Indiana won a stunning victory over No. 16 Rutgers on Friday night, the first win over the Scarlet Knights since 2008, before Rutgers joined the Big Ten.
Head coach Angel Escobedo was gifted a win for his birthday this weekend after Indiana secured a 24-13 win over No. 16 Scarlet Knights. The Hoosiers won key matches at the 157 lbs., 165 lbs. and 174 lbs. weight classes.
With the Hoosiers’ third win over a ranked opponent this season, Escobedo continues to turn this program around.
“People probably thought we had a fluke win at Maryland,” Escobedo said. “Maybe a fluke win against Princeton, but now it's your third-ranked win against a really good team.”
Redshirt junior DJ Washington avenged a loss against a tough Scarlet Knight, in dominant fashion scoring a major decision over junior Jackson Turley. Washington lost to Turley by technical fall 16-0 in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
After spending a season at 184 last year and dropping down to 174 at the beginning of this year, Washington was finally able to beat his Rutgers foe 14-5.
Coach Escobedo alluded to this match being personal for Washington. Escobedo commended Washington for capitalizing on the moment in his match against Turley.
At the 157 lbs. weight class, junior Derek Gilcher was able to continue his hot streak taking out yet another ranked opponent with a dramatic victory.
After tying the match in the third period, Rutgers had momentum going into overtime, but Gilcher never wavered. Gilcher scored a huge double leg takedown in the closing seconds of overtime to notch a 5-3 victory for the Hoosiers.
Junior Nick Willham took a razor close match over junior Billy Janzer via riding time point. Willham scored a decisive escape in under four seconds at the start of the second period to secure the riding time point and win the match 2-1.
When asked about his wrestlers being able to perform in high pressure situations, Escobedo said this about Gilcher and Willham,
“They believe in their training and their conditioning,” Escobedo said. “You had two guys that really didn’t doubt themselves in the moment.”
The match of the night came at 165 lbs. weight class when junior Nick South came back from a deficit in the third period to deliver a pinfall for the Hoosiers.
South’s move down to 165 was a welcome change after wrestling at 184 against Maryland on Monday, Jan. 9.
South proved he had the gas tank to wrestle three hard periods and deliver in high pressure situations over the past two duals against Maryland and now Rutgers.
Wilkinson Hall roared in response South’s pin as they recognized it was a turning point in the dual. South felt the energy and gave a big flex to the crowd after his victory.
“Consistency is what it comes down to,” South said. “Consistency and having high standards, we built an environment where we were able to build that winning program.”
Other Hoosiers that scored team points include senior Graham Rooks’ win by decision over Rutgers sophomore Tony White and senior heavyweight Jacob Bullock who won by technical fall over Rutgers sophomore John O’Donnell.
Escobedo was assigned as the head coach of Indiana wrestling in 2018, when Indiana finished 0-9 in big ten conference duals. Since that time, he has made big steps into making the Hoosiers a contending team. Escobedo’s been putting in hard work since the start of his coaching era, and that work is finally starting to come to fruition.
This change in culture is exemplified by Bullock. Bullock explains his routine expectations for each match, which points to the change in attitude among Hoosier wrestlers.
“I just go out and treat them like they are the number one guy in the country,” Bullock said. “So, I wouldn’t say there was anything I wasn’t expecting.”
The Hoosiers look to continue their hot streak next week against No. 14 Minnesota at Wilkinson Hall. One of the most anticipated matchups will occur at 157 lbs. as Minnesota senior Brayton Lee, an Indiana native, will return to the Hoosier state to take on red hot Gilcher.
“We are here, and we can compete with the best,” Escobedo said after his third-ranked win this season.