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 read more

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Kene Chukwuka’s path from Sweden brought him to Pittsburgh

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 15, 2018 at 7:13 pm Contact Kaci: klwasile@syr.edu In high school, Kene Chukwuka spent about three hours a day on YouTube. He’d get home from school and watch until it was time for basketball practice.Some days, it was Kobe Bryant highlights. Other times, it was documentaries on Michael Jordan or Dennis Rodman. During the NBA season, he would watch highlights from the previous night’s games as the time difference made it difficult for him to watch them live.Chukwuka grew up in Sweden, a country not known for its basketball prowess. Sweden has produced three NBA players since the 1946-47 season including current Utah Jazz forward Jonas Jerebko. Now, Chukwuka is one of 12 Swedish players currently in Division I, featuring as a reserve center for Pittsburgh (8-10, 0-5 Atlantic Coast). Chukwuka will find himself in the Carrier Dome when the Panthers take on Syracuse (12-6, 1-4) on Tuesday night.“In Sweden, sports isn’t that big, I mean it was always school that was the main focus,” Chukwuka said. “But basketball … I just started putting work into it and stuff and it really started to turn into a way of life.”Chukwuka first got into basketball when he moved from Stockholm to the south of Sweden. The friends he made there were into the sport so he decided to try it out. Chukwuka played for a club team, since no high schools had a team.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFor the 2015-16 season, he played for BG Fryshuset Stockholm where he averaged nearly 10 points and two blocks a game. Prior to that, he played for the Trelleborg Pirates, averaging 30 points a game by his final season.When it was time for him to choose a college, Chukwuka decided he wanted to play basketball in the United States. Asking a friend of his, who was at the time committed to Montana State, for help, and got in contact with one of the MSU coaches late in the summer.“In America, everybody’s trying to reach the top in whatever they do,” Chukwuka said. “I like the whole you chase your dream thing.”In the summer of 2016, too late for Chukwuka to receive a scholarship offer, he was put in contact with junior college coaches, including Brian Lohrey of New Mexico Junior College where Chukwuka later committed.In the first non-exhibition game of the season against Trinidad State Junior College, Chukwuka was under the basket when a shot missed. He bent his knees, preparing to jump to gather the rebound. But as he did, another player ran into him, injuring his right hip.Against Trinidad State, Chukwuka was on the floor for 21 minutes. The rest of the season, following his injury, he averaged fewer than 10 minutes per game. He ended the season with 95 rebounds and 79 points.“I had a tough season over there,” Chukwuka said. “I didn’t put up the stats to really back up who I was as a player.”Used to the slower nature of Swedish hoops, he had to get used to the faster pace of the game as well as the sheer size of the players in the U.S. In Sweden, his 6-foot, 9-inch frame was advantageous, unlike in America where he regularly plays with and against guys that are the same size or taller.Despite his injury and adapting to a different style of play, Chukwuka was invited to a JUCO top 100 showcase in Wichita, Kansas, the summer after his 2016-17 season. In his first game, he put up 16 points and the NCAA offers started rolling in. When Pittsburgh called, he liked the coach and the team camaraderie. On Aug. 8, 2017, Chukwuka committed, completing Pitt’s 2017 recruiting class.“(Chukwuka) always tries hard, he always plays hard,” Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings said after the Panthers played Duke on Jan. 10, “but sometimes he just gets going too fast in his mind and it’s a process for him, slowing the game down.”This season, the center is second on the team in blocks (nine) and has 43 rebounds (12 offensive boards and 31 defensive rebounds). In the span of about one minute at the end of the first half against Duke, Chukwuka retrieved four offensive rebounds. He started the second half and made his only shot in the half from behind the arc to add to his three-point basket from the first half. He finished the game 3-3 from the field for eight points.“I’ve seen him do it in practice, get five offensive rebounds in a row and keep going,” Pitt guard/forward Jared Wilson-Frame said after the loss to Duke. “He’ll be wheezing next to me and I’ll be like ‘Kene, you good?’ and he’ll be like ‘yeah, let’s go.’ That’s just who he is and we really appreciate that.” Commentslast_img read more

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