Wrestling starts season at No. 12

first_imgThe No. 12 Wisconsin wrestling team kicks off a fresh new season Friday as they welcome No. 22 Old Dominion to the UW Field House.The Badgers arrive at the dual opener following a successful 2008-09 campaign in which they achieved a 9-8 overall record and a 3-5 mark in the extremely competitive Big Ten. Wisconsin faired even better in tournament play, finishing fourth in the Big Ten Championships and ninth in the NCAA Championships.Head coach Barry Davis returns for his 16th year in command of the Badgers, and his team’s ninth-place finish at the NCAA’s tied the best placing of his career. He enters this year riding on 10 consecutive winning seasons.Wisconsin lost a good portion of last year’s manpower with the graduation of three All-Americans in Dallas Herbst, Kyle Massey, and Zach Tanelli, who combined for a 280-95 career record.Seven starters return, including two All-Americans in No. 2 senior Kyle Ruschell and No. 3 sophomore Andrew Howe. Ruschell finished third in the NCAA’s at 141 pounds, while Howe, at 165 pounds, won the Big Ten title, finished second nationally and collected Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors along the way.A strong Old Dominion team enters the new season favored to win their respective conference, the Colonial Athletic Association, with the support of four returning nationally ranked players: No. 5 James Nicholson at 125 pounds, No. 10 Jesse Strawn at 197 pounds, No. 13 Chris Brown at 165 pounds and No. 17 Kyle Hutter at 133 poundsWisconsin remains confident, though, they will come away with the victory.“I think it’s going to be a decisive win,” UW associate head coach Donny Pritzlaff said. “I think we have some real horses on our team and that we should win handily.”One reason for Pritzlaff’s confidence may be because it was recently announced that Brown and Hutter would not compete in the opener.Hutter’s would-be opponent, redshirt freshman Tyler Graff, will make his official collegiate debut for Wisconsin. Graff, a four-time Colorado state champion, is ranked No. 10 at 133 pounds. and is expected to face redshirt freshman Josh Gillis if Hutter indeed does not compete.Pritzlaff spoke on the excitement building around Graff’s debut.“He’s very excited, I’m very excited, I know our entire staff is very excited to see him wrestle and I know the fans are too,” Pritzlaff said. “We’re hoping they bring their best guy (Hutter), because Graff is a top recruit. That will be one of the best matches.”Pritzlaff indicated Howe and Brown’s matchup would have been one of the more important and exciting matchups of the dual. With Brown out of the starting lineup, however, Howe will be expected to face redshirt junior Derek Gallagher despite preparing all week for Brown. Regardless, Howe is eager and willing to get back to the mat, no matter the opponent.“I feel really good, I’m ready to go,” Howe said. “I’m just ready to get after it. Hopefully we can win the close matches and we will blow them out of the water.”Freshman Jackson Hein and senior Drew Hammen may be facing the toughest challenges of the dual opener. Hein will face Strawn at 197 pounds while Hammen will size up Nicholson at 125 pounds.Hein won the Wisconsin Division 1 state championship as a senior last year and finished with a 186-24 career record. Strawn qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year and has started this season on the right foot, going 4-0 at the Hokie Open last Sunday.Hammen, a returning starter, finished eighth at the Big Ten Championships last year while Nicholson is the reigning CAA champion.Hammen appears to be well prepared for Nicholson. After studying Nicholson’s tendencies, Hammen believes he has found an advantage in his approach.“He sticks to the basics,” Hammen said. “He’s a left-leg lead, which helps me a lot because I feel like I wrestle a lot better against left-leg leads. It’s easier to get my shots off in my offense.”last_img read more