will prepare our guys to be confident.”

After the weekend, IU’s conference record is now a dismal 1-7, and there is only one Big Ten match left to make up ground. Their season is essentially decided at this point, barring a strong performance at the Big Ten Championships.

So, the Hoosiers’ focus has seemed to have shifted to the future. Almost half of IU’s regular starting lineup is filled with freshman. The Hoosiers will continue to learn from their bouts the rest of this year and carry it into next season.

That focus is already starting to pay off for Rooks, who picked up a sudden-victory win Sunday, outworking his opponent in the extra time.

For the IU wrestling program, building the future also means getting the community involved. Nearly three hundred kids came out to the clinic Sunday morning.

“When our coaching staff took over this program, we knew that we had to give back to the community and the state of Indiana,” Escobedo said. “It starts with youth.”

Six-year-old Garrett Tabler, his five-year-old brother Wyatt and their father Chad made a family trip to Wilkinson Hall on Sunday. It was their first experience at an IU wrestling match.

Garrett said his favorite part was wrestling with his brother. Wyatt said the pizza provided for them was his favorite part.

While IU didn’t get the result they wanted, the match Sunday could foster their love for the sport.

“This is the future of the school,” Chad said with a smile.

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