On an unlucky St. Patrick's Day morning, redshirt senior Graham Rooks, junior Derek Gilcher, redshirt junior DJ Washington and senior Jacob Bullock were all eliminated on the second day of the NCAA tournament at 149 lbs. 157 lbs. 174 lbs. and heavyweight, respectively.
After two brutal days of wrestling in Tulsa, Oklahoma the Hoosiers put a bow on the 2022-2023 wrestling season.
Gilcher and Bullock both went 1-2 in their first appearances at the NCAA tournament, snagging wins in the first round of the consolation bracket.
Washington and Rooks both qualified for their third NCAA appearances and were able to survive and advance a little longer, posting a 2-2 record. All four wrestlers have the eligibility to return for another year wrestling for the Cream and Crimson and another shot at NCAA glory.
From the 20th seed Rooks authored one of the most significant upsets in the round of 16 when he took out No. 4 seed Virginia Tech University freshman Caleb Henson. With that win, Rooks secured himself a spot in the quarter finals. Additionally, Rooks’ run in the tournament marked the furthest of any wrestler under head coach Angel Escobedo’s tenure.
“In the past I’ve just let the tournament kinda be more than it is, and this year I really wanna go out there and just have fun the whole time,” Rooks said in an interview after his round of 16 victory.
Rooks was on the receiving end of heartbreak in the tournament’s infamous Blood Round. The Blood Round, slang for the round of twelve, is considered the most exciting round of the competition because it determines whether a wrestler will achieve All-American status or be eliminated from the tournament.
Rooks dropped a 6-2 decision to Minnesota redshirt senior Michael Blockhus to end his season and leave Escobedo without an All-American for yet another year. Rooks’ run was the furthest of any Indiana wrestler since Nate Jackson’s All-American run in 2017 at 184 lbs.
As a team, the Hoosiers scored 7.0 team points and accumulated a combined 6-8 record. Washington tagged along two bonus point victories which included a tech fall in the first round and a major decision in the second round of the consolation bracket.
Escobedo and company have shown steady improvements from last season flipping their dual record from 3-8 to 8-5 and ended the season ranked No. 23 in the nation. However, there are important milestones yet to achieve for the program as Escobedo’s dual record stands at 23-39 and has yet to capture his first an All-American in his five years at the head of the program.
With the entire lineup returning, the Hoosiers are poised to make another leap in improvement next season.