Its matchup with in-state rival Purdue is one the IU wrestling team has had circled on its calendar all season, head coach Angel Escobedo said. In their regular season finale, the Hoosiers will take on the Boilermakers at 8 p.m. Monday in West Lafayette, Indiana. The dual will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.
Both teams are coming off wins in their last dual meets. On Feb. 14, IU took down Maryland for its second win of the season, and Purdue beat Michigan State on Feb. 12 for its third. Escobedo said IU’s win against Maryland was a big confidence booster for his team and his guys have been training hard this week for the dual and the postseason.
“They’re a great team, but our guys really want to bring it,” Escobedo said. “It’s going to be a battle for sure, but we’re going to have to stay on our offense and look to get some upsets.”
Escobedo said he took the rivalry with Purdue personally while he was wrestling at IU and was always looking to dominate, and now he wants to instill that same mentality in his team.
“Even though we’re not favored, that doesn’t matter,” Escobedo said. “We still have the mentality that we’re going to go out there and we can beat them.”
Purdue won last year’s matchup 23-9 in Bloomington, but IU redshirt sophomore Graham Rooks was able to pick up a huge win against Purdue redshirt senior Griffin Parriott. At the time, the then-redshirt junior was ranked No. 6 in the country in the 149-pound weight class, but the then-unranked Rooks was able to beat him 9-3 in what Escobedo said was a close match.
Rooks and Parriott both come into the match ranked and it will likely be another close one at 149.
Freshman Santos Cantu — a Salem, Oregon native — will likely be making his first start for the Hoosiers in the 184-pound weight class. The four-time state champion in Oregon is set to match up with Purdue senior Max Lyon, who is a two-time NCAA qualifier and ranked No. 18 in the country.
Escobedo said Cantu is coming back from an injury, and he wants to see confidence from the freshman in his first college match.
“Basically it’s like, you know, taking that next step to be confident in college,” Escobedo said. “He was a four-time state champ in high school, confident in high school, can you do the same in college?”
Freshman Jacob Moran is also set to start at 125-pounds for the Hoosiers with senior Brock Hudkins still out. Escobedo said Moran is a good starter because he brings energy that the Hoosiers can roll with throughout their matches.
Due to the pandemic, Escobedo said IU will only be allowed to have 50 fans in attendance Monday, and IU’s bench will have to keep the team’s energy up like it did in its last match against Maryland.
“Our captains have asked ‘Can the bench be loud?’ because that really gives us our energy,” Escobedo said. “So having the captains speak up and ask the backups or anyone else cheering on the bench to cheer loud, it’s really made a difference.”
Escobedo said there are a lot of swing matches that will determine the outcome Monday. IU will be looking to knock off Purdue for the first time since 2010, which was Escobedo’s final year wrestling at IU.
IU has lost its last 10 duals against Purdue, six of which came by single-digits. Both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers have struggled in their Big Ten-only schedules this season, posting records of 2-5 and 3-5, respectively. Aside from IU’s dual with Maryland, the Hoosiers and Boilermakers haven’t faced a team that hasn’t been ranked in the top 25 at some point this season.