With the season a couple of weeks underway, the University of Wisconsin wrestling team has given fans a preview of what to expect for the rest of the season. The Badgers earned a 30-3 victory over the University of Buffalo to open up their season in style at the UW Field House.
Fans in attendance saw some familiar faces back on the mat this season earning early wins against the University of Buffalo. Eric Barnett (125 lbs), an All-American last season, started his quest to get back on the podium at Nationals with a hard-fought 3-2 win.
Other veteran Badgers also started their season off with a bang, including Garrett Model (157 lbs) and Trent Hillger (285 lbs). Chris Weiler (184 lbs), another reliable member of this lineup from last season, got off to a great start with a 10-2 major victory.
While those wrestlers were shoo-ins to be starters in 2021, fans had the chance to see who would be filling out the lineup elsewhere. Some weight classes were viewed as a toss-up, but there was no surprise at 197 pounds. 2021 Junior World Champion Braxton Amos made his long-awaited Wisconsin debut and had Badger fans on their feet after grinding out a 7-2 win.
Amos was not the only freshman who proved himself to Badger fans. Joseph Zargo (141 lbs) and Dean Hamiti (165 lbs) each earned victories and showed they could be viable starters in the lineup. Both Zargo and Hamiti got the start over more experienced wrestlers and did not disappoint, especially Hamiti with a 17-5 decision victory.
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For the holes not filled by freshmen, a few transfers look like they could make a big impact going forward. Austin Gomez (149 lbs), formerly at Iowa State, and Austin McNally (174 lbs) from Kent State both made their Wisconsin debut and looked more than capable.
McNally is a three-time NCAA qualifier and former MAC champion. Gomez has NCAA tournament experience as well. Along with former transfer Weiler, the Badger lineup looks like it will be getting serious contributions from transfers this season.
The 2021-22 Badger wrestling team is a mix of seasoned veterans, journeyman transfers and baby-faced freshmen. With plenty of time until the Big Ten dual meet season, UW head coach Chris Bono will look to find the team’s best lineup through non-conference duals and tournaments.
Though seven Badger wrestlers started the season ranked in their respective weight classes, the team did not get the same respect in the rankings. UW is ranked No. 23 and will need to prove itself throughout the season. Along with various tournaments, the Garden State Grapple will be one of the best opportunities to see what the team is capable of.
With dual meets set against Hofstra and North Carolina, a team ranked No. 13, the wrestling community will have a better idea of where the Badgers stand as they head into the Big Ten dual season. Taking place in Newark, New Jersey over Thanksgiving weekend, Bono will have the chance to tinker with any lineup changes he sees fit.
Another big stage for the Badgers to prove themselves prior to dual season is the Midlands Championship, hosted by Northwestern. This tournament features top teams from across the country, including Big Ten teams the Badgers will face later on and tough competitors from other conferences.
In a long and grueling season, the Badgers are expected to go through ups and downs. Bono will look to navigate his team through any obstacles to give his wrestlers the best chance for success late in the season.
With plenty of wrestlers on this team capable of substantial individual success, there is a lot to look forward to in the 2021-22 season.