Wisconsin wrestling is set to kick off its 93rd season Friday when they travel to Green Bay to wrestle Division III opponent University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Coach Barry Davis and the Badgers are looking forward to another solid year with a core group of returning letter winners and are also looking to develop their future with the nation's number one ranked recruiting class.
Currently ranked No. 18 in the country, the Badgers will be lead by senior Tom Clum. After compiling a team best 29-6 record last season — including an outstanding 20-2 dual meet record — Clum was able to defeat highly-touted Luke Eustice of Iowa to win his first individual Big Ten championship.
However, Clum was not able to carry that success into the NCAA tournament last year, as he lost two out of three matches and failed to place. Last year's finish was disappointing to Clum, but he appears to be focused on this season and is using last year's hardships as motivation.
"I had a lot of time to think about the end of last season, which I was not happy with at all," Clum said. "Barry has worked on several things with me that I think will help me out a lot this year.
While Clum is currently ranked No. 11 in the country at 133-pounds and is now an accomplished Big Ten wrestler with one title under his belt, he knows this year will not be any easier as his weight class is stacked with talent.
"My goal is to win the Big Ten title again. This year is going to be a lot tougher because there are two other returning Big Ten champions at my weight (Chris Fleeger from Purdue and Mark Jayne from Illinois) but I think the Big Ten is just part of the process to get to nationals. Becoming a national champion is what I work for."
Also leading the Badgers will be senior Brady Reinke. Reinke is the most experienced Badger wrestler and is one of two seniors with NCAA tournament experience. He will look to improve on last year's 18-9 record while wrestling at 184-pounds this year.
Tri-captains Tyler Turner and twins Kelly and Ryan Flaherty will provide leadership on a team that features seven freshmen. Both of the Flaherty's reached the NCAA tournament last year and Turner will wrestle at 157-pounds this year after compiling a 23-11 campaign.
All three captains are ranked in the top-25 according to most major polls and some publications have as many as six Badgers ranked nationally. With so much talent and such high expectations, the Badgers expect to do well in both the Big Ten and the national scene.
"I think that we should be in the top quarter of the Big Ten," Clum said. "Nationally, I think we are going to be very competitive. I really like being in the Big Ten because we compete against the best teams in the country. I think that we are coming into this season on the right track."
This year's freshmen will be looking to start their UW wrestling careers on the right track, as the expectations almost match the group's talent. Dubbed the "Super Seven," all of this year's rookies were ranked in the top 15 nationally in their weight classes, thus garnering recognition as the best incoming class in the country. Craig Henning from Chippewa Falls is expected to be the only true freshman to compete in Big Ten action this year but fellow blue chip prospects Jordan and Josh Crass, Seth Garvin, Kyle Massey, Zach Tanelli and Dallas Herbst will provide ample depth in case of injury. The coaches are raving about their intensity and the group will provide a very bright future for Badger wrestling.
"The guys are a lot tougher than I expected them to be in the room this year," senior Tom Clum said. "It's exciting to see. The intensity they add to the wrestling room will bring us to a whole new level this season."
What is also important is the fact that Barry Davis was able to secure the top four recruits in the state of Wisconsin, something he has come under fire for in years past with high-profile wrestlers jumping ship to Minnesota and Missouri.
The Badgers will look to continue building upon their reputation as a top-tier wrestling program this year as they look to crack the top three in the ultra competitive Big Ten. While they still have some depth problems from the bottom to the top of their lineup, the Badgers have wrestlers that are locks to contend for all-American honors in Clum, Colin Cudd, Reinke and the Flaherty brothers.
After their tune-up against UW-Oshkosh, the Badgers will head to Stevens Point for a weekend tournament and will then kick off their dual meet schedule Nov. 27 at the Field House against Northern Iowa.