After going undefeated in out-of-conference duals, the No. 18-ranked Wisconsin wrestling team (1-1-0 Big Ten, 9-1-0 overall) split its first two Big Ten contests. The Badgers were pinned 34-3 by perennial power Iowa (2-0-0 Big Ten, 12-2-0 overall) but bounced back to defeat Northwestern (0-2-0 Big Ten, 5-6-0 overall) 24-13.??
With a conference win on the road under their belt, Head Coach Barry Davis' Badgers should be prepared for this weekend's journey to Michigan State (1-1-0 Big Ten, 3-5-0 overall) and Penn State (2-0-0 Big Ten, 9-3-0 overall), respectively ranked No. 16 and 17 nationally by InterMat.
\I spoke to the guys the other day, and told them whoever wins these toss-up matches, the ones we're not supposed to win, that's who is going to win these dual meets,"" Davis said.
These Badgers have made winning their number-one priority this season. So far, they have been nothing but successful in doing so.??
Last semester, senior 133-lb. All-American Kevin Black and junior 184-lb. Ralph DeNisco took first place at the Michigan State Open.
In addition, UW won the Oregon Classic duals, and Black and DeNisco turned in second-place performances at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, arguably the best tournament in the nation outside of the NCAA championships.
Senior heavyweight Justin Staebler attributes the Badgers' success to their attitude.
""If someone gets bumped in the nose, they're going to keep coming after you. It's just a lot of hard-nosed wrestling,"" Staebler said. ""One of my teammates said 'We're just sick of losing' and I think there is a lot of truth to that. They're getting their mental attitude into it, and realizing that it's all mental.""
The ""hard-nosed"" wrestling has paid off for Staebler, who is currently ranked No. 14 in the nation.?? Joining the Perham, Minn. native, several other Badgers are in the national rankings. Black is ranked No. 4 at 133 lbs., his brother Tony--also a senior-- is No. 7 at 125 lbs. and DeNisco is ranked No. 11 at 184 lbs.??
Freshman Kelly Flaherty and sophomore Tyler Laudon have also posted strong performances this season at 141 and 165 lbs., respectively.
Davis feels that his team's success comes from the tone they have set in practice all year long.
""I think the work ethic, the will to make changes [and] the style of wrestling [are important], but the biggest thing is the intensity in practice,"" Davis said. ""They're making each other better that way, and they realize that the guys in practice are your teammates, but at the same time, they're your competitors. Those are the guys that are pushing you the most, getting you ready for competition.""
Taking this positive and determined attitude into the weekend's duals should help these Badger grapplers come out ahead in some tight matches. UW is No. 18 nationally, while the Nittany Lions and Spartans are directly ahead of them at No. 16 and 17, respectively. Certainly the similarity in rankings will make for some parity.
""I think there will be some close matches,"" Kevin Black said. ""On paper we're pretty even.""