IU wrestling head coach Angel Escobedo has one goal for the Hoosier as they enter the the Big Ten Championships this weekend — upsets.
Over the past few weeks, Escobedo reiterated that his wrestlers can knock off some of the best wrestlers in the nation in Piscataway, New Jersey.
“If you have a lot of confidence, you can upset anyone in the country,” Escobedo said.
But IU may not have a lot of confidence since it fell 26-10 to the University of Chattanooga at Tennessee on Feb. 21 and only won three bouts to close out the regular season.
The season has not gone how IU hoped since the Hoosiers finished the year with a 2-10 dual match record. Their only conference win came from a three-point nailbiter against Maryland on Jan. 26.
After IU’s loss against North Dakota State on Nov. 22, the team went more than two months before picking up its first victory. Then, it was exactly three more weeks before IU snapped a three-match losing streak with a win over Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
Escobedo took ownership of the struggles after the loss to Nebraska during the losing streak in February. He said he and his coaching staff needed to re-evaluate their match planning and training.
But after the loss at Chattanooga, Escobedo was visibly frustrated with IU’s lack of effort.
“I told these guys that we have to have an identity,” Escobedo said. “We have to get to our attacks and get guys tired. That’s what we’ve been winning on and we got away from that.”
The Hoosiers will try to salvage the year with some upsets in the Big Ten Tournament, since their ambitions of making significant headway as team have been wasted.
IU won’t find the event any easier than its conference season because eight of the top 10 teams in the national rankings are in the Big Ten. In nine of the 10 weight classes, the No. 1 wrestler belongs to the Big Ten.
Junior Liam Cronin, redshirt freshman Graham Rooks and freshman Cayden Rooks provide the most viable chance to advance far into the tournament as individuals. All three are seeded ahead of the tournament in their respective weight groups with Graham Rooks at No. 5, Cronin at No. 7 and Cayden Rooks at No. 9.
Cronin, who began the year as a backup, secured his eighth consecutive win in the match against Chattanooga. He sits at No. 22 in the country at 125 pounds. There will be eight top-25 competitors in the 125-pound weight class in Piscataway, including Cronin and No.1 Spencer Lee from Iowa. Lee pinned Cronin in the dual match in January.
Graham Rooks fell in his regular season finale at Chattanooga but still carries some momentum heading into the postseason. Rooks has won seven of his last ten matches at 149 pounds, including a Big Ten record of 6-3.
Cayden Rooks tallied another win against Chattanooga, making his total 21 for the year at 141 pounds. The top six wrestlers in the country will all prove challenging for Rooks who looks to make a run in his true freshman campaign.
“It’s not easy being consistent, so we need to go back to work,” Escobedo said. “I think these two weeks have been trying to get that spark back in us.”