Three IU wrestlers were touted in the top 30 of their respective weight classes, according to preseason rankings released by Open Mat last week.
Rising redshirt sophomore Graham Rooks, rising senior Brock Hudkins and rising redshirt freshman Donnell Washington were all heralded on the list.
Hudkins, who wrestles in the 125-pound weight class, was the highest ranking Hoosier at No. 6.
Hudkins posted a 10-2 record last year and was ranked as high as No. 6 in the country before suffering a season-ending knee injury in late December. He opened the season by capturing a Michigan State Open Championship and took third place in the Journeyman Classic. In the Midlands Championships, which is considered one of the most competitive tournaments in the country, Hudkins swept his first three matches before twisting his knee in what would be his last bout of the season.
Hudkins competed with then-junior Liam Cronin last year for the starting spot at 125 pounds before eventually winning the job. Cronin transferred to Nebraska this offseason, leaving a clear path for Hudkins to start and attempt to regain his top 10 form.
Rooks, who was an NCAA qualifier last year at 149 pounds, was listed at No. 21. As a redshirt freshman, Rooks’ sustained success in his first season of Big Ten competition was a bit of a surprise. He prevailed in six Big Ten dual matches and toppled five ranked opponents. He also took 10th place in the Big Ten Championships.
Washington, who took a redshirt year last season, came in at No. 30 at 174 pounds. At 184 pounds last season, Washington pinned eight opponents, while leading the Hoosiers in wins with 22. Washington placed in all seven tournaments he competed in, adding a first place finish at the Greyhound Open. He also finished in sixth place at the Midlands Championships.
With one year of experience behind him, Washington will look to take a major role in IU’s lineup this upcoming season.
IU’s most recent roster addition, Bucknell University graduate transfer Garrett Hoffman, was listed just outside the top 30 at No. 33 in the heavyweight class. The one-time NCAA qualifier endured an injury-riddled career at Bucknell, including a dislocated knee in his sophomore year. He was forced to sit out his junior campaign before only making one appearance on the mat last season.
The Hoosiers, who only won two dual matches last season, dealt with numerous injuries throughout the year. As a relatively young squad lacking the experience that many other Big Ten programs boast, IU only earned one conference win. Entering IU head coach Angel Escobedo’s third year at the helm, the Hoosiers will look to Hudkins, Rooks and Washington to lead them toward improved production.