The University of Wisconsin wrestling team will get its first action of the season this weekend as it heads to Chapel Hill, N.C. for the Big Ten/ACC Duals. The team will wrestle three dual meets featuring bouts against Virginia, North Carolina and NC State. The Badgers faced all three of these teams at the Big Ten/ACC Clash in 2006, overtaking each with convincing victories.
The Badgers will wrestle all three matches on Saturday and start the day off against No. 21 Virginia. Virginia is coming off a strong showing at the Michigan State Open last weekend and brings three nationally ranked wrestlers into the dual. Ross Gitomer is ranked 17th at 125 pounds, Chris Henrich is ranked 15th at 174, and Rocco Caponi is ranked ninth at 184. When Wisconsin met Virginia in 2006 the Badgers handled the Cavaliers 30-7.
“This will be a good match for us,” UW head coach Barry Davis said. “They have some smart wrestlers who know how to hang around in matches.”
The second match of the day will be against North Carolina. The Tar Heels enter the match unranked as a team and only feature one nationally ranked wrestler, heavyweight Justin Dobies, ranked 13th. When the two teams met in 2006, Wisconsin easily defeated North Carolina 35-9.
In the final dual of the day the Badgers will take on unranked NC State. In the last meeting the Badgers dominated the Wolfpack in a 29-9 victory. NC State has three nationally ranked wrestlers: Joe Caramanica is ranked 18th at 141 pounds, Darrion Caldwell is ranked fourth at 149, and Ryan Goodman is ranked 15th at 197.
Wisconsin’s Kyle Ruschell, ranked seventh in the nation, will attempt to avenge one of the first losses of his career as a Badger when he faces Caldwell in the 149-pound match. “We’ve been working on some things to try and shut him (Caldwell) down,” Davis said. “It should be a good match.”
There will be a few Badger wrestlers making their first appearances in the starting lineup this weekend. At 125 pounds, Drew Hammen will make his first start after wrestling behind four-time national qualifier Collin Cudd for the past two seasons.
“I’m not too nervous or anything,” Hammen said. “I was with the team on the trip to Chapel Hill two years ago, so I feel pretty comfortable going out there.”
Ben Jordan is coming off his redshirt season and will start for the Badgers at 157 pounds. “[Ben] has been developing well and had a solid tournament in Stevens Point last weekend,” Davis said. “We just think he’s ready.”
“I still have a lot of things I need to work on, but I’m willing to give up my redshirt if the team needs me,” Jordan said.
True freshmen Andrew Howe will also make his debut for Wisconsin at 165 pounds. “I’m excited and ready to go,” he said. “Over the summer I changed my style to better suit the collegiate level. I can’t wait to get out there and dominate.”
This will be Howe’s first live action of the year, but Coach Davis isn’t too concerned.
“I’m not worried. Howe is a beast; he’s ready to go,” David said.