Thursday was Senior Night for the Wisconsin Badgers (4-5 Big Ten, 11-6 overall) — where the program recognized its six departing seniors — but the extra energy in the Field House wasn’t enough, as the Badgers fell 20-18 to the Northern Iowa Panthers (6-2 Big 12, 9-4 overall) in the final duel of the season.
The team recognized Eli Stickley before the game as well, the wrestler who tragically passed away last summer and who the Wisconsin wrestling program dedicated their season to. Athletic Director Barry Alvarez was in attendance at the duel, and announced the creation of a new scholarship fund named in Eli’s honor.
The announcement came before the first match of the night at 125 lbs, where freshman Eric Barnett closed out his season with a loss to Northern Iowa’s No. 10 Jay Schwarm. Barnett wasn’t expected to compete much in this match, and he initially had a nice reversal on Schwarm after a takedown. However, Schwarm came out with a reversal of his own and finished the match with a pin in the first period.
Next up was Wisconsin’s best wrestler, No. 1 Seth Gross, who came into the night determined to extend his 17 match winning streak. He ended up doing so in a dominant fashion, beating Northern Iowa’s No. 17 Jack Skudlarczyk by tech fall, 16-0, his ninth tech fall of the season.
Wisconsin lost the next match, as Badgers No. 4 Tristan Moran was upset by Northern Iowa’s No. 11 Micheal Blockhus 8-4. Blockhus scored four takedowns in the win, and his effort led to a UNI advantage 9-5 after three matches.
The next match was one of the most exciting of the evening, with the Wisconsin redshirt senior and No .15 Cole Martin beating UNI’s Tristan Lara 10-8 by decision in the most back-and-forth match of the night. Lara led 5-2 coming into the third period, and then Martin came alive with eight straight points scored to rally for the victory.
Wisconsin still trailed UNI 9-8 in the team score after that match, but then Badger wrestler Drew Scharenbrock beat Panther Derek Holschang at 157lbs, bringing the Badgers to an 11-9 lead at the break.
It looked like the match might be over when, coming out of the break, No. 4 Evan Wick put on a show in his final match at the Field House, beating UNI’s Austin Yant by tech fall, 16-4. The barnburner put on by Wick gave Wisconsin a 15-9 lead, but not much else went Wisconsin’s way the rest of the match.
UNI won the next three matches to put them up 17-15, with only two matches left in the duel. The next match at 197lbs was not a favorite for those who like offensive wrestling, as the match went into six overtimes, but in the end UNI’s Isaiah Patton beat Taylor Watkins 3-2.
The next match, although it went in Wisconsin’s favor, was not enough to put them over the top, as UNI won the final duel of the season 20-18. In one of the best seasons in recent Wisconsin wrestling history, it ended in major disappointment as Wisconsin had another heart-crushing loss.
Wisconsin will look to try and pull things together in time for the Big Ten Tournament, hosted by Rutgers on March 7.
The Badgers will be looking for more offense in the Tournament, and figure to lean on their stars in Gross, Martin, Wick, Sebastian, and Hilger to propel them to a Big Ten Championship.