After dropping consecutive dual matches against two of the Big Ten’s best just a week ago, the No. 20 Wisconsin wrestling team righted the ship in a solid 26-9 defeat of Indiana Friday night at home.
The Badgers (7-4, 4-2 Big Ten) took seven of the 10 individual contests, including two comeback victories in the final seconds of the third period.
Head coach Barry Davis was pleased to see his team executing under pressure after his team’s two-match conference slide.
“For our guys it was about getting on track, we need to keep doing what we’re doing,” Davis said. “Be offensive, beating your ties, getting into your positions and finding ways to win. That’s what [Connor] Medbery did tonight as well as Frank Cousins in tight matches.”
With a 10-6 lead heading into the 165-pound match, Cousins, a redshirt sophomore, was unable to amass any offense in the first period and could not earn a point for an escape in the second.
After allowing an escape in the third period to break the scoreless tie, Cousins needed two takedowns in the final 90 seconds to keep a comfortable team lead. He was able to twist his opponent down by the leg for his first takedown and won the match with another takedown with 13 seconds remaining in the period.
“After I got the first takedown, he escaped,” Cousins said. “The second takedown, I just kind of let go, relaxed, and it was offense, offense, offense … and then eventually got to one of my holds and took him down.”
Medbery, a redshirt freshman, also completed a last-minute win thanks to an emphatic takedown with 30 seconds left in the final period against No. 13 Adam Chalfant. The No. 10 heavyweight in the nation, Medbery is 10-0 this year in dual matches and has defeated five ranked conference opponents this season.
The last-second reversal of fortunes executed by Medbery came from preparation in practice, thanks to drills by Davis that put the team in pressure situations and forces the wrestlers to apply quick offense.
“We put them in situations where they’re down a point with 30 [seconds] to go,” Davis said. “What’s your go-to move, how are you going to find a way to score, so you prepare for those things because they’re going to happen in duals and especially in tournaments.”
Wisconsin never conceded its lead after redshirt junior Tyler Graff won 22-7 by technical fall in the 133-pound match. The Olympic qualifier and No. 5 ranked wrestler in the 133-class recorded 11 takedowns on the day in one of the team’s three extra point wins.
Fifth-year senior Cole Schmitt also helped the team by winning his third consecutive match, defeating Indiana’s Preston Keiffer. After a scoreless first period, Schmitt wore down his opponent and forced the match’s only takedown late in the second period in an eventual 4-0 win.
The New Glarus native used his strength to overpower his opponent even after gaining no points in the match’s first three minutes.
“I know that I’m going to tire him out by the end of the match, so if it’s 0-0 first period, I don’t care,” Schmitt said. “I’ll just keep going and get the next point.”
Schmitt said he’s been a better wrestler in his three-match winning streak because of losing the pound or two that had been hindering his strength.
“I had to get my weight under control,” Schmitt said. “It’s not quite where it should have been the last few weeks; I’ve just been more disciplined … my conditioning feels so much better. I feel like I can go 15 minutes if I have to.”
Wisconsin also saw victories from fifth-year senior Tom Kelliher at 141 pounds, redshirt junior Scott Liegel in a 12-3 major decision at 174 pounds and a Jackson Hein victory in a forfeit at 197 pounds.
The Badgers showed themselves in greater physical condition than the Hoosiers throughout late-match situations, a promising sign for a team that still has two big duals remaining against conference opponents.
“We’re in great shape,” Davis said. “Guys don’t wait that long. Guys like Frank, just get it earlier – that’s the pace you should do the whole time. Our shape is good, let’s use it more to our advantage.”
In Wisconsin’s largest margin of victory in a Big Ten win this season, the group may be peaking at the right time for Davis.
“It’s about getting better,” Davis said. “When you’re worried about getting better, winning takes care of itself … When we do that, we’ll be fine.”