IU wrestling lost its regular season finale to the Purdue Boilermakers 38-3 Monday night in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Boilermakers had a 35 point margin of victory — the largest of all time in the in-state rivalry — and secured its 11th straight win against the Hoosiers.
IU started six underclassmen in the dual, and head coach Angel Escobedo said the experience that teams like Purdue have over his team has been a factor in IU’s more lopsided defeats this season. Despite the loss, the Hoosiers finished with two team victories in the Big Ten, their most since the 2016-17 season.
“For us we have to keep pushing forward, but I do think we made big jumps this year,” Escobedo said.
No. 6 sophomore DJ Washington was the lone Hoosier to pick up a win with a 5-1 decision over redshirt freshman Emil Soehnlen in the 174-pound weight class. He’s won five of his last six and improved to 6-2 on the season.
In the 197-pound weight class sophomore Nick Willham lost 4-2 to No. 22 redshirt sophomore Thomas Penola. Willham, who broke part of his tooth earlier in the season, had to put on a mask early on in the first period after reaggravating the injury. He moved to 2-6 this season with the loss.
Escobedo said Willham has been one of IU’s most improved wrestlers this season, but he needs to be more offensive if he wants to pick up wins against ranked opponents. Escobedo said his next step is being able to score a takedown to force overtime or win when the match is close.
“He’s only down by 2 points, so I think for the positives is last year he wasn’t in those positions against ranked guys,” Escobedo said.
Freshman Santos Cantu made his debut for the Hoosiers against the Boilermakers, going up against No. 12 senior Max Lyon. Cantu, a four-time state champion in high school, would lose 17-2 to Lyon.
Escobedo said Cantu was taken back by how strong Lyon came out of the gate. Within the first 15 seconds of the match, Cantu was already on his stomach after Lyon secured a single leg and trip. Escobedo said one of the hardest things to do for a freshman is work from the bottom, and the more experienced Lyon exploited that against Cantu.
“I still see a lot of great things out of him, he’s going to be fine,” Escobedo said. “You know that kid Lyon is a top 10 ranked guy, so it’s kind of hard to judge him off of just that one match.”
The Hoosiers end their shortened, Big Ten-only season 2-6 and now look ahead to the Big Ten Championships on March 6-7. Escobedo said he’ll be working with the team to be more aggressive and less reactive heading into the tournament.
“We’ve got some bright things to look forward to,” Escobedo said. “But again, we do have the opportunity for Big Ten Championships to hopefully turn some things around for some guys.”