The postseason has arrived for Indiana wrestling as it prepares for the Big Ten Championship, which is slated to take place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this weekend on March 4 and 5.
The Hoosiers have surpassed expectations this season with their best dual record since the 2016-17 season and the most wins over Division l opponents in over a decade. Now, they have the opportunity to compete at conference and nationals.
The pre-seeds for the NCAA's premier wrestling conference were announced earlier this week, along with the allocation spots for each weight class. The allocations determine the number of automatic bids available to qualify for the national tournament. If a wrestler fails to earn an automatic bid at their conference tournament, their only hope of qualifying for nationals is to earn an at-large bid from the NCAA.
Indiana's ten tournament entries earned the following pre-seeds: No. 13 junior Jacob Moran (125), No. 11 freshman Henry Porter (133), No. 13 senior Cayden Rooks (141), No. 7 redshirt -senior Graham Rooks (149), No. 10 junior Derek Gilcher (157), No. 11 redshirt-junior Nick South (165), No. 6 redshirt -junior DJ Washington (174), No. 13 junior Clayton Fielden (184), No. 10 senior Nick Willham (197) and No. 8 senior Jacob Bullock (285).
Of those mentioned, Graham Rooks, Gilcher, Washington and Bullock are all projected to qualify for the NCAA tournament if they wrestle to their seed.
While Porter is not projected to earn an allocation spot for nationals, he has built a solid case to earn an at-large bid to qualify for the national championships. If all five of them qualified, Indiana would have its most qualifiers since 2013.
The Hoosier’s potential is exemplified in wrestlers South and Willham who aren’t projected to qualify via an automatic bid or at-large selection but are razor close to punching their ticket to the big dance. South has been riding a wave of confidence in his best season wearing the cream and crimson.
Willham posts a 16-7 record heading into the postseason and has intermittently been spotted in the national rankings at 197 lbs. He comes in as the 10 seed and would be just one win away from earning an NCAA tournament berth.
Last year's Big Ten Championship wasn't the Hoosiers' best, as Indiana finished 14th at the 2022 Championships.
The team is looking to vastly improve from last year's showing, just as they did in the dual season, improving from 3-8 in 2021-22 to 8-5 in duals in 2022-23.
Indiana returns eight participants from last year's championship, with only two new members to the lineup: Porter, who replaced three-time national qualifier graduate -student Brock Hudkins at 133 lbs., and Army transfer Clayton Fielden, who starts at 184 lbs.
The NCAA Championships will take place March 16-18 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the BOK Center. The Indiana Wrestling team will need to have a strong showing in the Big Ten Championship this weekend to secure as many automatic bids as possible and earn its spot at the national tournament.