With a 2-0 record under its belt, the University of Wisconsin wrestling team will travel this weekend to Illinois, where the Badgers will take part in the Northwestern Duals. The meet will be hosted by Big Ten foe and national-power Northwestern, but Wisconsin will only face Division II schools Cumberland and Indianapolis, as well as fellow Division I program Navy.
Although they will face two opponents from D-II, the Badgers intend to wrestle as hard as they would for any other match. In order for his team to be successful both this weekend and throughout the season, UW head coach Barry Davis believes that rankings and numbers shouldn't enter into the minds of his players, no matter how strong the wrestler or weak the opposing school.
"You approach every match the same way; you have to be ready when the whistle blows," Davis said. "In college, anyone can pin you, so you always have to be ready, you have to have the same mentality for every match."
"I don't pay attention to who's the best and who's not," freshman Kyle Ruschell said, modeling his thoughts on Davis' belief. "It's about how I wrestle, not who I wrestle."
Despite being a D-II program, the University of Indianapolis should still provide a tough time for Wisconsin. The Greyhounds are the No. 7 program in D-II and feature a pair of wrestlers who are ranked near the top of their weight classes, according to Wrestling Mall. Cumberland, however, is not expected to mount as much of a challenge, the Dawgs are not a strong D-II program and do not match up well with the Badgers.
UW's Zach Tanelli, wrestling in the 133-lb. class, will face one of those top-ranked Greyhounds, Shane Perkey. A junior, Perkey is currently the third-rated D-II wrestler in his class. Tanelli also sticks to Davis' mantra of focusing on having a tough mentality regardless of his opponent, no matter how talented he is.
"It makes no difference to me who he is individually; I'm just going to wrestle,"
Tanelli said of going against a highly ranked opponent. "If I want to be an All-American this year, I have to wrestle hard whether it's against the best in the country or the worst."
Navy, an experienced team, has several wrestlers who have been to the NCAA tournament and will also challenge the Badgers.
Senior captain Tyler Turner will face stiff competition this weekend; he will wrestle one of Navy's most experienced wrestlers, John Cox, and one of Indianapolis' top wrestlers, second-ranked Charlie Pingleton.
"I'm just looking forward to wrestling at that level of competition," Turner said. "I have do the little things right."
Taking on schools and wrestlers of different levels and capabilities will offer the Badgers a chance to add more victories to the program, as well as gain some good experience early in the year.
"We're a young team," Turner said, "but this weekend will be fun."