Last season, the Chris Bono Era of Wisconsin wrestling began with a 6-0 run through the opening portion of the dual meet schedule.
However, the meat of the Big Ten schedule hit the Badgers hard as UW finished the season 9-6, including a 3-6 mark in conference that left something to be desired.
As the 2019-20 season gets into full-swing, Wisconsin finds itself in familiar territory. The Badgers are once again 6-0, with one of those wins coming against a ranked Utah Valley team.
And though this year’s club seems to possess a bit more aptitude than the one that came before it, storm clouds are beginning to loom.
The Badgers face their toughest test of the season to-date on Sunday when they travel to Iowa City to take on the No. 1 Hawkeyes (2-0).
“We head into Carver-Hawkeye as huge underdogs, probably only favored in two matches at the most,” Bono said during his weekly press conference Monday. “[We’re] looking to go in there and try to upset the No. 1 team in the country.”
UW’s head coach is well aware of what his squad will be up against come Sunday.
“They (Iowa) are stacked up and down the lineup this year. They’ve got a great team. They’ve got a lot of great individuals. We’re just fired up to go in there and compete,”Bono said. “I like going in there in December. It’s really going to measure where we need to be in March. Whether we’re there right now or how far we have to be able to come, we’ll really be able to gauge ourselves after next Sunday.”
The atmosphere Wisconsin is set to encounter is one that is rivaled by few in all of college sports.
“It’s like a rock concert. They’ll have 14- [or] 15,000 people strong. Their fans are one of the most knowledgeable fan bases in the country,” said Bono. “They’ve got guys in the front row that all they do is heckle you. They’ve got some fiery coaches. They’ve got kids that are hard-nosed kids. It is everything you could want as a competitor.”
Iowa has dominated the all-time series between the two programs, holding a 78-8-3 edge. The Badgers’ last win over the Hawkeyes came in 2007.
Bono expects his team to embrace the moment.
“Our guys are hard-nosed,” Bono said. “They’re going to show up and they’re going to fight. They’re going to be in shape and they are going to have the chance to upset some guys and it’s all going to be in their hands. They’re well-prepared.”
With preparation comes the opportunity to turn the tide. In order to even come close to pulling the upset, the Badgers must win many of the matches in which their athletes will be underdogs.
“A lot of our guys, up and down the lineup, they’ve won a lot of matches in their lifetime. They’ve upset a lot of people in their lifetime,” Bono said. “To us, they’re not upsets. I think we’ve got 10 guys who are capable of winning at the highest level. If they go perform like they practice, if they go perform like they can we can go out there and upset a few of their guys.”
Sunday’s dual, which is televised by Big Ten Network, serves as a litmus test for another Wisconsin team that has caught fire out of the gates – a chance to see how it measures up to one of the blue bloods of the college wrestling world.
“Have we closed the gap? That we’ll see in March. These dual meets are a little different than what’s going to happen at the NCAA Tournament,” said Bono. “But have we closed the gap? We’ve closed the gap more in the recruiting. We’ve closed the gap in competitiveness, now we have to go out and beat them and we’re excited.”
Hillger named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week
For the first time in his career, redshirt sophomore heavyweight Trent Hillger was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week.
Hillger, who was ranked eighth in the nation at the time, pinned then-No. 3 Tate Orndorff of Utah Valley on Saturday.
With the score tied at one apiece in Tiebreaker 1, Hillger scored a takedown that he converted into a pin at the 8:18 mark,
Saturday was the second time Hillger and Orndorff had squared off in their collegiate careers. Hillger was victorious in the first meeting, winning via a 9-7 decision in SV-1 last November.
This honor marks the first time a Badger has taken home conference wrestler of the week honors since Isaac Jordan back on Jan. 31, 2017.
Five Badgers in latest Flo rankings
FloWrestling released its latest national rankings Monday and five UW wrestlers continue to earn recognition.
Seth Gross continues to reign supreme at 133 pounds, holding the No. 1 ranking. He is also the top-ranked wrestler in the pound-for-pound rankings.
The aforementioned Hillger is up to No. 3 at heavyweight after pinning the previous No. 3 wrestler in the land Saturday.
Evan Wick continues to hold down the No. 3 slot at 165 pounds.
Tristan Moran is up a spot to No. 10 at 141 and Cole Martin checks in at No. 15 at 149.
The Badgers moved up to seventh in the team rankings.