IU wrestling wasn’t able to capitalize on its home-mat advantage and momentum from last weekend’s win Saturday, losing both of its duals to No. 23 Michigan State and No. 7 Nebraska by scores of 28-10 and 47-0, respectively. IU is now 1-5 in duals this season.
IU head coach Angel Escobedo said he thinks having senior Brock Hudkins and redshirt sophomore Graham Rooks as late scratches out of the lineup swung the team’s momentum in the wrong direction from the beginning and it snowballed from there.
“I still believe we’re almost right there,” Escobedo said. “I think in those matches we were competitive, but again we just have to continue to get better so we can make that jump.”
After three individual wins in its first dual of the day against Michigan State, IU was shutout against Nebraska. The Huskers secured pins in three of the first four matches of the dual, and IU lost the last two matches by medical default with sophomores Nick Willham and Jacob Bullock going down with injuries.
“The overall message is: ‘It’s up to us.’ We have to make the decision to not let that happen again,” sophomore Nick South said after the meet. “I think by the time Big Tens roll around, there’s going to be a significant change and everybody’s going to see it.”
The 165-pound South got off to a strong start with a 5-0 win against No. 17 Jake Tucker. South said the key to the match was being aggressive early on in the match. He finished 1-1 on the day after losing to No. 18 sophomore Peyton Robb from Nebraska. He’s now 2-4 in duals the season.
Sophomore DJ Washington, the reigning Big Ten Wrestler of the Week, had another strong showing Saturday. The 174-pound Washington took down No. 20 redshirt senior Drew Hughes from Michigan State 16-3 in his first match of the day.
Washington faced another ranked opponent in Nebraska’s No. 4 junior Mikey Labriola in his second match. Washington was down 9-0 heading into the third period, but he was able to outscore Labriola 7-4 in the last two minutes to avoid the major decision and nearly pinned him. He’s now 4-2 this season.
Escobedo said Washington started timidly against Labriola and the key moving forward for him is seeing what he is able to do in the third period and transferring it to the first.
“There were some bright spots for him, and he can realize that he can wrestle in the third period and score a lot of points if he needs to,” Escobedo said. “I’m not too upset with DJ — he had great effort, and I think he’s learning a lot in this process.”
Sophomore 141-pound Cayden Rooks also went 1-1 for the Hoosiers with a 4-3 win against Michigan State redshirt senior Matt Santos. Rooks scored 3 straight points against Santos after falling down 2-0 early. Santos evened the score at 3-3 with an escape, but a following escape by Rooks in the third period was the decider. Rooks is now 2-3 in duals this season.
Freshman 125-pounder Jacob Moran filled in again for Hudkins, who has been out with an injury since IU’s match with Michigan Jan. 17. Moran lost both his matches against top 15 opponents, but he kept his match close with Nebraska senior and former Hoosier Liam Cronin, losing 3-2.
Moran and Cronin trained together last year while Cronin was still at IU, and Escobedo said that knowledge helped Moran in his match with him.
“I’m excited for him, you know he’s our future, he’s going to be here for the long haul,” Escobedo said. “As a freshman, he’s competing with these guys, and he’s going to be really good.”
IU will stay home for its next dual against Maryland on Feb. 14. Maryland is 0-6 this season and has been shutout in four of its duals.