Northern exposure for Wisconsin

first_imgThe undefeated and No. 23-ranked University of Wisconsin wrestling team has posted its best record to start a season in four years and hopes to continue riding that wave of early-season success into action this weekend.Wisconsin will take on No. 24 Northern Iowa Friday at the UW Field House, and junior grappler Matt Maciag thinks it could go down to the wire.”They always give us a tough dual,” Maciag said. “We beat them the last couple years and we expect to beat them again, but they have some good, scrappy kids.”We’re only ranked ahead of them by one place, so I think they’re going to expect to beat us, but at the same time, we’re not going to give it up at home.”The Badgers wrestled to a fifth-place finish at last weekend’s Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, but their unbeaten mark in dual matches remains intact for Friday’s home contest.Anchored by four wrestlers ranked in the top 20 nationally (Craig Henning, Dallas Herbst, Tyler Turner and Kyle Ruschell), the Badgers have the potential to turn some heads come March.Henning, a junior, is ranked third in the nation at 157 pounds and has been a consistent performer for UW head coach Barry Davis the past two seasons.Davis attributes much of the team’s early success to added depth, as well as commitment during the offseason.”I think we have more depth in the room,” Davis said. “Which is creating more competition, and our guys did a lot of work this past summer preparing for the upcoming season.”We talked to our guys about staying focused,” Davis continued. “We have two more competitions yet before the first half of our season is done. The main thing is making sure every guy is on track.”Another testAfter Northern Iowa, Wisconsin will pack its bags for a drive down to DeKalb, Ill., to take on Northern Illinois.Even though the Huskies are not ranked, Davis thinks the Badgers will have their hands full.”I think it’s going to be an even tougher dual [than Northern Iowa] because of the matchups,” Davis said. “Both of those are going to be hard-fought duals. It’s going to be about who wins the close matches.”The intensity might even be a notch or two higher for Sunday’s match, given the bulletin-board material that was provided by the Northern Illinois coaching staff.”Their coach says that they’re going to beat us this year,” Maciag said. “They beat us last year at home, which was an upset. They always bring a tough team.”The key [to victory] is to get bonus points,” Maciag added. “We want a lot of majors, tech falls and pins — don’t give up any points at the edge of the mat or points at the end of the period.”Preparing for the conference Nearing the midway point of the season, ten of the Big Ten’s 11 teams are ranked in the top 25, the only exception being Purdue.But even with the glut of talented wrestlers awaiting them during the conference season, the Badgers think they have the skills to contend with any one of them.”I think it all starts in the room, competing with each other,” Maciag said. “We’re all good in the room, and we have a lot of depth. Some of the weight classes are two- or three-deep with talented individuals.”Davis echoed the sentiments of the entire team, adding that this is one of the more talented groups he has come across during his time at Wisconsin.”I really feel that if we continue to improve the way that we’re improving,” Davis said, “it could be one of the best years I’ve ever had.”last_img