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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Badgers dominate Drexel in Wisconsin Wrestling Showcase

Wisconsin scored early and often Sunday to clinch their fourth consecutive win before heading into a two-week hiatus.

The No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers easily defeated the Drexel Dragons in a blowout 37-3 home win Sunday at the Wisconsin Wrestling Showcase. 

Badger wrestlers capitalized on lopsided matchups, dominating the neutral position and controlling the edge to score early and often. 

Joseph Zargo and Trent Hillger both won by 15 points or more to secure a technical fall, ending their respective matches as soon as the point threshold was reached. Three other Badgers — Eric Barnett, Garrett Model and Braxton Amos — defeated their opponents by a margin of eight to 14 points to win by major decision.

Austin Gomez secured Wisconsin’s lone pin Sunday. Gomez had an early scare after Drexel's Luke Nichter caught him on his back just seconds after the match began, however, rebounded late in the first period and pinned Nichter.

“I just had to refocus,” Gomez said after the meet. “I think a lot of these guys, they’re gonna be one-trick ponies against me. I have to stay solid at the beginning of the matches and not get too hyped up.”

Wisconsin’s only loss came at the 184-pound weight class. Tyler Dow notched an escape in the third period to tie Drexel’s Brian Bonino, 1-1, but Bonino hit a last-second edge takedown in a heartbreaking 3-1 loss.

Badgers head coach Chris Bono was pleased with his team’s performance despite narrowly missing a shutout win.

“Our guys are fired up, they wrestled well [and] I saw a lot of improvement,” Bono said. “That’s all I need.”

Sunday’s showcase event was the latest installment in an annual triple dual meet designed to highlight wrestlers from three University of Wisconsin System schools, according to Wisconsin Wrestling. 

Wisconsin schools swept all three duals Sunday. UW-Parkside defeated McKendree 24-14 in the NCAA Division II match, and UW-La Crosse dismantled Cornell College with a 38-6 rout in Division III.

Bono said the event shows native Wisconsin wrestlers there’s “no reason to leave” the state.

“We have programs for whatever level you want to be at,” Bono said. “I think all of us would be happy growing a roster full of Wisconsin kids, [letting] them come here and being able to compete in front of Wisconsin fans.” 

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UW-Parkside will host next year’s event as part of a regular rotation between the three schools.

Sunday’s victory over Drexel is Wisconsin’s fourth consecutive win. Though the Badgers suffered an early-season loss to No. 14 Iowa State in early November, the team rebounded with a decisive triumph over No. 7 Cornell College on Nov. 19 and a pair of wins against No. 12 Princeton and Penn at last week’s Garden State Grapple tournament in Newark, New Jersey.

The Badgers now head into a two-week hiatus until the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships in Hoffman Estates, Ill. on Dec. 29. Wisconsin then faces a gauntlet of Big Ten matchups in January, beginning with a daunting home duel against No. 1 Penn State on Jan. 6.

Both Bono and Gomez see room for technical improvement, including finishing out nail-biter matches. However, team leaders said the season is still young and remained confident Wisconsin can bring home a team trophy. 

“As a team, we’re wrestling really good right now. The energy in the room is great,” Gomez said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”

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Tyler Katzenberger

Tyler Katzenberger is the managing editor at The Daily Cardinal. As a former state news editor, he covered numerous protests and wrote state politics, healthcare, business and in-depth stories. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerKatzen.

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